New Television Workshop Collection

New Television Workshop Collection Program MaterialsRockefeller Artists-in-Television

Video Commune (Beatles from Beginning to End)

Alternative Title:
Beatles from Beginning to End
Japan TV

Copyright Date:

Copyright Holder:
Copyright holder is unidentified.

Paik, Nam June

3 videoreels of 3 (240 min.) : sd., col. ; 2 in.
1 videoreel of 1 (15 min.) : sd., col. ; 2 in.
1 videoreel of 1 (
3 videocassettes of 3 (Betacam SP) (240 min.) : sd., col. ; 1/2 in.
1 videocassette of 1 (60 min.) : sd., col. ; 3/4"

"Video Commune" was created while Nam June Paik was a Rockefeller Artist-in-Residence. Portions of this work were reedited to create "Nam June Paik on the Beatles." An earlier experiment with the videosynthesizer, "9/23," served in some ways as a study for this work, and some of that footage appears to have been recycled in "Video Commune."

Includes three reels of a 2" master and Betacam SP preservation masters of these. An additional single-reel 2" dub exists that is only 15 minutes long, and a 60-minute-long 3/4" screening tape. Presumably, these are excerpts from the longer work. Also included is a 2" videoreel of the Japanese television show that is included in the work. A Betacam SP preservation master of this has been created.

In Nam June Paik's historic "Video Commune" selections from The Beatles' recorded music are accompanied by imagery enhanced by the Paik-Abe videosynthesizer. At various intervals throughout the show, which is approximately four hours in length, a narrator explains the nature of this experimental broadcast. "This is participation TV," he says, urging the audience to play with the dials of their television set, adjusting brightness and color. Viewers limited to black-and-white sets are encouraged to "distort [their] picture with a strong magnet." All audiences are pushed to "do your own thing and treat it like electronic wallpaper."

Occasionally, The Beatles' music and the accompanying imagery are interrupted by segments of a Japanese television program from Osaka, showing performances of hit songs from Japan. This juxtaposition of Eastern and Western popular culture icons illustrates Paik's theory of a "Global TV." In part, the title of the work, "Video Commune," refers to this union. The imagery from the WGBH studio, where the videosynthesizer work took place, shows contributing artists Russell Connor, David Silver, and Anne Tolbert, as well as WGBH personalities John Folsom, Chas Norton, Jock Gill, Nat Johnson, Fred Barzyk, Olivia Tappan, and others. Images shot live in the studio are distorted, saturated with color, and overlaid with designs and patterns. Some previously recorded footage is played back and manipulated in a similar manner. Highlights from the three reels that comprise the show are as follow:

Reel 1: The work is introduced for the first time. Abstract images alternate with scenes from Japanese television. Highlights include a performance by the "seven-year-old wonder" Osamu Minagawa and a commercial featuring a lineup of "mod squad" style gun molls. Scenes of individuals hamming it up for the camera culminate with a brief image of Nam June Paik directing activities.

Reel 2: A still photo of George Harrison is superimposed on the faces of studio participants and slowly rotates, creating a mandala effect. Lit candles and an inhabited goldfish bowl are filmed. Fred Barzyk and Olivia Tappan appear, in what may be recycled footage from the "9/23" experiment. Footage of a newscaster is included.

Reel 3: Scenes from trailers for The Beatles' films "A Hard Day's Night" and "Help" appear. Footage of Charlotte Moorman performing is recycled. Moorman alternates between playing the cello and playing a man's back (Paik's?) as if it were a cello.

Music primarily consists of selections from all The Beatles' recorded work up through "The White Album." On the first reel, Japanese popular singers of the era perform.

JDR 3rd Fund
Rockefeller Foundation
Kalliroscope Corporation
Edmund Scientific Corporation

Connor, Russell
Silver, David
Tolbert, Anne
Folsom, John
Norton, Chas
Gill, Jock
Johnson, Nat
Minagawa, Osamu
Barzyk, Fred
Tappan, Olivia


Beatles, The

See Also:

Home | Exhibit Space | Finding Aid | Search the Site WGBH

The New Television Workshop Collection Web site
is a production of the WGBH Archives. © 1999 WGBH Educational Foundation.

Please contact the WGBH Archives with comments and questions. Artists involved with the New Television Workshop are encouraged to communicate with us.