Chapter 6

Nimbin & Bush Video

The origins of Bush Video

After the shoot at Mimili and Uluru Glasheen returned to Sydney. He comments:

“I remember coming back from Central Australia. That was the second time to Central Australia then, when I went with Fat Jack and the video.

“Came back, and then I heard about this building in Broadway that Johnny Bourke owned. This is the brother of Lindsay Bourke. They seemed to have a big huge place upstairs that looked like a good place to live and to edit my videos. And there was space to put a Dome on the roof. So I re-met Lindsay’s brother John, who I’d known doing Architecture. He wasn’t really a close friend, but I always had a good relationship with him in Architecture. He had by that time finished Architecture, was an architect, and was working as a real estate agent really, and was buying up half of Glebe Point Road. [At] that time he was somehow in a position where he was buying an incredible amount of properties and developing them. Painting them yellow.

“He had this building in Broadway, a six storey building [actually a warehouse building at 31 Bay St, Ultimo in Sydney] which he re-named Fuetron, which was the name of this furniture company that he had. He was selling enamelled pine-board minimalist designed furniture downstairs on the first floor, and all the upstairs were empty and his brother Lindsay [a hippie musician who played synthesisers and an electric organ] was then going to have an art studio on the top floor. And Johnny and I worked out that I could have the fourth floor under Lindsay and use the roof.”[1]

The Fuetron building was a warehouse building at 31 Bay St, Ultimo. Mick’s space was the vacant fourth floor of the building. He moved into to set up his studio so he could begin editing the material he had shot at Uluru into his intended film about the “mythic science” of the aboriginal dreaming stories [tjukurrpa] of this sacred site.[2] John Bourke’s brother Lindsay Bourke, a hippie musician who played synthesisers and electric organs, lived on the fifth floor, above Mick.

Having found a studio space near the University of Sydney, Mick then discovered the experimental computer graphics facility that Doug Richardson had established there, and it was just across the park from Bay St. Mick commented that they were quite welcoming.[3] The graphics system had been developed by Richardson on a DEC PDP-8 mini-computer [4] with a vector-graphics DEC 338 Display and was housed in the first floor of the Physics building. [A vector-graphics system draws lines from one specified co-ordinate to another. It is not a raster (i.e., TV-based) system, but more like an oscilloscope.] Richardson called his vector graphics [5] application software the Visual Piano. Graphic output was displayed on a large circular radar type screen known as the DEC Display 8 which had a drawing resolution of 1024 x 1024 dots.

The facility had been established through the collegial generosity of John Bennett, the then head of the University of Sydney Computer Science Department. It was made available to Computer Science students and to artists - including Gillian Haddley, Frank Eidlitz and Bush Video - whom Richardson invited to come and use his experimental graphics facility. Among them they produced a great variety of computer images for film, graphic design and video.

Mick got to doodle around a bit on the PDP-8 system, drawing 3D objects. He was intrigued by the persistence of the image on the 338 Display screen and shot 16mm film of it, wanting to use 3D images in his films. An example is the “Magic Boomerang” that was used in Uluru.[6] It starts as a 2D object spinning around and moving through 3D space.[7] It spins about its centre, as a boomerang does [Fig.1], while flying around the screen in a larger loop probably under the control of a sine-wave from a waveform generator (read: sound synthesiser) that could be fed to the computer through an analogue-to-digital converter attached to the PDP-8 as a peripheral. It then grows into an animation of the flight of a boomerang intended for Glasheen’s film Uluru [8] [Fig.2].

Two frames of the Rotating Boomerang
Fig. 1: Two frames of the rotating Boomerang produced for Mick Glasheen's Uluru using Doug Richardson's Visual Piano PDP-8 computer
graphics system. [Courtesy: Mick Glasheen]

Two frames of the Rotating Boomerang
Fig. 2: Three frames of the rotating Boomerang drawn from Mick Glasheen's Uluru. [Courtesy: Mick Glasheen]

As always, there are bugs in experimental electronic systems and the PDP-8 was prone to them. One of the bugs was that with objects rotated about a centre there tended to be a line from that centre of rotation to the object as though it were on a fishing line. You can see this in the frames of the boomerang in Fig.7. It was later in 1973 (after Nimbin) that Richardson came over to the Bush Video studio and announced that he had the boomerang on the screen, so bring the camera. The boomerang was flying around the screen looping the loop and leaving the persistence trail “carving 3D space”, and it was finally running without the “fishing line tied to it”. [9]

Richardson’s system was used to produce a range of computer images that were used by Bush Video in several of their projects including Metavideo Programming, which we will come to below.

But a larger development followed.

Over the next few months Mick’s studio in the Fuetron building was the site of the initiative that developed into the first functioning (albeit experimental) video access centre in Australia. This was the Nimbin Communications Centre, established for the Aquarius Festival at Nimbin in May 1973 under the auspices of the Australian Union of Students.

Nimbin Communications Centre

In late 1972 and early 1973 Johnny Allen and Graeme Dunstan, both graduates of the University of NSW, and now working as cultural officers for the Aquarius Foundation, the cultural arm of the Australian Union of Students had been travelling to all the universities in Australia to enthuse students about the Aquarius Arts Festival due to be held in Nimbin, northern NSW, in May 1973, of which they were co-directors. Among their plans was that they should make a film of the Festival and they intended to apply for funds from the Experimental Film Fund of the Australian Council for the Arts to do this. This led to the proposal that they set up a video co-operative as one of the projects for the festival and that, in turn, led to the establishment of the Nimbin Communications Centre at the Aquarius Festival at Nimbin.

Glasheen describes how the project started.

“Well the initiative came from the Aquarius Festival organisers Johnny Allen and Graeme Dunstan, yeah, to actually do a video documentation of the coming Aquarius Festival, and to set up something… you know to set up some closed circuit...

“And at that time, I remember I was in the Fuetron building one morning when Johnny Allen and Graeme Dunstan came around talking about the Aquarius Festival that they were organising. This was in early 1973. I was looking at Uluru, looking at video tapes that I got with the half-inch Sony stuff. And that’s half the reason they came here, I suppose: here’s a person working with video. So I was looking at these half-inch videos and also I was looking at 16mm film. And that’s what I was doing, I thought I was finishing Uluru. Then the whole Aquarius festival totally interrupted, [and Uluru was] thrown out till 1977. So that’s like four or five years. But that’s happened all the way through. Everything I’ve ever done has always taken about seven years. It’s a seven year cycle.

“Johnny [Allen] had been appointed cultural director at NSW Uni and I’d worked with Johnny a couple of times prior. I was working on something at uni, Advertisements for the Future, and doing some computer graphics [for that] at that time with Doug Richardson on the IMLAC [10]. Anyway Johnny and Graeme came around and they were saying “we’re going to have this Aquarius Arts Festival and we’re thinking of applying to the Film, Radio and Television Board for funding to set up a video cooperative”. And also Johnny was talking about making a film of the whole festival. So there were these two things: a film was going to be made and would I be interested in shooting some of the film and also helping set up the video.”

“And I thought both of the ideas were terrific and the film was going to be like a... There was some film had been made where six independent filmmakers gave their versions of an event that they went to and they filmed it and that’s what he was thinking of doing, having about six people, giving them all film and let them shoot their own version and editing it all together. And that would have been great if that happened. Like, the Nimbin festival needed some fantastic documentation like that. It never had it in the end, we never recorded it properly. And I remember going up to Nimbin after that. There was going to be a meeting up in Nimbin about what the Festival was going to be, what different people could do.” [11]

Johnny Allen also visited Joe Correy [aka Joseph El Khouri] and Melinda Brown, both then in Melbourne, and Annie Kelley (from Adelaide). Joseph had been inspired to make films while running the Film Society at the University of New England and had subsequently joined up with filmmaker Bert Deling and acted in his film Dalmas. Johnny Allen wanted to discuss making a film of the Festival and invited them to get involved in the video communications centre project at Nimbin. They were then joined by Anna Soares, a visitor from Chile [or Portugal ??] and John Kirk who had returned from working with TVX in England [See Chapter ??]. This group of people, along with the photographer Jonny Lewis – who had been a resident of the Yellow House – Mick's architect friend Tom Barber, and Fat Jack formed the collective that set up the video centre in Nimbin and who later became Bush Video.

Ultimately it was Johnny Allen and the growing collection of media and video activists, architects, technicians and film-makers that assembled around the idea of both the festival and the communications centre proposal that led to the Nimbin Communications Centre which, in turn, led to Bush Video.

While the starting point for the AUS had been to document the festival, there turned out to be more interest in setting up a video co-operative that might provide a space in which to develop ideas that could lead to a democratic and accountable media. This was partly initiated by a Canadian visitor, David Weston, who suggested to the festival directors that they could set up a media centre to be operated within the festival township [12] and organised along the lines of the Canadian Natonal Film Board's Challenge for Change project [see Chapter 1], which also later became the model for the Video Access network.[13] There had already been some discussion around the idea of a video access centre led by John Hughes with his 1973 proposal for a “Video Exchange” in Melbourne (See Chapter 8). Much of the interest in community use of video was based on the appearance of Michael Shamberg's Guerilla Television [14] and the journal Radical Software [15], both issuing from the U.S.

Notice for Bush Video at Nimbin
Fig.3: "U Use It" advertising the presence of the Nimbin Communications Centre at Nimbin.

Johnny Allen had also written to “Hoppy” Hopkins in the UK about the project and this led to John Kirk's return to Australia to become involved with it. Over the weekend of 17-18 February, 1973, a meeting was held at Nimbin to discuss arrangements for setting up the infrastructure for the festival. Glasheen, El Khouri and Melinda Brown were present, however Weston was unable to stay for the Festival and after the initial planning meeting it fell to El Khouri and Glasheen to organise the media centre.

While Joseph adds

“And Bauxhau and Mick and Johnny Allen, Graham Dunstan, Col James, Melinda and I and a whole lot of other people, all went up. We met in houses in Balmain and somehow there was going to be this meeting up in Nimbin.

“Colin James chose the place. He chose Nimbin, and told Johnny. And Johnny was working out of this place in Carlton, AUS headquarters, but he was all over the place. He was going... flying to India, and places, Bauls of Bengal. He and Baxhau had arranged for the Jazz Pianist Dollar Brand to come” [16]

Glasheen remembers

“going up with John Voce [17] and Clive Joy [???]. Taking the video up even, to record the meeting. And we had a meeting in the Town Hall and we talked about: yes, apply to the Film Radio and Television Board for funding and we’d apply as the Australian Union of Students who were putting on the festival, who were employing Johnny. So it was the Australian Union of Students who were applying for the money, but we were writing out the application. At that meeting... I remember coming up to Nimbin with two other people [Joseph El Khouri and Melinda Brown] who I’d met in Central Australia at the Inma that I went to with Fat Jack and I took video. I’d really only known about it through Baxhau, whom I’d met earlier and he was helping organise [it] with the Arts Council: Doctor Coombs, Jenny Isaacs, and it was one of the first Arts Council funded big aboriginal cultural events. And I crashed that really, with Fat Jack [who] did a hell of a lot of good work there: setting things up, and I shot a lot of video there, built a communications centre with a big spinifex dome. But two other people were there: Joseph El Khouri and Melinda Brown. [They] came, because they’d visited me in the Fuetron building, after I’d met them at the Inma.” [18]

Joseph continues

“First we went to Nimbin for the original meeting, and there was this guy, a Canadian guy [David Weston], who was organising video, and they were all talking about this Challenge for Change thing, a kind of community-based video. I didn’t know much about it, but I know it was a kind of community-based use of Video – and this guy was supposed to be organising the video element of the Student Festival.

“And then, after this meeting, we checked out Nimbin, the town, and we had a meeting in the hall there, and it was all very interesting. And Mick and I decided to become involved, and there were a whole lot of filmmakers there: Brendon Stretch was one, I remember. And that guy [Andy Trenouth] who was involved with you in the videos, who managed the theatre [the Chauvel cinema].

“Yeah, so we're all up in Nimbin and we had these meetings, and the filmmakers were there, going to do their film, and Mick and I decided to get involved in the video side of things. As I said, there was this Canadian guy organising it.

“And then we all came back to Sydney, and Melinda and I were living in Bondi. And then we went and saw Mick at the Fuetron Building that belonged to Lindsay’s brother. And Mick and Lindsay were there. They each had a floor. Lindsay was doing his exhibitions and Mick was staying there. And Johnny Allen came and told me that this guy who was supposed to be organising the grant had gone back to Canada, because someone had died.

“And I said: “Well, I’ll do it”, because I’d already applied for... I was used to the AFI because had I got my grant and I already knew the process, and I was always going in and out of the AFI, it was so close. So they all knew me there and whatever. And because I had the experience of organising stuff with Bert and putting in applications and whatever.”[19]

According to Glasheen, he and el Khouri then wrote an pplication to the AUS for funding to establish a model community access centre.

“So, it worked out that both Joseph and I then worked out what we needed to do the video documentation, and I was like... we needed three portable videos and a studio camera and lights, you know... whatever. And it was quite a big comprehensive package. I remember it was no more than fifteen thousand dollars, it was about $15,000. But we did get, I think it was at least three or maybe four portable videos, all National. Like we really studied what to get, whether we were going to get National or Sony, and we got National. And we reckoned they were superior and we [also] got, you know, a mains deck and we got a studio camera and lights and we built our own dollies and we also had budget to actually [buy] food for twenty people for two months or whatever, and electricity … and bought lots of old second hand television sets as well. We needed all these television sets as monitors to put up into the township of Nimbin to actually broadcast out what was happening from Bush video’s studio. Like we didn’t have any real idea of what...” [20]

Joseph then had it typed out and sent to AUS. As he puts it:

“Then I went out with Graham to the University of New South Wales, and wrote the application out and Robyn Archer was helping, she was the cultural manager out there. So I’d give the application to her and she’d take it to the girls in the office, and get it all typed out. Anyway, got the whole thing typed up, handed it in, then Melinda and I went back to Melbourne. And we were all waiting for the decision – this is between February and May. And there in Melbourne we hear: It’s okay, we got the grant. So come back to Sydney. But I mean, the whole thing takes weeks to go through. We come back to Sydney and I remember ending up [spending] Easter with Jonny, Jonny Lewis, who was living at Albie's, who I’d finally met when he organised that original independent filmmakers’ festival where we showed our movies I was talking about.” [21]

AUS had, in turn, applied to the FTB's predecessor, the Interim Council for a Film and Television School [or was it the Experimental Film and Television Fund ??] for “support for the video experiments at Nimbin in May with a grant to Aquarius (the cultural arm of Australia Union of Students) of $15,000 for the 10 day festival.” [22] With this funding Glasheen and el Khouri purchased 3 National ½-inch portapaks, a Shibaden ½-inch VTR (what was known as a “bench deck”), a small studio camera, lights, video tapes, a van with which they could move all the equipment and enough coaxial video cable to cable up the township and the main areas of the Festival. [23]

Page 1 of the Nimbin festival
Fig.4: Page 1 of the Nimbin festival "Video News" indicating many of the people involved in the Nimbin Communications Centre project

The main activity of the project became to introduce interested festival-goers to video so that they could go out and record festival events and then broadcast these out around Nimbin and the festival site through a collection of second-hand TV sets that they had also bought. [24] The sets were placed in the main sites of the festival, e.g, the Rainbow Café which managed to feed a large percentage of the students who came to Nimbin for the festival.

Page 2 of the Nimbin festival
Fig. 5: Page 2 of the Nimbin festival "Video News" indicating the equipment and programming that would be available at the Nimbin
Communications Centre

According to Glasheen,

“Bush Video was formed for the Aquarius Festival. It was totally just brought together to do that. And then a lot of people came together, in those two months of when we were getting the equipment together. A lot of people just gathered around Fuetron, they heard that there was going to be this great festival on and there was this place, Fuetron, where you could come and ... people would kind of squat there. So I remember Jonny Lewis arrived, and he was excited, with his girlfriend Annie. And then John Kirk arrived, and he’d just arrived from England and he’d heard about it in England. Johnny Allen had actually sent some communication off to John Hopkins, about doing this video thing… So John Kirk came on that. And other people who were friends of mine, like Tom Barber and Jack Meyer and Fat Jack, the people who had helped me build intervalometers and do experimental film things, they were around too, and they joined in. So it was this amalgamation of old contacts I had and new people.” [25]

John Kirk has told me that he arrived back in Australia at “ the beginning of ’73. March”, in time for the first meetings about setting the video up at Nimbin.

“I went to the Arts Council [the EFTF] in week one or week two, and they said: You need to go and meet these people, right. So then I was sitting with Mick and Joseph El Khouri, and Johnny Allen.

“So they kind of knew what they were doing, but Mick said: We’ve got to hire a truck to get all this cable up to the thing. And I said: Well, look at the economics of it. You can probably buy something for that sort of money. So they bought the Bush Video van. And at that stage they were looking at purchasing portapaks and those sort of things, and a switcher. And I knew enough to be able to tell them they needed vertical interval machines and they didn’t have a colour camera, but they could buy a colour switcher, right, with a chroma key on it, and all that sort of stuff.” [26]

Jonny Lewis describes how he became involved in the Nimbin project:

“I remember one particular day, I think I was with Annie Kelley, who was a great love of my life at one stage. We were over in Bay Street, and there was Mick. And I remember the day because it was... Mick takes his time in acquainting himself with people, or he did then. And I remember we were just in the yard. There was a yard next to the old Fuetron,

“And in the yard, there was a tin can and it was making this wonderful music, as it was blowing around the yard. And maybe you needed to be there to understand what I'm trying to say. But it was, the three [four ?] of us were just... there. And then of course, they started talking at further length. I think it was Mick, and Joseph, of course, was there...

“Anyway they started talking about Nimbin. And I knew nothing about Nimbin except that Bush Video was going to go up and represent itself by showing video tapes, and making them. I was very, very lucky and somehow I got myself up there and... I can't remember what vehicle I was driving. I think I had a little Renault, a little French car. I think my mother tried to help me out with that. But I was working as a labourer.” [27]

Joseph and Jonny took a portapak:

“up to Nimbin at Easter, and filmed the first Bush Video tape of Jonny and me and Annie [Kelly], and Linda Slutzkin, who became Albie’s wife. We got in a little “V-Dub” or something [probably actually Jonny's Renault] and the four of us we went up to Nimbin with the portapack and did this video.

“So Jonny and I and the two girls – went up there with the portapak, and we went up to the swimming hole – you know the place where they had a rope. It was like a little waterfall and they had this Tarzan rope, and you would swing out in space. And we did this videotape, Jonny and I did this video. It was really our first Bush Video tape. We were all naked and swinging out on this vine, or rope or something, and jumping off into the pool.

“And then we sent that back to Albie and he thought it was great. We used to watch it: This is great, just going out in the bush and shooting video; it’s so electric and it’s so bushy.

“Then we came back – because we knew we’d got the grant but the money hadn’t come through yet. So it had to take time, and it still hadn’t come through and we had to get a loan from the bank.

“I had to get this loan. I organised it. Because I was representing AUS and Johnny [Allen] it was okay. They were quite willing to give us $15,000. And so we could pay for the equipment. And I remember coming out of the bank with $2000 in cash, and I’d never had so much in my hand at one time.

“Then Mick and I started ordering the equipment. We decided to get one from Sony and two National Panasonic. And Annie Kelly used to drive me around, and she had a car and we’d go to all these places. And then I think it was Martin Fabinyi who found this old van out on Parramatta Road.

“He said: “You must come and check this out.” So we sent Fat Jack out, I think, to check it out. He said: “Yeah, it’s a beauty.” So I remember I went out there on Parramatta Road and bought the old van. It used to be used as a processing van by the Sydney Morning Herald, at the races. They had a dark-room in the back of it. So it was good. We knew we needed something to carry our equipment in, but this was great. We could use it as a camping van or whatever. I think it was $800. And Fat Jack took it out to that servicing place where you do it yourself.

“And Jonny and I were hanging out a lot together. And we were excited to be getting into video at last, getting some equipment that – because there were these people who had – I think Roger Foley had a portapack. – these quarter inch [Akai] ones. They were just starting to appear. We’d read about this stuff and been so excited by it, you could just shoot stuff without all the hassles, film production, and people saying: “You can’t do that; it has to be done this way”. So we were so excited by the concept, not realising all the hassles, the technical hassles we were going to get involved with; this half inch video, which was prematurely video, not like our little digital videos now.

“So Mick and I organised all this equipment, decided what we were going to buy: one colour, one studio camera, three portapaks. Because remember, we’ve got this agenda to do a kind of community video.” [28]

Mick adds:

“Like we’d formed about two months before the festival anyway... well the money had come through to get the equipment. And we were in the Fuetron building and we used to just unpack the equipment, we used to just go out... and these boxes would just come in... and we had money in the budget to buy a vehicle too, so we got that Bush Video van, which was a great asset, a great buy.” [29]

Joseph continues:

“Then John Kirk arrives, showed us this tape he’d done in London with Hoppy, telling us all about that. And he thought what we were doing was interesting, so he decided to get on board. Jonny and I had come back from Nimbin. Then we packed the van up with all this equipment. Mick had this dome but he didn’t have a skin. He said: “We need so much money; can we use it out of the budget?” Yeah, we got plenty …

“So that was the dome. We got the dome. Ken Beatty [aka Kenny Plosions] built the skin for it. This all happened really quickly because we just had to pack it all up, and head back to Nimbin. So this must’ve been after Easter, just early May. The festival was in May. We got up there and we had a terrific journey up there with John Kirk and Mick. I think we went in the van. Maybe Annie and Jonny went separately in her car. Then we had this one meeting where we came up with the name of Bush Video, so we put Bush Video on the side of the van. This was before it was painted silver – it was still its original colour.

“In a way, we were trying to explore all these experimental differences brought up by video. So what actually happens: we’re thinking about cable TV, community video, in other words involving the community, by showing stuff, but also getting them to shoot stuff.

“Because we set up this house in Nimbin during the festival, charge all these batteries and hand them out to people to go off and video whatever they want, at the same time as I used to go walking around with a video camera, shooting Abdullah Ibrahim [aka Dollar Brand] playing his piano, or just wandering around through all the activities, the yoga and all that, and videoing the sauna and all that sort of thing. I did a couple of good half hour videos, which would be interesting if they could be transferred, especially the one of the Dollar concert.

“We had the dome set up down in the fields, which we later shifted and put it up near the creek, when we stayed after the festival. We put it at the creek at the back of the shops, you know that area down there? It was the swimming hole.” [30]

Jonny Lewis comments:

“In retrospect probably it's slightly embarrassing, all these hippies, of which I was one. [As]were we all? And I remember Dollar Brand playing. That endless music was just extraordinary. I remember the Mornington Island Dancers because I had a little bit to do with them post Nimbin, and I remember, of course, Philip Petit. I was there when he rode into town on his unicycle. He was up for anything, that guy and I find him one of the great extraordinary poets ever. What a thing to do. I think I've been blessed in many ways and I'm very lucky. But you gotta take a few chances for this to happen and you can't be too humble about it because sometimes it's very hard to know what you're meant to do... Yeah, you had to be brave to be different and I think that that's something we don't see too much of. Maybe it's been refined a little bit too much.” [31]

The 'video energy centre' (as it was described in a note announcing it in Cantrills Filmnotes #13, p.31) was established by Mick Glasheen, Joseph El Khouri (Joe Correy), Melinda Brown, 'Fat Jack' Jacobsen, John Kirk, Jonny Lewis and Anne Kelly with contributions from Roger Foley, Martin Fabinyi, John Voce, Doug Richardson and others from Sydney and Robin Laurie, John Hansen, Ian Batty, and others from Melbourne, as well as David Tolley from Adelaide and Steve Jodrell from Perth.[32]

In the Filmnotes piece Joseph El Khouri said:

“... we want to find out about the video resources available and the people in the country interested in video and connect them together at the Festival. We'll have a lot of equipment together at the one time, so it'll be an intensive experience with video.” [33]

So they made their way to Nimbin over the weeks before the festival. Glasheen had a geodesic dome, for which the new skin was acquired, and it was set up as living quarters at Nimbin. BV arrived in the van one or two days into the festival. The video distribution hub was established in a house near the centre of town, and the work of laying the coaxial cable network began. They didn't know how to do it and Fat Jack had to teach people how to solder connectors and make the cables. The cable was passed along the rooftops up to the Rainbow Café, the pub, the Town Hall and buried down to the amphitheatre where the main stage was. [Check reference] Glasheen notes:

“I can remember laying all this coaxial cable down to the showground where the main stage of the festival was going to be. We thought we’d be broadcasting... or we’d be recording on the main stage and sending the picture back up to the studio up in town, like, a mile away, by this coaxial cable... and spending days putting in this coaxial cable, but it never happened.

“Well there didn’t seem to be anything on at the main stage to record because the festival itself was like, developing. It was an organic sort of thing. I mean no one knew what the program was going to be.” [34]

To which El Khouri adds:

“So we’re up at Nimbin with our equipment and we built all this cable. We were a bit naive about setting up a cable. We got it working, sort of. It was never as wonderful as we would have liked it to have been. But Fat Jack actually laid all this cable out in the – you can see on that plan [Fig.1] the ambition of it. We had video out through everywhere. We did get it going in the shop windows and stuff. And of course the PMG research department came up and saw it, and they were impressed that people were trying to do this. A guy called Hugh Guthrie.” [35]

BV's cable network at Nimbin
Fig.6: Map of the cable network built by Bush Video at Nimbin

John Kirk notes:

“I was doing more of a support thing [at Nimbin], because there was… A lot would happen, because Dr Karl Kruszelnicki and Mad Jack, and Fat Jack, and John Sisson were all up there building little Perspex pyramids with video distribution amplifiers in them. And modifying old TV sets, so they could use them as video monitors. Getting round the town and getting the whole thing wired. [36]

They were actually modifying the TV sets on the site in Nimbin.
Kirk again:

“On the spot, on site. And banging nails into telegraph poles and stringing cable round. And Fat Jack had made the archetypal aerial image lens, right, so we could pump 16 mm stuff into the gate of a video camera, and distribute that through the town. So that was like War of the Worlds, and other stuff. [37]

They were actually sending films out on that network as well.

“And it was interesting, because people were up there from Swinburne with portapaks. Like Anna Soarez was there. [38]

Video distribution amplifier in perspex case
Fig.7: One of Fat Jack's hand-built video distribution amplifiers used for sending
the video out to all the TV monitors sited around Nimbin.

Glasheen continues:

“But we knew that also the aim was to open the equipment up for people to use. The people that came to the festival could learn how to use the equipment and borrow it, take it out and record things, and that’s what happened. So a lot of people came in and took out equipment and recorded, brought it back and...

“But, I didn't record anything myself. I was fully occupied in setting the whole thing up, and putting in this coaxial cable … and then all these tapes came in, but we kept on not having enough tapes and recording over the tapes and not putting any value on what was recorded. Because when I was seeing it it didn’t look like it was all that valuable anyway. You know, much of it wasn’t well recorded.

“And when we came back from Nimbin there was always this kind of project to edit the Nimbin tapes, to get them down, to actually make them viewable, and there were a couple of edits, you know, there was the Bush Video to England edit that John Kirk did, and then a few other edits...

“So we were at Nimbin for about a month or so I suppose.” [39]

Notice for Bush Video at Nimbin
Fig.8: Bush Video announcing the availibility of their PortaPaks to record Nimbin festival events for the cable system.
[Remember this was the 1970s. The social norms have changed somewhat since then.]

It took nearly the whole period of the festival to get the cable laid but it did happen and towards the end of the festival some of the videos that had been recorded during the festival were shown on the network. [40] However, during the festival the “video freaks” at the “video energy centre” were maintaining and lending out the portapaks to all comers and many tapes were shot.

Glasheen mentioned David Elphick's story of seeing the woman giving birth on the cable TV installed in the pub after about a week of snow on the screen while BV laid the cables and got the gear ready. The birth is said to have happened on the first night of the Festival [although according to Mac Gudgeon, the father, that is not the case] and had been recorded, but it was only once the cabling was finished and the distribution system installed in the Communications Centre that it became possible to get a playback out to the sites in the town where the TV monitors had been installed – including the pub, the Rainbow Cafe and other places. [41] Joseph notes:

“I had the birth tape. I didn’t shoot it, it was shot by a guy called Carey Court, I think, for Mac Gudgeon who became a scriptwriter. [It’s] his wife. I don’t think he knew I was doing all this. He’d lent me this tape. I later heard from someone else he hadn’t wanted to make it so public, however he never complained to me about it. But anyway. He was married to this girl – I knew him from the Shakahari. [42]

“And then the local Nimbin cop came and asked us: “Could I see that video?” So I went down to the policeman’s house and showed his wife who was about to have a baby. He must’ve heard about it because I gave him a private viewing. I mean, I’m not sorry that I did it. I do feel I should’ve probably – maybe if I’d informed Mac Gudgeon of it. It was a no-no. I didn’t think. I thought, you can do anything in this life, as I said. It was just so open.

“Well, I suppose it’s a bit of an affront, it’s a bit rude to the girl. But we thought it was so beautiful, so we were coming from that innocent pure place, and we certainly didn’t mean any disrespect. In fact, it was actually reverence.” [43]

[On Nimbin see the video by Roger Foley at]

In an interview for the ABC's GTK (Get To Know) with Jonny Lewis and “Fat Jack” Jacobsen, two members of the group that set up the Nimbin video centre, the interviewer asks Jonny Lewis: “You did a big video thing at Nimbin. Can you explain how that worked, and some of the things that happened from it?” to which Lewis replies:

“Oh, well. How did it work? Well we had all this equipment that we bought in the last three days before going up there and it was just an open access situation where anyone who was at the Nimbin Festival could come and borrow a portapak and generate their own video, their own information. Anything that they wanted to say they could say it with videotape.”
To which Fat Jack adds:

“It was really quite beautiful because of all the lightweight electronic gear we've got. We actually had people who had come to the festival to have fun, taking away just a little suitcase and a camera and going out and … shooting videotape the way they felt, coming back to us and we just had a terrific library of all the tapes that these people had shot. And then … how would you say … narrowcasting all this stuff down a cable into the town, [to television monitors set up] around the town, and people would be just standing there awestruck watching television that they'd made days before or maybe hours before. So it was a beautiful little community service thing that was made possible by the modern lightweight television stuff that's now available.” [44]

El Khouri made several tapes – including recordings of some of the main events by the international celebrities such as Dollar Brand (Abdullah Ibrahim) on the main stage and the Bauls of Bengal concert at the Town Hall, [45] Philip Petit's tight-rope walk across the main street at night with flaming torches, the Hare Krishnas, and then just what was happening around the streets, concerts, Paul Joseph had a parade. There were many other tapes shot, from play in the swimming-hole to street performers to trips into the surrounding countryside and whatever people thought interesting at any moment.

However, to a large extent the festival participants had little experience of film or video making, and as Glasheen noted, during the festival

“all these tapes came in, but we kept on not having enough tapes and recording over the tapes and not putting any value on what was recorded. Because when I was seeing it, it didn’t look like it was all that valuable anyway, you know. Much of it wasn’t well recorded.” [46]

Joseph noted:

“We probably stayed a few weeks. We shifted the dome down to the creek, and we were swimming in the creek, going out – and maybe there was talk of buying land, or something. But it probably hadn’t been bought yet, but we actually were involved with the exploration, and the guys who bought Tuntable Falls – Terry McGee, and another guy, they used to stay at Bush Video and we went out and made videos of the land before it had been purchased and that. Melinda actually bought a share for a few hundred dollars. And so during the festival, I shot quite a bit of video, filming people doing yoga and I’d just go off with the portapak, and probably Jonny shot stuff. Mick shot… and I did the Dollar Brand concert. There’s photos of me on the top of the van with the portapak, around the place, I think, in that collage of John Kirk’s in the Bush Video Tharunka. [47]

Nimbin as a model access centre

John Kirk has suggested that the Communications Centre at Nimbin became the first actual Australian experiment in setting up and operating a video access centre. [48] In effect, Bush Video at Nimbin was a model of an access centre and an attempt at a community TV centre. It provided the model or seeded the demand, the need, for the Film and TV Board to actually create the access centres. This all came about through Mick and Joseph's discussions with Johnny Allen.

While at Nimbin they had rented a house on the main street to set up a studio. It was really just the front room of the house and it was really just an equipment store with a maintenance bench. The portapaks were taken out and used to shoot whatever festival people wanted to record. The video was shot mostly not by BV people but all sorts of festival participants. People would come and borrow the equipment and take it out into the festival sites. BV basically taught people how to use the gear. Then the tapes were brought back and, when the cable set up was operating, played back on the cable to the monitors sited around the town. [Check for a reference]

Others who were involved in the Communications Centre at Nimbin and worked on film and video productions or other sociological and archival activities included Roger Foley who shot a film of the day -to-day activity of people at Nimbin during the festival; Benny Zable who, much later, worked with people from the Woodstock museum on a doco about Nimbin, for which Mick did an interview. Anna [Ana?] Soares a Portuguese student at Swinburne Film & TV course Melbourne was involved and shot some video. Sri Richard was the source of the mandala's (used in the computer graphic tape) which were originally watercolour paintings. He was following a current of yoga practice which was also very much a part of the BV thing at this stage and of which Joseph was a strong exponent – as were the long meditatiive feedback videos. [49]

“Jeune [Pritchard, who later became the director of Paddington Video Access Centre] was there too. She was doing a lot of video. Because I remember she might’ve had a portapak, and I helped her with it, charging the batteries or something.” [50]

Jeune Pritchard and her partner Megan McMurchy had brought a portapak to Nimbin with them. They also recorded around the festival and may have been involved in the GTK recording of the festival, because Jeune was working with the ABC as a producer for GTK.

There was also some good video of the Dollar Brand concert recorded [by Joseph] – the sound was good because they plugged the portapak into the PA [Check reference]

After the festival some of this band of artists, film-makers, architects and others became Bush Video. [They were Mick Glasheen, Joseph el Khourey, Melinda Brown, “Fat Jack” Jacobsen, John Kirk, Annie Kelly and Anna Soares. They were later joined by Ariel.] They returned to Sydney, moved back into the Fuetron building which became the Bush Video studio, while the members of the collective squatted in some derelict shops, also owned by John Bourke, on Glebe Point Rd. They then began to edit the Nimbin videotapes, but editing in those days was a very tedious affair and little was achieved. It was just about impossible to get a clean edit on the Shibaden ½-inch “bench” deck they used as a master recorder. [51] Despite the problems, if one persevered, a reasonable job of editing could be done [52] and John Kirk produced the Bush Video Tapes, a compile of the Nimbin recordings, that went to the UK with an Australian Film and Video Festival called …over to you which was held in London in April, 1975. [53]

Bush Video now saw itself as free to explore other aspects of video as a medium for communicating a more esoteric range of ideas through the synthesis of new realities: visual, architectural and sociological. This led to the making of lots of other video and, being back at Fuetron, the experimentation started.

Bush Video was a loose collective of artists with a diverse range of interests who somehow managed to work together for nearly two years. The group had a constantly changing configuration but for those two years there was a strong enough connection for major events or projects to pull together those members needed for the task. They established a regular Bush Video Theatre [Fig.16] and the studio space in the Fuetron building became a gathering place for the group and their associates to try things out, discuss projects, gather collaborators and to show the results of the production to all and sundry. The primary video work was highly experimental with a considerable degree of feedback generated imagery, bits of computer animation, and Glasheen’s time-lapse footage, along with transferred films [54] and portapak video gathered from Nimbin and the city, and performances of dancers and musicians who joined in regularly. Bush Video was always inclusive.

Bush Video and the van
Fig.9: The Bush Video family gathered at the Bush Video van (in Bay St). L-R: Helena George, John Kirk,
Annie Kelly, Mike Kelly (on roof of van), unknown, Mick Glasheen (obscured), Ariel, Joesep El Khouri,
Melinda Brown. [Polaroid SX-70 Photograph: Jonny Lewis]

Glasheen’s description of the attraction that video had for him illustrates the general underlying aesthetic that guided Bush Video in much of its work:

“I was drawn to the organic nature of it, [see Fig.4]… it seemed to me that video and electronic art is really an image of energy! It’s live light energy! Electromagnetic fields that are made visible! And so I was just attracted to that, to that... my God! This is amazing! That we’ve got our hands on this… that man (sic) can look at... Just like a television image. Like, the first time I saw a television image I couldn’t believe it. You know, there’s this glowing cathode tube with an image there that was alive. So I just felt that there’s life there, this new life-form, that could be felt - when you’re doing video effects, when you’re doing feedback, the feedback effect of video, Bush Video pursued hours and hours of this feedback... Then I was feeling drawn to that because it was this kind of… it seemed to be that that’s where the life was… in this machine. And what could be coaxed out of this? How could this be understood? What was this? And years and years later I kept on puzzling about what is this? What is the philosophy behind it? What is the scientific principle that’s going on here? I didn’t understand what it was at all.

“But now it seemed to come out that that is like a Mandelbrot set, in its kind of feedback formula. Like, this simple iterative process.” [55]

Bush Video was still affiliated with the AUS and in August published the Bush Video edition of Tharunka (the student newspaper of the University of NSW) which was intended to introduce the many facets of video to the students at UNSW, and to be more widely distributed to artists and community activists who might be interested in using video. [56]

“The Bush Video Tharunka happened after we’d come back from Nimbin. This was something we did two or three months after that [while] we were still part of AUS. This was a University of NSW publication... we were still in touch with the university to actually bring out the uni paper as a whole Bush Video edition. [57]

It summed up much of the general politico-aesthetic thinking of the time, not so much for the “fine art” world as for the “experimental art” world; the world of the hippies and the techno-freaks of the day, whose interests were largely the expression of an ideology of transcendence and the recognition of the ecological linkage between the world of nature and the development of the community both environmentally and spiritually. [58]

The diverse interests of the members of Bush Video, ranging from the practical to the artistic to the techno-mystical, can be seen in the content of the Bush Video Tharunka. It included:

  • John Kirk’s legal and management advice on how to set up access centres so as to “get together with your community to get machines, money and guarantees of access” [59]
  • Considerations of the cable network experiment at Nimbin. [60]
  • Tom Zubrycki’s article on the use of video as an agent for change.
  • Warwick Robbins’ article on a Sydney-based version of the Canadian Challenge for Change project [see below].
  • John Kirk’s article on videotapes about housing problems in London. [60]
  • Jonny Lewis’ article on the usefulness of Super-8 Film and Polaroid instant photography in video work. [61]
  • Joseph el Khouri’s discussion of Giordano Bruno's Memory Theatre [62] “Notes Towards an Alchemy of Communication.” [63]
  • Glasheen’s Buckminster Fuller derived “Communication as Sharing of Conscious Experience of Energy” [64] which he “wrote in that year in 1967 when I finished uni and I had time to research. This was written for the "World Design Science Decade" [65] … [which] was on in London in July ‘67 and has since been printed by the World Game and the International Times”, and this issue of Tharunka. “It was like a year’s… this is what my thought about all this research about what communication was… it was all madness, no, not madness but... [66]
  • Tom Barber's “Intuitive Formulations of Videospace Topology”.

There was a lot of psychedelic illustration in the Tharunka: Dick Weight did a lot of it while, as Glasheen notes:

“[the octopoidal Klein bottle] was Tom Barber’s drawing [Fig.9]. I find this is still really significant, this knotting of space, all this hyperspace that Tom developed with all his tensegrity. He built tensegrity structures which actually model these sorts of structures. Like knotting Klein bottles.

Tom Barber's drawing of knotted Klein Bottles
Fig.10: Tom Barber's drawing of video feedback as a Klein Bottle in the Bush Video Tharunka (1973). [Courtesy: Aline Barber]

“So when we were doing this... we did this together, thinking: gee this would be great to have this thing going into a video space thing, but into that kind of topological space of intuitive formulations of video space topology. It says by Tom Barber. So I think it’s Tom, and I reworked it or something, yeah I was writing it and ... we were doing it together.” [66]

The Memory Theatre ideas came from Joseph.

“I was obsessed with these two areas of alchemy and memory theatre. Because I’d read this book of Frances Yates on Giordano Bruno and the art of memory. [67] I’d actually read that in Armidale. [68] I was reading Jung: Mysterium Coniunctionis. [69] So the feedback transforms your personal life. Cinema is a process of transformation, then moving into video, because it’s much more accessible and malleable to the personal. [I was] fascinated by the idea of memory theatre and Giordano Bruno and the idea that this is what the media was becoming, and would become, with the Internet later on, as it has become now, the universal memory thing. So I was trying to bring as much stuff … Alchemy as a Psychological process not with any idea of making gross metallic gold, what I was searching for was the perfect gold of a media induced sublime or enlightenment.” [70]

Having returned to Sydney new people became involved. [71] Joseph notes:

“Yeah, I remember [at the Fuetron building] there were different people would come there. There were bands there sometimes rehearsing. Paul Joseph, Sylvia and the Synthetics, I remember we videoed them, kind of a drag group. And then what we really wanted to do was start getting into doing abstract video, and play around with feedback and stuff. I remember first discovering feedback and thinking, Oh, this is great. I wanted to take it further.

“As I said, we’d read about all these things [in Radical Software], and then when you actually do it, you think: This is really interesting.”[72]

Ariel had met Bush Video at Nimbin, and then joined in with Bush Video later in 1973. As Glasheen noted “he just arrived, a kid from school. He arrived maybe six months later...[MG: ???]

Ariel noted:

“but I wasn’t doing any video or anything at all then. I had actually just been a hippie at the time and I worked in electronics places before I lived in the bush, so I’d worked at George Brown’s and Davred or what ever it was called then [Radio Dispatch]. [They were suppliers of electronic] components.

“At the time electronics was an interesting place to be. I’d been interested in electronics first, and then when I met the people in Bush Video I just became very interested in the whole video thing. So when I came back to Sydney I went and saw them at Glebe and I just sort of fitted right in with what they were doing, and it just didn’t seem to take that long to start picking up all the stuff involved in doing it. Obviously I was lucky I already knew about electronics. [73]

I [the author] was drawn into Bush Video through the whole systems theory discussion. It was part of the Bucky Fuller thing. I remember walking up the stairs of the Fuetron building one evening with Tom Barber, talking about that sort of stuff, and suddenly realising that I actually understood all this stuff already. Because I’d studied systems theory at uni, over the previous years, ’71, ’72. And before I knew any of – well, I knew Mick by then and Albie Thoms by then, but I’d been doing Systems Theory when I was studying Psychology at ANU.

So the thing that made me think that made me realise that I was very much aligned to what was going on at Bush Video – was this discussion with Tom Barber about systems theory and the whole nature of systems and feedback structures and things like that. And the Bucky Fuller side of that, and so on.

Having moved back into the Fuetron building Bush Video established a studio space in which a collection of video monitors was set up as a wall of screens, with the cameras in front of it for feedback or to record performances. Along the opposite wall was a “control-room” set up with the recorders and the mixer and whatever equipment they were able to build or borrow that could help make interesting electronic video. [74] [Fig.15]. One piece of equipment that made an irregular appearance was a video colouriser, known as a Cox Box [75], which was used to colourise the feedback effects that were so much a part of what Bush Video produced. Other equipment that appeared were an oscilloscope used for making Lissajous figures and later there was a video synthesiser built by Ariel, roughly based on the Rutt-Etra type of video synthesiser that was in use at Armstrong Audio/Video in Melbourne. [76]

Four frames from I Know Nothing, made by Bush Video using Doug Richardson's PDP-8.
Fig.11: Frames from I Know Nothing by Bush Video, 1974. The source images were produced with Doug Richardson's PDP-8 facility.
Note the linear inscription and the use of feedback. [Courtesy: Bush Video]

As Ariel described it, much of Bush Video’s production involved

“remixing stuff that was captured with a camera. And [with] a lot of the stuff that we did, or I personally did, the mind boggling thing was where you’d have as many different sources as possible all being ... combined. One of the schemes was that you’d actually have all these banks of monitors sitting against the wall and then you’d have blank areas and there’d be like film being projected on parts of the wall. The whole place would be dark and … you’d be shooting the thing so it was like doing compositing with the camera plus mixing with more than one camera, and also colourising mono sources, and so forth.” [77]

Bush Video had a connection to Doug Richardson, who invited them to come and use his experimental graphics facility based on the DEC PDP-8 mini-computer, for which he had developed a PDP-8 based vector graphics application he called the Visual Piano. Graphic output was displayed on a large radar type screen known as the DEC Display 8 which had a resolution of 1024 x 1024 dots. The facility had originally been established through the collegial generosity of John Bennett, the then head of the University of Sydney Computer Science Department.

Meta-Video Programming
Fig.12: Metavideo Programming by Bush Video, 1973. Note the combination of the geometric figures inscribed across the screen, driven by audio
waveforms and computer controlled waveforms, with video feedback giving an illusion of depth. [Courtesy: Bush Video]

The system was used to produce a great variety of computer images that were used by several artists, including Gillian Haddley, Frank Eidlitz, other Computer Science students as well as Bush Video in several of their projects including Metavideo Programming, which we will come to below.

Both Glasheen and Ariel (while with Bush Video) used the PDP-8 to explore the sacred symbols of the tantra, particularly yantras and mandalas, drawing them in the computer, setting them to rotate and combine in various ways and then recording them with the portapak shooting directly from the 338 Display. Ariel also used the oscilloscope and his own version of the Rutt-Etra synthesiser and a lot of feedback.[78] You can see these in the videotapes I Know Nothing (1975) [Fig.5] and Escape from Paradise (1975) which were shown at Australia '75.

Bush Video and the van
Fig.13: The DEC PDP-8 computer (in the Computer Science Department of the University of Sydeny) for which Doug
Richardson wote his Visual Piano software. Images could be driven by audio waveforms and computer-controlled waveforms. PDP-8 in cabinet
mid-left, PDP-8 system console hidden by the video camera, DEC 338 Display and EMS Synthi-A with external keyboard, plus system
support equipment in cabinets. [Courtesy: Doug Richardson]

John Kirk commented that:

“They were doing experimental things, like Ariel was fucking around with chips, right, with dividers, AND gates and all that sort of thing. And frequency splitting or something, and getting interesting stuff happening on screen.” [79]

In his presentation at my Synthetics symposium of 1998,[80] Ariel described his approach and the way electronic video was perceived at the time.

“all the other members were interested in electronically generated images but I think my particular speciality, if you like, was how to play around with generating images electronically. Also at the time there was this whole hippie thing going on and a lot of this type of material was seen as some form of electronic meditation. I guess this was made really before the video clip and music videos and what have you, so at that time it was just seen as visual music, as a kind of electronic screen-life that could be cultivated and farmed and what have you. At the time a lot of this stuff seemed to be much more mesmeric or something. Also we were emerging out of a very conservative period as well, so a lot of people at the time weren’t even cognisant of what it was, I mean, maybe they thought it was just that there were all these TV sets that were out of adjustment.”[81]

Creating interesting video feedback was one of the main things Bush Video explored, although many of the best feedbacks never got recorded. You had to set up the video and then finesse the system to do what you wanted to do.[82] Feedback is a decidedly evanescent process and the most beautiful effects can be lost by the slightest change of conditions, e.g., a change in the light level, a shift of the camera or trying to mix or key another video image into it. Also the 1/2”-inch recorder was somewhat unreliable and sometimes just getting it to start recording was enough to lose the effect. The thing about feedback is that it is a chaotic system and you are walking a knife-edge when producing it. However some tapes did get made.

The interest in Systems Theory, Bucky Fuller, video feedback and

“all the special effects was a way of communicating this consciousness of the world being like this organic organism, and every part connected. And to exploit this for the purposes of enlightenment and knowledge, expansion of knowledge, in the way that thinkers like Bucky was doing it and transforming it and coming up with inventions, and domes. And John Cage was saying there are no boundaries to music, and silence and reality is music and the sound that taps make is music, and mixing media was from phonographs and media and putting it all …. And of course then we discovered this metaphor of the effects mixer and the video processor, where you can make this a state of heightened consciousness where everything changes colour and reality becomes a malleable, transformable metamorphosing exhibition.” [83]

Glasheen continues:

“Then the video experimentation happened, with us looking at doing feedback experiments and then getting a commission from James Mollison of the National Gallery to do Metavideo Programming for the Philip Morris collection. And that enabled us to hire the video colouriser to do that. I remember James Mollison coming and seeing what it is we were doing... and approving, yes, this would fit into the Philip Morris funding to do an artwork that would be in an exhibition [and which] the National Gallery still have. And that would be a good video to get stills from because they've really got a compile of what we were doing. So Metaprogramming is really one of the only things to come out, or out of my side of it.” [84]

Glasheen’s Metavideo Programming [Fig.6] is perhaps the most important output from Bush Video in the Fuetron building. It was commissioned for the Philip Morris Arts Grant [85] by James Mollison, then director of the Australian National Gallery in Canberra. [86]

“And that enabled us to hire the colour video to do that. I remember James Mollison coming and seeing what it is we were doing... and approving, yes, this would fit into the Philip Morris funding to do an artwork that would be in a [collection] that the National Gallery still have. Meta-Programming is really one of the only things to come out, or out of my side of it.” [87]

Metavideo Programming was bought with funds provided by the Philip Morris Arts Grant, which was established in 1973 “to enable the purchase of works of art by “bold and innovative” artists for exhibition in State and Provincial galleries throughout Australia. … [It] has enabled people to realise projects more ambitious that they have attempted before; the statement from Bush Video Group of Sydney was only completed in this form after an infusion of Philip Morris Arts Grant money.” [88]

The video was made using Richardson's PDP-8 computer graphics system. The geometric line drawn figures from his Visual Piano were recorded to Porta-pak video and then taken back to the Bush Video studio. There they were mixed with video feedback and colourised using a Michael Cox colouriser. The results were recorded to a Shibaden 620E half-inch VTR (a “bench deck”) and the playback from that was copied to U-matic video in 1975. That U-matic copy is what you can now see. The colour on the Shibaden was unfortunately never adequately stable but there is enough for you to see what Bush Video was trying to achieve.

Metavideo Programming consists in colourised video feedback driven by computer generated circles in a quadrilateral setting flowing out of the screen, each circle jumps from one position to a next position at 90deg to the previous. These are followed by three-to-one sine wave Lissajous figures, again generated on PDP8 with the feedback camera set to a slight rotational offset angle, so that the echo gives feedback. [Feedback is a product of constantly decaying and constantly refreshing echoes in an endless loop of light from monitor to camera to monitor and back to camera.] A sine-wave Lissajous image zooms in from centre to close up so only sections are seen, giving new kinds of feedback. Feedback then begins to be cut up by zooming the camera out to edges of monitor screen. Following this a new sequence of quadrilateral and pentagonal computer drawn geometric shapes: as lines, filled out by feedback, build up in layers of echoes. The quadrilaterals flow over each other giving multiple layers of rectangles and lines rotating about each other. Multitudes of these figures flow into a petal-shaped pentagonal feedback.

The highly saturated colours were produced with the 'Cox Box' colouriser. The whole is set to music by Tangerine Dream [Note: the music is copyright Tangerine Dream and no rights were obtained for its use. That was just not even thought about in the early 70s.]

Metavideo Programming was one of the final pieces produced by Bush Video although there were lots of experiments and test tapes. Later, after Bush Video broke up, other video pieces such as Escape From Paradise and I Know Nothing [Fig.9, above] were assembled, although they were made by Ariel and Joseph Khouri. It is likely that they were among the pieces finished at the Paddington Video Access Centre in 1976. Much of this post-Bush Video work was made during the period that I [the author] was volunteering with Paddington, particularly while the studio in the Paddington Town Hall was being built.

Having studied architecture, Glasheen had (and still has) a strong interest in the geometry of space, both architectural and microphysical. He had been visiting Richardson for a couple of years, doodling around on the PDP-8 system, drawing and animating 3D objects, especially the tetrahedron, a shape which has special significance, representing for him the fundamental geometry of the microcosm. He would then record them either to 16-mm film, before Bush Video, or to videotape during the Bush Video period. They often became incorporated in the mixdowns of electronic imaging that Bush Video specialised in, for example, the “circle and square and triangle, the old Taoist pattern” [89] that appears in Metavideo Programming.

As had Richardson, Glasheen found himself especially intrigued by the glowing trail the image left as a result of its persistence in the particular phosphor used in the screen of the 338 Display. While he and the author were looking at some of his film of the computer animations, he commented:

“It’s good seeing the old analogue screen isn’t it, eh? Beautiful line it makes, also ... seeing the persistence patterns, which you don’t get with the good digital computers... and that’s showing us the fourth dimension. It was like a computer game with the panel … so you could control the movement as it was moving though space, which was terrific. I also liked it when it breaks up like that, like it’s turning inside out or something. It’s [as though] the computer can’t control where its going, somehow you’ve zoomed it too far, but it’s a good effect.” [90]

One of the animations started as a 2D object spinning around and moving through 3D space [91] and grew into an animation of the flight of a boomerang intended for Glasheen’s film Uluru [92], [Fig.11]. As always there are bugs in experimental electronic systems and the PDP-8 was prone to them. One of the bugs was that with objects rotated about a centre there tended to be a line from that centre of rotation to the object as though it were on a fishing line. You can see this in the frames of the boomerang in Fig.1. Later in 1973, Richardson came over to the Bush Video studio and announced that he had the boomerang on the screen, so bring the camera. The boomerang was flying around the screen looping the loop and leaving the persistence trail “carving 3D space”, and it was finally running without the “fishing line tied to it”. [93]

Ariel also used the PDP-8 to explore sacred symbols that derive from Hindu yantras [94] and mandalas that are aids to meditation, drawing them into the computer, setting them to rotate, move and combine in various ways and then recording them with the portapak directly from the 338 Display. You can see these in the videotapes Yantras (1974 or 75?), I Know Nothing (1974) [Fig.8] and Escape from Paradise (1974), which in early forms were probably shown at Australia '75 in Canberra, although he also used an oscilloscope and his own version of the Rutt-Etra synthesiser and a lot of feedback. [95]

Ariel summed up Bush Video and the wider international community of video artists' understanding of electronic art as being part of a process of thinking about a new kind of language that would bring people into a new level of consciousness about their relations to the world and to the cosmos. For many of us we were orienting towards a new secular electronic notion of the divine.

“I guess it was more like an art rather than a science, … even though I think at the time, to do a lot of the stuff, you had to have some idea of how the technology worked or what was possible, or how you could possibly exploit certain potentials in it, or what have you. And I think that the visual medium, or the visual communication that Doug [mentioned at the Synthetics symposium (1988)] [96] will eventually come through but I don’t think that anybody has yet seen what that medium is. I don’t think that any of the particular technologies they make hint at what it could possibly be, and I don’t think that, currently, it exists or the germ of it exists per se. But I think that it will come through and I think there’ll be more and more of these technological obstacles giving way. I think that it will be easier for people, for programs or what have you to communicate any type of information.” [97]

It was this first generation of video artists, Australian and international, who read or were mentioned in the U.S. journal Radical Software, [98] who perused Guerilla Television [99] for its wealth of useful procedure with video, or who read and became engaged in (the then) new media through Gene Youngblood’s Expanded Cinema.[100] Radical Software was the main channel by which video activists and artists kept up with what was happening in all the burgeoning threads of video in the 70’s.

What arises here is the notion of video feedback as a simulation of, or perhaps a pointer to certain questions around the nature of consciousness. Much of this is brought out in Glasheen’s “Communication as a Conscious Experience of Energy” and el Khouri’s discussion of video as a memory theatre, both of which appeared in the Bush Video Tharunka. [101] Glasheen’s use of Richardson’s PDP-8 system was to make animations based on the intuitive sacred geometry [102] that he (Glasheen) felt was an important aspect of this new communication. Richardson was also motivated by this interest in completely new “physiologies” of communication that could be mined through both computer animation and video synthesis processes. As I have noted above video is a form of writing and this can be easily seen in the synthetic videos by Bush Video, as well as in the computer animations developed on Richardson’s PDP-8 calligraphic display.

But it wasn't just the esoteric in communications theory or in the mysteries. There was also considerable mention in the Tharunka issue about the community access activist kind of video work (e.g., the work of Tom Zubrycki or Warwick Robbins), and things that John Kirk was doing, and so on.

“That’s why we were a meeting of minds, and we, because, as I said, I could connect with that whole idea that Mick had gone into, because I’d already seen Bucky Fuller in the flesh. I was a total believer in that.

“And John Kirk and Martin Fabinyi were doing these things – we were very much aware of the whole religious thing, these kind of gurus and that. But I wasn’t really taken in by any of them as my own guru. We wanted to be our own gurus basically, not follow any gurus. But we were definitely influenced, well I was, by the whole Tantric thing.

“In fact, that Mookerjee book, from the fantastic library in Melbourne University union… They had everything. They had all the obscure stuff, and I knew some of the people. I knew this one poet that used to work in there behind the counter. And I’d go in there, listen to Zappa and stuff like that. That was another big influence. Bert and I were both Zappa freaks. I was so into music, but I didn’t have any income to buy all the latest records. So this was ideal. And Melinda used to go there too.” [103]

At the same time there was a great deal of interest in other forms of media for the making of art and for the diversification and democratisation of communications. One of the new developments was the instant photography enabled by the Polaroid SX-70. Within the photography world in Sydney, Jonny Lewis was one of the first to take up the potential of the SX-70. As he comments:

“The one thing with video, of course, was you could play it back and see it immediately, and you couldn't do that with film. I don't know what happened, but someone said, "Oh why don't you go over to Polaroid." And ironically Polaroid was adjacent to the Fuetron building. It was about two minutes walk, just off Bay Street, the first street on the right and it looked back towards Broadway. That was the office buildings of Polaroid. And I went in there the first day and introduced myself, and there was a fellow called Don Michaels, who was from America, and I walked out with an SX-70 and of course, then I became... Then I thought it was a great complement to have the SX-70 and the video. Although I was trying to learn as much as I could from the SX-70, it was very exciting because we had state-of-the-art technology, if you will.” [104]

This led Lewis to become the “house photographer” for Bush Video while it was at the Fuetron building. He took a lot of photographs within their space – of people, of each of them, from in the kitchen and in the studio and stuff [see Figs.14 & 15], and then he took a lot of photographs out in the bush and various places of social activity.

In the kitchen at the Bush Video studio
Fig.14: Visitors in the kitchen space at the Bush Video studio. L-R: Mahier Stone, Jodie Adams,
the author and Lindsay Bourke (1973). [Photograph: Jonny Lewis]

“I was just educating myself with it. I didn't really... I think probably in the early '80s I started to start processing and all that sort of thing. I think it had got me going with the SX-70, got me intrigued, and I was beginning to form some ideas. But as you say, you don't wanna think too much.

“I made very little [video there]. I remember long nights, very long nights, with Mick, just watching Mick mainly, doing feedback. And there was something about it that was completely compelling, and he would just be there tweaking it, and tweaking it, and tweaking it. And it seemed like it took forever. And of course, we were... All the accoutrements to that making of the particular feedback tapes were done mainly by Mick.

“John Kirk. He came around. I can't remember what he did, though. But, he was good. Joseph was around, though he didn't spend too much time with us, although he was obviously of leadership material.

“Mick was the inspiration. I always have to say that, because he was just... He was great, he was into it. He was very... There's something very warm about him. He's warm and he's sincere and he's got a sense of humour. And the world's lucky for him and his movies.” [105]

John Kirk managed to edit a compile of the Nimbin material along with other Bush Video output into a tape he called Bush Video To England. He says of the process:

“Basically, in those days it was like start two machines and then press the button when the right picture went past, and you’d mark the tape, with a grease pencil and wind it back three marks and then start them.” [106]

Equipment space in Fuetron building
Fig.15: Mick and Melinda in the equipment space at Bush Video (1973).
[Photograph, courtesy Jonny Lewis]

Video as a form of writing

The computer-generated calligraphic mandalas and the oscilloscope waveforms and Lissajous figures are the main image sources that I am thinking about as being examples of this form of inscription. [107] The inscription in these instances may or may not have any semiotic referent to which it points. Obviously with much of the computer graphics, where the intention was to produce geometric images and mandalas these are clearly signifiers, though with the Lissajous figures, be they Ostoja-Kotkowski’s complex raster manipulations or Bush Video’s oscilloscope traces there is no such immediate signification. But when I look at them they remind me of the beautiful calligraphy of Arabic when it is applied to invocations of Allah [The One] or represents passages from the Koran. However, for modern video artists, these implications would not have been their main thought, though perhaps some saw that connection. For many in the underground, the main spiritual interest at the time was the Western view of the Hindus and their mandalas which are generally geometric and are used to represent states of mind, especially the clarity of emptiness that might be obtained through meditation and this returns us to the whole notion of video as a contemplative and perhaps consciousness expanding medium which appears in some writing about video and transcendence. [108] It is also worth remembering that the scan of the facsimile [see above] that lies at the basis of video was also seen as a means of transmitting both handwriting and Chinese ideographic characters.[109]

This non-representational video writing is basically formalist and determined by the technical capacities of the device generating the image. Thus the image is an abstraction of the formal properties of the device itself. Much music is made like this, for example Bach’s mathematical play with the semi-tones of the octaves available on various stringed instruments, and with counterpoint. Another example would be the possibilities inherent in electronic music, when it is not used for the programmatic composition one usually finds in film music. I have already mentioned the relation of synthetic video to electronic music, and this inscriptive video, coupled with video feedback, that Bush Video made is one example of that process.

Of the Bush Video work in this field of abstraction there are several examples. Video Meta-Programming (1973), [Fig.11] Escape from Reality (1974) and I Know Nothing (1974) [Fig.10]. The latter two were completed at City Video (otherwise known as the Paddington Video Access Centre) while Bush Video was based at Guriganya (see below) and were shown during the Bush Video presentations at the Computers and Electronics in the Arts exhibition at Australia 75 held in Canberra in March 1975 (see Chapter ?). These works are of the type that were generally considered contemplative, and clearly had psychedelic implications. They are long difficult and ultimately unsuccessful works produced through what amounted to improvisational processes, but they show moments of extraordinary beauty. They should probably be best categorised as “visual music”.

Bush Video Theatre

In terms of actual video activity the main context in which these sorts of ideas were exercised was in the regular Sunday night Bush Video Theatre events which were mostly situations in which anyone who was interested could come and hang out in the studio and engage in the video mixdown, musical improvisation and general conversation (not to mention quite of lot of pot smoking) that occurred during these evenings. As it was almost impossible to edit with the gear that Bush Video had, most of the recordings were done in long takes, which quite suited the improvisational approach.

Ariel describes:

“We had about 10 vcr’s and monitors all stacked in different ways and in a darkened space you could actually see all these separate tapes running at the same time so you could get a mix, if you like, in the viewing space of all these different computer and analog generated video sources. A lot of the mixes that we did [were] where we’d actually play back video on monitors in darkened rooms, project film onto the wall [of monitors] and then shoot the whole thing again with another camera, or sort of, like navigate around what was going on. So you could do a large mix by surfing with a camera all these different sources that are in a darkened space. We also relied heavily on various standard types of video equipment, special effects generators or mixers, colourisers and some weird, strange machines that were built.”

Poster for Bush Video Theatre
Fig.16: Poster for Bush Video Theatre. [Courtesy: Bush Video]

Losing Fuetron

Things started to become difficult for Bush Video at the end of 1973. Joseph comments:

“And then we started... we had a few battles, and funding was always a problem, with getting access to the equipment, hiring that colouriser, different things like that we wanted to do. And we had technical limitations. And then finally the place came apart when Johnny Bourke started to lose his – there must’ve been a recession or something some time.

“And he lost – because he was over[-extended] – he had all these properties. He had so many properties that I guess he only owned part of them, and he was owing so much. And his cash flow couldn’t keep up with it. And there was a recession, and he was called on these and he lost on most of his buildings, except the Fuetron. And we lost that, and then Bill Lucas offered us Guriganya.” [110]

The Futron building period came to an end. As Glasheen notes:

“at the beginning of ‘74. We got to the stage where we were too far behind in the rent, we couldn’t keep up with the rent, not that it was very much... and it got to the stage where we were being locked out of the building. There was no door on the building for most of the period, there was no front door. So anybody could walk in and walk out… So I was actually sleeping on the floor up there just to… you know so someone was there, but there was never any problem.

“But, I remember we had to go in about mid-’74 and Bill Lucas had offered Guriganyah as a possible place … he was involved with this alternative school that had space that could accommodate us, and we could interact with the kids. So we moved there, to Guriganyah, in mid-’74. So we must have been there [at Fuetron] for a year, was it? So that would be about when you came in mid-’74, about the time we moved there.

“Then, I remember it was all a matter of keeping it going, really... and just enjoying life keeping it going.” [111]

One of the last projects at Fuetron was a collaboration with the architect Bill Lucas, who was proposing a very radical transformation of Woolloomooloo. Kirk describes it:

“Mick and I did a thing with Bill Lucas, who owned the building that Gurigunya was in [and to which Bush Video moved when the Fuetron building became unavailable]. Bill was an architect, and he wanted to do a thing by running aqueducts right through Woolloomooloo and floating concrete extrusions ...

I then asked Kirk if it was “Those pyramid buildings that he was wanting to build?

“JK: Yeah, kind of, but the thing was to reticulate the transport through the whole thing, in aerial canals, right, with concrete boats floating, with the same profile as the ditch, but sitting on sticks. And so we did a kind of a chroma keyed colour simulation of that, using I’m not sure whether it was models that Bill had built, [but] most of it was done with models and drawings and that sort of thing, you know.

“So that was kind of interesting, and at that stage, people had moved out from where we were based in Glebe, up the road to Guriganya. And I’d moved out, and I’m not sure whether I was working at Alexander Mackie Art School at the Rocks at that stage. There was a big cross-over thing there, yeah.” [112]

Another project was Martyn Fabinyi and John Moyle's production The Vacuum which starred Sylvia and the Synthetics. Kirk notes:

“I think that was ’74 or something when he [Martyn] did a thing with Sylvia and the Synthetics, called The Vacuum. And basically it was: bugger the job we’re twirling the knobs on the Cox Box, and just... like colourising stuff. Which is a bit of a non-event, but interesting.

“[Martyn] and Johnny Moyle and all those people, there was a little enclave down that end of Darlinghurst, Paddo end of Darlinghurst. And they were all living in – and David Humphries – they were all living in houses just across the road from each other.

“So I saw a bit of Martin in that context. And I think he must’ve had a studio shoot as well, I think, from what I remember, because that’s what was happening, that’s what I was colourising. I don’t think it was on tape.

Kirk wasn't involved in the whole production:

“No, no, I just went in and did those operations.” [113]

1974 – BV at Guriganyah

The shortage of funds, despite support from the FTB, meant that in early 1974 the Futron Building was closed to Bush Video, but they were fortunate enough to be invited to live in an old mansion called Guriganya at 444 Oxford St, Paddington. On the land behind the mansion (effectively its backyard) was an independent school which had been set up by among others Bill Lucas, a somewhat maverick architect who had taught Glasheen at UNSW. So Bush Video moved in and became something like mentors for many of the kids who were students at the school as well as continuing their video activities. One of the more surprising results of this move was that right across the road, at 445 Oxford St, the FTB had set up City Video, the first Video Access Centre in Sydney, [114] and the National Resource Centre, which was to be the hub of the nationwide network of access centres they initiated under their local version of the Canadian Challenge for Change project. … and I remember carrying equipment from City Video across the road to Bush Video...

Gurigunyah backyard
Fig.17: The backyard at Guriganyah, with Glasheen's dome in the foreground, the sheds and
the mansion in the background. [Photograph: Stephen Jones]

Joseph notes:

“Mick [had] dropped out of Architecture at NSW, but he was always connected with the architects, Bill Lucas and Col James. Bill Lucas said Bush Video can have a space there, which was a really crazy idea. We can move into the classrooms and everything.

“So we moved in, found a place to camp down in a storage room. We had our bed on top. Anyway that was just for the first few days till we discovered they had lots of extra space in the old house at the front so we cleaned out the rooms. I remember you helping with setting up an editing room in the basement where I could start experimenting with breaking all the rules of commercial video editing in a Joycean method of found and created images sampled and thrown together in pursuit of random serendipities.

“And we made that thing with White Company. A medieval flavoured staged musical fable with Video mixing Kerry Biden organised that with the White Company group. And that was a full-on mixed colour … [It] was quite entertaining, that. Kids love that.” [115]

[I’ve got some screen shots from that video, I think, with the White Company.]

Guriganyah was a 3-storey heritage building off Oxford St, Paddington, with a huge backyard that stretched back to a back lane half way down the block between Oxford and Underwood Sts. There was a large shed in the backyard which jointly functioned as the community school and a place for Bush Video to set up their studio.

Along with some of the earlier members: Mick Glasheen, Joseph El Khouri, Melinda Brown, Jonny Lewis, and those who had recently joined like myself and Philippa Cullen, who was there with Ariel, we all lived in the main building. Glasheen set up his dome in the backyard and there was always room for events and gatherings. There was a constant flow of visitors to Bush Video including earlier colleagues, other experimental filmmakers, architects and technologically interested types, travelling hippy theatrical groups and lots of friends. There was also a series of events like a party one weekend, when everybody was there for the dome, climbing all over it. Films were projected in the dome. Philippa Cullen ran a weekend workshop in the dome with half a dozen others who were interested in community-based dance practice.

Also, as Glasheen notes

“Actually the Film and TV Board was still helping us in a way, they were still funding... I remember at one stage we just needed money to fix the truck and register the truck and they came forward with a thousand dollars or something. And lots of time was spent fixing the truck, weeks at U-Do-It with Fat Jack... putting a new engine in or reconditioning …” [116]

I remember some pretty astounding nights watching videos and films while lying on the Bush Video floor of the Fuetron building in 1973, my last year of uni, when I used to hitch-hike up from Canberra for the occasional weekend, and some pretty wonderful days at Guriganyah later in 1974. I had gone to live in Nimbin for a while and then came back in mid-74 and stayed with Bush Video at Guriganyah for the rest of that year... that was pretty amazing. I remember carrying equipment across the road to and from City Video. That was quite a coincidence, City Video (at 445 Oxford St, Paddington) on one side of the road, literally opposite Bush Video in Guriganyah (444 Oxford St) on the other. There was always equipment travelling across the road, especially the heavy Sony colour monitors, mostly [coming] to us, for showings and stuff. And I remember Mario Fairlie coming across and sitting down and having a conference about what a video mixer should do and what the studio should do and things like that.

“Yeah... it was funny times... and Bill Childs of the Film and Television Board... they were very good to us.” [117]

This was an extraordinary period of political good will and generosity, especially if you were in the arts – which we all were – or if you were working class – which, admittedly, none of us were. As Glasheen notes regarding the Access Centres, Bush Video

“did kind of help them in a way... get City Video happening, anyway... supplying future people that were going to work at Paddington Video. ” [118]

Other productions in which Bush Video was involved included video of various plays presented by the Nimrod Theatre. About this time John Kirk was working at the Film and Television School and assisted Martin Fabinyi in producing his work The Vacuum with Sylvia and the Synthetics, using Bush Video's cameras. I remember seeing a copy of it (though it has vanished since) and it’s listed in the program for Over To You (1975??)

John Kirk tells an ironic story about getting the job at the Film and TV School:

“I used to go over there to kind of get to do little bits and pieces, and Warren Hannigan, who was the tech there, went on long service leave, and I can remember that I’d applied for money from the Film School to make something, and they’d sent back a "No". And I’d thrown it in the waste paper basket, and a week later I thought, Stuff this, these guys are not understanding what I’m on about. So I took it out – went down to the local phone box, put my money in and rang up the Film School. And I thought this guy is a project officer, John Martin Jones, who was like some lackey in there, he’s made this decision. So I got on the phone to him and gave him an earful, right. And then I went in to see Warren, and he said: “You’d better go and see JMJ”. And I said: “Who is he?” And he said: “He’s the deputy director of the school.”

“So I walked in there, and said: “Hello, I’m going to get it.” And he said: “Warren’s going on long service leave. Do you want the job while he’s away?” So while the cat’s away, the mice will play.

“So what used to happen there at the film school was that at 5.30 or something, all the office staff would be gone. The back door would open and all these people would come in and moonlight, like editing films over there. That was on the 6 o’clock to dawn shift, yeah. So we used to go in there and wire all our gear into the Cox Box, and colourise tapes, and do all that sort of stuff.” [119]

Another area that became of great interest to Ariel and Joseph was biofeedback. There is a short video of Ariel setting EEG (ElectroEncephaloGram) [120] electrodes into a headband around Joseph's head followed by an oscilloscope display of the EEG waveform superimposed over a close-up of Joseph's face with the headband across his forehead. They had begun this interest in 1974, and it neatly coincided with Philippa Cullen’s interest in it as well. [120]

Philippa had become involved with Bush Video on her return from Europe in early 1974, living at Guriganyah with Ariel at one stage. Over that period she and Ariel began to explore other electronic means of making sound/music from her movement. This included biofeedback with which Ariel had been experimenting, using EEG and Muscle Sensors hooking up himself and Joseph and Philippa as well as some plants. The book that people who were interested in this biofeedback work were reading was Manford Eaton's recently published Bio-Music. [121]

Ariel also videotaped much of Philippa's Central St workshop, and some of her Sunday workshops in the quadrangle at the University of Sydney.

Philippa was also hanging out with Melinda Brown while at Guriganyah. Melinda recorded some of a workshop in community dance that Philippa gave in the dome and in November Philippa put on an exhibition at Hogarth Galleries, not far down the road in Paddington. This was her 24 Hour Concert which involved a large group of people: other experimental dancers like Jilba Wallace, cabaret people like Russell Cheek, "The White Company", Chris Mann who took apart a piano, playing it as a percussion instrument until it was more or less in pieces and Aleks Danko and Ian Robertson who played an interminable chess game. In mid-74 I had moved back to Sydney from Nimbin and stayed with the remaining and new members of Bush Video at Guriganyah for the rest of that year. I was asked to document the evening at the Hogarth (which went all night and the next day) on video. This was my first experience with actually video-taping anything and started badly but I got the hang of it quickly and shot various performances over several hours.

Collaboration/co-operation within BV.

Bush Video at Guriganyah was more of a nexus where people could come for support and help and talk about projects and then go on with working on your own stuff. Artists could also link up with Bush Video people to shoot documentation of their work.

Still Frame from Mad Mesh
Fig.18: Ariel's portrait of Philippa Cullen with her EEG (EMG ??) patterns superimposed
over her. [photograph courtesy: Mark Evans (aka Ariel)]

It was a wild and amorphous assembly of extraordinary processes and interactions, each of the people involved forming their own centre of interest and essentially pursuing their own activities, generally with the interest of many of the others around at the time. Each person may well have been producing their own videos, artworks, films, architecture and devices, but each person could freely call on the others for assistance, advice and general enthusiasm. Glasheen notes that:

“Bush Video, to me, seemed to be this total blend of lifestyle and video and art, that … could be confusing to anyone who walk[ed] into it, like it was a perfectly operating system of God knows what, you know. People doing their own thing… [but all helping each other]. Very self-initiated, everyone was doing their own whatever. Or trying to work out what it is they wanted to do. Lots of people were doing their own projects, and it wasn’t really like a video access centre, as they evolved.” [122]

While El Khouri commented:

“Well, for that time there, we all co-operated around the video, and then we were exploring all our little different projects from different angles. And we were taking it into these areas, whether they’re… whereas other people were wanting us to take it into social activism. And there were other people doing video, and we more or less wanted to use the medium to explore, to experiment. Not to just film people talking about their problems with housing, although we weren’t opposed to that entirely. And of course, some of the TV people who came and saw some of this stuff, would say: “Oh, you’re playing around with effects, it’s just wanking”, or whatever. But of course, now, that’s what TV does all the time. In between the programs, there’s all this special effects. And some of it’s terrific, doing it far better than we could ever … So it was always very much of a struggle. But the process and the ideas have all stood the test of time, so we were almost like the pre-history, the mythological version of video.

“Meanwhile collaborative BV productions continued, negotiated with the nearby access centre, as well as the White Company production and Fantuzzi and the G-rated Tantric Ceremony on the vacant lot. There were a few music recordings with a few bands… then preparing for the Canberra Arts and Science Festival.” [123]

Bush Video recorded plays at the Nimrod Street Theatre and provided assistance to many other people who were developing an interest in video. One of those, Martin Fabinyi produced, with John Kirk, The Vacuum another important early video work which was a TV talk-show send-up featuring Sylvia and the Synthetics, who were part of the early revival of cabaret in Sydney in the 1970s.

Bush Video was also very much a community that looked after its people. Even at the beginning at Fuetron, before Nimbin and after in 1973, and at Guriganyah in 1974. At Fuetron, Joseph describes:

“We’d build a fire and make a meal around the fire, up on top of the building, and just a fantastic spirit. And I had a fantastic exchange of ideas with Mick, and we were a good team, making things happen, you know, with purchasing the equipment, and organising people. He had a lot of great contacts, you know, interesting guy.

[It was]: “Good food, cooking good meals, that was part of the energy of Bush Video. We’d feed people, exchange ideas, we were open, and we were cooperating with each other. Fantastic energies, and it would draw in people like you and Ariel, and Tom Barber and different people, and there was always – we could make things happen by combining our energies, instead of just sitting around on our lonesome, and meeting up every now and then.” [124]

It functioned as an anarchic system, a loosely self-organised collection of individual autopoietic systems all operating from the one central space/context, sharing members and “super-posed” on each other. The visualisation I have is of a large constantly re-shaping social creature. The great value of a self-organised system (also then known in political science as self-management) was that if you needed some help for something you could just call, because there were lots of people around.

At the time it seemed to me that Glasheen was the notional leader, or perhaps more to the point, the person who, along with Tom Barber, seemed to be the most aligned to the kinds of ideas that I was seeking. Joseph el Khouri, Melinda Brown and John Kirk were also strong centres of ideas and activity. Jonny Lewis was primarily interested in photography and recorded much of what went on, mostly with the newly available Polaroid SX-70 instant photography camera.

Ultimately the primary outcome of Bush Video during the Fuetron period was Video Meta-programming and a massive stream of other experimental video material that was yet to be edited and compiled. Some of this happened after Bush Video broke up. However possibly the most valuable result from Bush Video was its impact on the local culture. A large number of people had been exposed to the wide possibilities of video through Bush Video and went on to pursue all sorts of interesting careers, some of which continued to involve video making.

While at Guriganyah, Joseph el Khouri started making Ascension of the Rainbow Serpent

“I tried to merge it with the ideal thing, which is the indigenous dreamtime thing. And I was also influenced by this weird… see, I did some sociology, so I was into that too. Levi Strauss… and Roheim...

“Well, he was this weird Hungarian Freudian, who came out to Central Australia. He’s not as well known as the Baldwin Spencer journey into the dreamtime, or Strehlow’s. But he came out and started talking to the Aborigines and specifically notating their dreams, actual dreams. And his book – I forget what they are, but they’re again in the library – Geza Roheim, but he came out to Australia, and his book is not very well known, and I never hardly ever hear about him, whereas you still do hear about Levi Strauss. But Levi’s, his exploration of Honey to Ashes explains the South American mythology, how it’s like mathematics, it’s like musical symphonic structures. And he writes his books in this way, and it makes it very evocative, because he traces these variations in mythologies. And that was – because I’d read this book, Honey to Ashes, and The Raw and the Cooked, his two big volumes, and the Sad Tropics, it was my way of – I wasn’t really being an anthropologist, but it gave me an additional respect for the indigenous.

“Because I’d first experienced indigenous culture in this town [El Khouri's home town of Glen Innes] as a real downtrodden – and out at Moree where there were just these horrible alienated camps on the edges of town, absolute squalor which you wouldn’t want to go into. And I had this funny relationship – because I was always getting mistaken for an Aborigine by people in a racist way, and I’d have to say, No, I’m Lebanese. You can imagine what a small country town… there were people who were racist.

“And I was okay in my school, but sometimes the kids from the other school, I never had any racist … and I was a smart kid and – but then the kids from the public school might mistake you for an Aborigine, and give you the…” [125]

Meanwhile in Melbourne, as well as the experiments conducted by Fred Harden and the group associated with the Cantrills, a young electronics engineer, John Hansen, was exploring sound and light intermodulation (ie, electronic synaesthesia) in a variety of media both on the underground rock music scene and in the art world.

Synthetics logo


1 Glasheen, recorded conversation, 14/5/2005.

2 Glasheen, recorded conversation, 14/5/2005.

3 Glasheen, recorded conversation, 04/11/2001

5 See

6 Glasheen, recorded conversation, 04/11/2001

7 Glasheen, recorded conversation, 04/11/2001

8 Glasheen began work on Uluru before the Bush Video period but he was rather redirected by that whole activity so he didn’t eventually finish it until 1978.

9 Glasheen, conversation, 4/11/01.

10 The first low cost graphics computer, based on Ivan Sutherland's Sketchpad system (which Doug Richardson had used as the basis for the graphics software that he had written for the PDP-8). It was made by the IMLAC Corporation of Needham, Massachusetts in 1970. See for more details and a photo of the machine. Retrieved 03/06/2018.

11 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

12 Kaptain Possible, “Back to our roots”, in the broadsheet Nimbin Examiner, Softlick 73, Contributions on the Aquarius Festival

13 Many of the documents relating to Challenge for Change and to community video in general can be found in John Hopkins, Cliff Evans, Steve Herman, John Kirk (eds) video in community development, Centre for Advanced Television Studies, London: Ovum Ltd., 1972.

14 Shamberg, Michael and Raindance Corporation, Guerilla Television, New York, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971.

15 Raindance Foundation, Various editors including Beryl Korot, Michael Shamberg, Radical Software, New York, Gordon and Breach, Science Publishers, 1970-73.

16 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

17 John Voce had (I believe) originally supplied the portapak that Glasheen took to Uluru.

18 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

19 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

20 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

21 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

22 National Library of Australia: Guide to the Records of the Australian Union of Students : MS 2412

Series 2. Correspondence by topic:
File. Australian Council for the Arts, 1973 - Box 7 (Sequence 2)
Series 16: Education:
File. AUS Aquarius (i.e. Cultural Affairs) Foundation, (1972) - Box 189 (Sequence 2)
File. NUAUS Aquarius Foundation (1972), including tours by Ginsberg et al.) - Box 191-195 (Sequence 2)
Subseries. C. Festivals
File. Festivals, 1972-1974 - Box 275 (Sequence 2)
Guide to the Records of the Nimbin Aquarius Festival
MS 6945
File. Aquarius Reports to AUS Council, February 1973

John Hughes, “ What To Do With A Greek Bearing Gifts”, The Learning Exchange newspaper, No 24, pp. 4-7 (December 1974).

23 "Video", Learning Exchange Newspaper No.6, p. 2. Mentioned in Hughes, op.cit., p.3.

24 Note that this is an expanded version of the model already established through the TVX UK and TVX Australia experiments at rock festivals.

25 Glasheen, conversation, 14/5/05.

26 Interview with John Kirk 2009.

27 Interview with Jon Lewis, 2015.

28 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

29 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

30 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

31 Interview with Jon Lewis, 2015.

32 Joseph El Khourey, Jonny Lewis, Video News, a double-sided foolscap document noting who the initial group of people interested in a video centre at the Nimbin Festival were, as well as some of the equipment budgeted for and the potential for video at the Festival. It's not clear from the document how many of these people actually were involved in the Nimbin video centre. Neither is it clear when the document was actually produced. It must have been before the festival as it it calls for people to become involved in establishing the project but it must have been after preparations for the Festival were well under way. The document mentions that Jonny Lewis was at Nimbin during Easter (April 20-23) of 1973. So that might put it at about last week of April or first week of May 1973. In the Stephen Jones Archive.

33 Joseph el Khouri, quoted in “At The Aquarius Festival Nimbin”, The editor, Cantrills Filmnotes #13, p.31.

34 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

35 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

36 Interview with John Kirk 2009.

37 Interview with John Kirk 2009.

38 Interview with John Kirk 2009.

39 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

40 John Kirk [telephone conversation, 5 November, 2005] reminded me that the cable network was regarded by the Post Master General’s Department (PMG) as being significant enough for the PMG Research Department to have a teleconference with Glasheen and Kirk about the project at the time of the Festival. There is a transcript of the conference in the Bush Video Tharunka, [Glasheen, 1973, p.14.]

41 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2009.

42 Vegetarian restaurant that became something of a hub, Situated in Lygon St ??, Carlton, VIC.

43 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

44 GTK episode 733 on Bush Video at Nimbin:

45 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

46 Conversation with Mick Glasheen recorded on 14 May 2005 at Palm Beach.

47 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

48 Interview with John Kirk 2009.

49 Sri Richard's wife is the Nimbin archivist.

50 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

51 The process of editing half-inch open-reel video was to take two VTRs; for Bush Video one portapak for playback and the bench deck to record onto. The tapes are then cued to the points where, for the playback the next shot is to start, and for the record the end of what is wanted of the previous shot. These two points are marked at the sound record/play head with a chinagraph wax pencil and then the marked positions are wound back manually until they sit at the tape tension arm before the head drum. This gives the two tapes a period of run up to get up to speed so that, after pressing the two play buttons simultaneously, as the marks cross the sound record/play head, after the head drum, the edit button is pressed on the record deck and with luck it will then assemble the next shot into the edited tape. This approach to editing was prone to errors of all kinds and in particular to sync failures so that most edits had some sort of momentary crash at the edit point, yet it was all that was available.

52 Two books stand out as the most useful manuals of video usage. They were used at the time as training and reference manuals by many of the activists and artists for whom video was becoming an important means of communications. The books are Cats Video Training Manual, Kirk, Hopkins and Evans, 1974, op cit, and Guerrilla Television, Shamberg, et a, op cit].

53 Fabinyi, Martin and Gorman, Clem (1975) ...over to you - Australian Film and Video Festival London 1975. Screenings held at the Collegiate Theatre, Gordon St, London, W.C.1, 25-27 April 1975, Sydney: Film and Television Board of the Australian Council for the Arts.

54 Of great interest were a number of NASA films that were appropriated into live events and video pieces. Sometimes these were projected from the roof of the Fuetron building onto the side wall of a nearby building for evening showings at Bush Video [John Kirk, telephone conversation, 5 Nov 2005]

55 Glasheen, conversation, 14/5/05.

56 Glasheen noted: “The Bush Video Tharunka happened then after we’d come back from Nimbin, only about two or three months later. … [while] we were still part of AUS. This was a University of NSW publication. ... we were still in touch with the university to actually bring out the uni paper as a whole Bush Video edition.” [Glasheen, conversation, 14/5/05]

57 Glasheen, Michael; el Khoury, Joseph; et alia (eds) (1973), Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, Journal of the University of New South Wales Students’ Union. Much of this attitude has it roots in the cybernetics of the 50s as it filtered through people like Gregory Bateson and Margaret Mead in anthropology, and in its engineering and architectural parallels through Fuller. Glasheen when looking at my library immediately noted von Bertalanffy’s book on General Systems Theory and said to me that it also had been of great interest to him during the late 60s. [von Bertalanffy, Ludwig, (1968) General Systems Theory: Foundations, Development, Applications. New York: George Braziller.]

58 Kirk, John (1973a) “Macro Micro - Video feedback world interactive net.” Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, pp.12-3.

59 Transcript of “P.M.G. conference via co-axial cable Sydney to Melbourne with Bush Video and the P.M.G. Research Department”, Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, p.14.

60 Zubrycki, Tom (1973) “Video - Agent for Change.”, Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, p.15
Robbins, Warwick (1973) “Challenge for Change.” Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, p.16.
Kirk, John (1973b) “Housing Video in London.” Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, pp.16-17.

61 Lewis, Jon (1973) “Supa 8mm and Polaroid: their relationship to Video.” Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, p.18.

63 Khourey, Joseph el (1973a) “Inside a Memory Theatre: Notes towards and alchemy of Communications.” Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, pp.3-5.

64 Glasheen, Michael (1973) “Communication as Sharing of Conscious Experience of Energy.” Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, pp.6-9.

65 Glasheen, conversation, 14/5/05. See also:

66 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

67 Frances Yates, (1966) The Art of Memory, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Frances Yates, (1964) Giordano Bruno and the Hermetic tradition, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

68 Which is where he went to University.

70 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

Interview with Joseph El Khouri about Bush Video, Cantrills Film Notes #25/26, May, 1977, p.44.

71 Bush Video was my introduction to video as well. I spent some time with them in Nimbin and being at ANU in Canberra at the time I used to come and spend the occasional weekend with them during 1973. I ended up living with them in 1974.

72 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

73 Connor, Schiemer, Ariel and Jones, conversation, 24/9/05.

74 During [Connor, Schiemer, Ariel and Jones, conversation, 24/9/05] Ariel listed the available equipment. “we had a whole stack of monitors, and a colour video open reel recorder and maybe one colour camera and a few black and white cameras, video mixer and then a lot of this other stuff that was just built by Fat Jack [Jack Jacobsen] or Mad Jack [Jack Meyer].”

75 This was one of the first commercially available colourisers and was developed in England by the Michael Cox company. The ABC and probably other TV channels or production houses used them for title colourising. They were available through the original version of Quinto Communications in Sydney.

76 The Rutt-Etra Synthesiser is described in Dunn et al, 1992, p.138. There is also an article by Bill Etra, the artist collaborator in the Rutt-Etra project on the state of computer graphics in 1978 in Access Video, vol.5, no.1, pp.13-15 [Etra, 1979]. About the use of the Rutt-Etra at Armstrong’s I have little information. However I do have in my archive a brochure from Armstrong’s that introduces the use of the Rutt Etra Video Synthesizer to producers who might want interesting effects in animation for TV advertisements or title sequences and logos.

77 Connor, Schiemer, Ariel and Jones, conversation, 24/9/05.

78 Ariel noted of the material he showed at the Synthetics symposium that “Some of the material, like I said, had been originally shot off a computer screen with a half-inch black & white camera, re-recorded back on to another half-inch machine after it had been colourised, audio had been added to it, then dumped to ¾-inch.”

79 Interview with John Kirk 2010.

80 Jones, Stephen (curator) (1998) Synthetics: The History of the Electronically Generated Image in Australia, A 2 day Symposium curated by Stephen Jones, for dLux Media Arts, presented at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, July, 1998.

81 Ariel (1998), Transcript of his talk at Synthetics, PowerHouse Museum, 19th July, 1998. See Jones, 1998, op cit.

82 Glasheen, conversation, 4/11/01.

83 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

84 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

85 The video was included in the The Philip Morris Arts Grant: Australian Art of the Last Ten Years, their 2nd Annual Exhibition, 1975. It was purchased in 1974 by James Mollison, then Director of the NGA, and included in their collection. It was then shown in the National Gallery of Victoria’s “Performances Documents Film Video” exhibition in September 75.

86 Metavideo Programming, Purchased by the NGA from funds provided by The Philip Morris Art Grant, Bush Video [active 1973-75, Sydney, NSW.] Videocassette, colour, sound, 30 minutes. Purchased: April 1974. [Nicholas Bonham (ed), Australian Art of the Last Ten Years The Philip Morris Art Grant, Canberra: Australian National Gallery, 1982, p.85.]

“Bush Video is a Sydney based technological commune, which has been searching and experimenting with the communication possibilities of video since May 1973. The group has produced more than two hundred hours of video programme material. The group is Anne Kelly, painter photographer, cartoonist; Mick Glasheen, experimental film maker and video producer; Ariel, metaprogrammer; Joseph El Khourey,writer-director; Melinda Py, comprehensive culture technician; Mike Kelly, ultra-electronics engineer; Fat Jack Jacobsen, meta-electrician and group manager, TV experimenter; Jonny Lewis, photographer and video producer.” [The Philip Morris Art Grant, 2nd Annual Exhibition, 1975. Fold-out poster sheet and catalogue.]

See also: James Mollison, The Philip Morris Art Grant, 1st Annual Exhibition, 1974. Canberra: Australian National Gallery, n.p. - which has more biographical detail on members of the group.

87 Glasheen, conversation, 14/5/05. Bush Video are listed in the catalogue/poster for the Philip Morris Arts Grant 2nd Annual Exhibition, but individual works are not mentioned.

88 James Mollison, Introduction to the catalogue for the Philip Morris Arts Grant First Annual Exhibition, 1974. No publisher, though presumably the National Gallery of Australia or The Philip Morris organisation.

89 Glasheen, conversation, 14/5/05.

90 ibid

91 Glasheen indicated that he was not sure how they controlled the movement through space on the boomerang animation, but it could either have been by careful manipulation of the sliders, or by setting up waveforms on the synthesiser that was often available in the PDP-8 suite. The synthesiser could drive the display directly instead of having to create control waveforms with the computer.

92 Glasheen began work on before the Bush Video period but he was rather redirected by that whole activity so he didn’t eventually finish it until 1978.

93 Glasheen, conversation, 4/11/01.

95 Arielnoted of the material he showed at the Synthetics symposium that “Some of the material, like I said, had been originally shot off a computer screen with a half-inch black & white camera, re-recorded back on to another half-inch machine after it had been colourised, audio had been added to it, then dumped to ¾-inch.” [Ariel, 1998, op cit.]

96 This refers to a comment Richardson made in his talk at the Synthetics symposium in 1998. Richardson, Douglas (1998) presentation at Synthetics, July 19th, 1998, a symposium held at the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney. Curator: Stephen Jones, Produced by Alessio Cavallaro for dLux Media Arts.]

97 Ariel at Synthetics, at the PowerHouse Museum, 19th July, 1998. We had such optimism in those days. It seems deeply sad to me now to know that the religious backlash has so turned the world back to the dark ages, especially as, with the discoveries of cybernetics and the studies of complexity and self-organising systems that we could be on the verge of really understanding what the world (in its larger view) really is.

98 Korot, Beryl; Scheinder, Ira; Shamberg, Michael, et al (eds), (1970-1974), Radical Software, New York, Gordon & Breach. Radical Software web-site: has copies of all issues. See also which has some useful references.

99 Shamberg, Michael, and Raindance Corporation (1971) Guerrilla Television, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, New York. “For the young in "Media-America" who have grown up with television, completed products like books are less important than ongoing process. The best means for recording this ongoing process is videotape camera. The introduction of a low-priced ($1,500) portable camera in 1968 made it possible for many people to do their own filming and made possible "guerilla television." This is an alternate television which doesn't just want alternate programming played across the existing system; rather, it demands a whole new system "an information infrastructure for Media-America, a grassroots network of indigenous media activity." Existing "guerilla television" groups are described and ways of starting one are suggested. These suggestions include types of equipment to get, what to use it for, and ways to become self-sustaining. Another suggestion is that school children be trained in videotaping as they are now in writing, so that they can film their own environment.” (JK)

See also:

100 Brief description at A full copy of the book (with colour images at end of book, p.432) is at

101 Glasheen: “Communication as Sharing of Conscious Experience of Energy.” and el Khourey: “Inside a Memory Theatre: Notes towards an Alchemy of Communications.” in Glasheen, Michael; el Khoury, Joseph; et alia (eds) (1973) Bush Video Tharunka, August 7, 1973, Journal of the University of New South Wales Students’ Union.

102 Perhaps best represented by John Michell in his The View Over Atlantis, (1969) Sago Press, London, Great Britain. This was partly based on Alfred Watkins' The Old Straight Track: Its Mounds, Beacons, Moats, Sites and Mark Stones, (1925) Methuen & Co., Great Britain.

103 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

104 Interview with Jon Lewis, 2015.

105Interview with Jon Lewis, 2015.

106 Interview with John Kirk 2009.

107 They could only be gotten into the video mix by re-shooting them off the screen of the computer or the oscilloscope, and this applied to everybody who was using these kinds of images whether they were produced with the Rutt-Etra synthesiser or the Scanimate or, as at Bush Video, oscilloscopes and custom modified monitors.

108 Again I refer you to some of the articles in the Bush Video Tharunka. Glasheen et al, 1973, op cit.

109 Jones, Stephen (2005b) Incunabula of Computing and Computer Graphics, Sydney: Stephen Jones privately published. [This may be obtained from Stephen Jones.]

110 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

111 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

112 Interview with John Kirk 2010.

113 Interview with John Kirk 2010.

114 Which later, 1976, moved to the Paddington Town Hall as the Paddington Video Access Centre.

115 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

116 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

117 Interview with John Kirk 2010.

118 EEG involves recording the brain's spontaneous electrical activity. See

119 Jones, Stephen (2004) “Philippa Cullen: Dancing the Music”, Leonardo Music Journal, vol.14, pp.64-73.

120 Eaton, Manford L. (1974) Bio-Music, Barton, Vermont: Something Else Press.

121 Interview with Mick Glasheen, 2005.

122 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

123 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.

124 Interview with Joseph el Khouri, 2009.