Mary Curtis Ratcliff of Videofreex

Celebrating Videofreex’ 50th anniversary

Wednesday, July 31, 7 PM, $7-10 suggested donation – cash only

Mary Curtis Ratcliff in person!

The Nightingale is thrilled to welcome Mary Curtis Ratcliff, a founding member of the collective Videofreex, to Chicago to screen three videos made from 1969-1970, on the occasion of the group’s 50th anniversary. Mary Curtis Ratcliff—visual artist, videomaker, and political activist—participated in the creation of these tapes both on an off camera as videographer, interviewer, and interviewee. Chicago Travelogue: The Weatherman (1969), Fred Hampton: Black Panthers in Chicago (1969), and Curtis’s Abortion (1970) provide a window into the political movements and ideologies that are as important today as they were fifty years ago.

The Videofreex began in 1969 as part of the Manhattan video scene and eventually moved to upstate New York to operate a community video center and the first pirate television station in the U.S. on Maple Tree Farm in Lanesville, NY throughout the 1970s. Since 2001, the Videofreex archive has been held at the Video Data Bank at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Shortly after founding the collective, Mary Curtis Ratcliff, Parry Teasdale, and David Cort were hired by CBS to produce video footage of the emerging youth culture in Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York for a television pilot called Subject to Change. Though the program never made it to the air, the interviews that they recorded helped inspire the wave of political video documentaries now known as “Guerrilla Television.”

In an interview with the Videofreex, media artist Ralph Hocking once said that “99.99% of videotapes produced are boring as hell to 99.99% of the people who watch them.” What makes the Freex unique is that somehow so many of their tapes fit within the .01% that speak to more than just “video people.” They belong to that slim percentile of video that is essential: they capture the reality of the past and confront us with the urgency of our present.

Program Notes:

Chicago Travelogue: The Weathermen, 1969, 22:30

David Cort and Mary Curtis Radcliff interview participants after the “Days of Rage” protest organized by the Chicago-based Weathermen in October of 1969. The Videofreex question the destructive methods of the new group but allow the students to speak about the personal importance of their radical experiences.

Fred Hampton: Black Panthers in Chicago, 1969, 24:00

Mary Curtis taped Parry Teasdale and David Cort’s interview with the twenty-one year-old deputy chairman of the Black Panther Party of Illinois just months before he was murdered by the Chicago Police. Members of the Videofreex reportedly broke into CBS offices to rescue the master copy of the interview after their pilot was canceled, and screenings of the video were instrumental in organizing the campaign for a civil case against the CPD.

Curtis’s Abortion, 1970, 22:59

Fellow Videofreex Nancy Cain and Carol Vontobel speak with Mary Curtis about her experience with recently legalized abortion in New York. The participants’ thoughtful conversation turns the informational tape into an unexpectedly warm document of friendship and the women’s rights movement.

All videos will be screened digitally, and were preserved and digitized by the Video Data Bank. Programmed by Zach Vanes and Emily Eddy.

Filed under: anniversary, archival, artist in attendance, autobiography, collaboration, documentary, documentation, feminism, social justice, urban, video

10 for Nightingale 10!

A fundraiser to embark on our

Kickstarter ends on Satuday, April 28, 2018  at 9 AM

Over the last 10 years, we have hosted over 500 screenings, shown the work of over 1400 artists to thousands of patrons and we did it all with a volunteer staff and a gift economy. Now, our video projector is fading and we need your help to keep going. It’s a race against the clock for $10,000 with a side of goofy Joan Jonas homage. Check out our pitch and celebrate the Nightingale’s 10th anniversary with a donation.


Put extra dollars here if you got em.

Filed under: anniversary, Uncategorized


 Happy Birthday to Us All!

Wednesday-Saturday, April 4th-7th, 2018

To celebrate being a part of Chicago’s film and video community for a decade, we are hosting a weekend of screenings and events at our beloved rough and ready cinema.

Wednesday, April 4
Suggested donation $7-10
Presented with the help of the Video Data Bank

Organized as a highly personal account of learning by doing, AUTODIDECALOGUE mines the Nightingale’s awkward and ambitious exhibition history for highlights, funny stories, and lessons learned. Programmed in concert with the release of a Nightingale 10! zine by Founding Director, Christy LeMaster, this screening features work from 2008-2016 by a variety of artists.

Ah, Liberty! by Ben Rivers
(20 min, anamorphic 16mm, b/w, 2008)

Boys of Summer by Alee Peoples
(12 min, super 8 to video, color w/ sound, 2009)

Chromatic Cocktail by Kerry Laitala
(10 min, 3D video, color/sound, 2009)

Domestic Winter Portrait No. 1 by Christy LeMaster
(2 min, digital video, color w/sound, 2011)

Gravity Hill Newsreels: Occupy Wall Street, No.2 by Jem Cohen
(4 min, HD video, color/sound, 2011)
Screened with the help of Video Data Bank

Joan of Arc – Love Life Live at the Nightingale’s 3rd birthday by Giant System (Kyle Obriot & Justin Schmitz)
(4 min, HD video, color/sound 2011)

Rating Dogs on a Scale of 1 to 10 by Mark Toscano
(3 min, 16mm, color/sound, 2012)

The Ooli Moves by Buki Bodunrin
(8 min, digital animation HD video, color/sound 2014)

Untitled by Nazlı Dinçel
(12 min, iphone video, color/sound, 2016)

Thursday, April 5
Suggested donation $7-10

In its decade of existence, it has been said more than once that The Nightingale has been able to do a lot with very little. With thousands of eyes served over the past decade, the vibe around here has been ‘in for a penny, in for a pound’ — suffice to say, we don’t scrimp. This birthday screening celebrates Chicago’s micro-budgeted and macro-hearted apartment cinema and considers how we measure up, pound for pound, with work from artists riffing on indexes, marking time, and units of measure.

Working Program, more titles to be added soon!

 SNL “Bureau of Weights and Measures” Cold Open, Season 8 (1982, 1 minute, dub)

 Anne McGuire, Joe Dimaggio 123 (1991, 11 minutes, digital)

 Amir George, Moments of Intention (2016, 7 minutes, digital)

 Susan Mogul, Dressing Up (1973, 7 minutes, digital)

 Eric Fleischauer, Going Through (2010, 5 minutes, digital)


Friday, April 6
Presented by Live to Tape Artist Television Festival & ACRE TV
Suggested donation $7-10

 A televisual and multimodal fundraiser for the Nightingale Cinema. Join us irl or url or both for a cavalcade of performances and videos teasing out meaning and monies. Digging into the form and fun, this function features raffles, give-aways, ample opportunities to give to the endlessly vital microcinema right at the beating beautiful heart of Chicago screen culture. Bring your big bucks and best buds as MCs Hammer, Escher and Donald guide you through contemporary and historical tele-works, open the space for this place and goof for good. 


Saturday, April 7
1 – 5PM

On April 7, the second ever Chicago Home Video Day will be held at the Nightingale Cinema. This free event will show off the riches to be found in home video collections across Chicago, as audience members will each be invited to bring a home tape of their own to be projected for all. In addition to this pot-luck of material, rare treats from Video Data Bank, Media Burn Archive and other local collections will be screened, demonstrating the exciting diversity of images which can still be found on this dying medium.

Home Video Day is a new spin on Home Movie Day, an international annual event since 2003 that has focused on older and less common celluloid home movies– 8mm, 16mm, and Super-8. “Home movies are an important cultural document of everyone’s lives, everyone’s past,”said Anne Wells, former collections manager for the Chicago Film Archives.

The rules are simple – bring your VHS, VHS-C, Betamax, Hi-8, Video 8 or Mini-DV cassette to the team of inspectors, who will make whatever repairs are necessary to ensure the tape is playable. Contributors can choose to cue up the tape to begin at a particular point or simply let it play out at random. Each submission will receive 5 minutes of screening time, and patrons will have time to introduce their tape beforehand if they wish, or to narrate along with the action on screen.



Culling contributions by regional microcinema siblings from all over the midwest, this screening is a report from beyond Chicago and a celebration of similar efforts to create an artist-driven presentation network. Co-programmers include the Mini Microcinema in Cincinnati, Microlights in Milwaukee, Cellular Cinema in Minneapolis, and HEADROOM in Iowa City. Artists screened include Ben Balcom, Emily Drummer, Mike Gibisser, Sam Hoolihan, Jesse McLean, Kevin Obsatz, Ariel Kate Teal,  C. Jacqueline Wood,  and Charlie Woodman.



Channels: A Quarterly Film Series, curated by Erin Nixon and Josh Mabe, presents avant-garde, experimental, expanded cinema, performance, experimental narrative, documentary, and video and new media art at venues throughout Chicago. For our BYOB (Bring Your Own Bedding) microcinema sleepover, Channels will present films and videos by Madison Brookshire, Terra Long, Kera MacKenzie, Andrew Mausert-Mooney, Chloe Reyes, and more!

Afterwards feel free to settle in for an all-night movie-watching slumber party featuring deep cuts from the Nightingale archive and fueled by delicious snacks.

Filed under: anniversary