Disobedient Video in France in the 1970s: Video Production by Women’s Collectives

Document Type


Publication Date

Summer 2011


The ongoing reconstruction of early video’s history shows a wider usage of the medium at its start than previously thought, and particularly an expanded relationship to performance, documentary and archives. Also coming to light is the sociopolitical substance of its content, and the leading role of women in exploiting video as a new audiovisual medium. In France women developed a militant practice with video soon after the Sony Portapak camera became available in 1968. Their production and activities remain, even today, almost undocumented, and to a certain extent this stems from their anti-institutional and anti-establishment position. However, these collectives, whose members rarely identified themselves as artists, created the majority of the video produced in France in the 1970s, and arguably represent the first generation that truly and independently used video. Their example brings up several questions, such as why video became such a privileged medium for collectives, especially those composed of women.1 Was video instrumental in the process of women’s emancipation and self-representation and, beyond, in the constitution of themselves as individuals and as a collective unit? And finally, how did early video cope with the limited conditions of distribution available at the time, and what is the current status of this production?