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Group Efforts: the revolution will be televised 

The Internet's done wonders for independent media, say the organizers of Pilot TV, but it's just too virtual. The group of about 20 artists and activists is planning to turn several floors at 3012 S. Archer, the building that houses Texas Ballroom and a couple other artists' spaces, into a sprawling television studio that will provide the face time the Internet doesn't. "Pilot is really about the idea of convergence," says one organizer, "bringing people into sweat space together." The project, which they describe as "experimental media for feminist trespass," is designed to explore the idea of "transfeminism," a term coined to address the connections between feminist and transgender identity politics and various activist strategies. They hope the four-day confab next month will produce more than 50 video pieces dealing with everything from queer history and identity politics to technology and globalization.

The organizers, none of whom want to be named individually, started tossing ideas around last winter. Many of them knew each other through Nightgowns, a loosely organized space for queer and transgendered artists in the same building as Texas Ballroom (it's now called Diamonds on Archer). Others were connected through LTTR, a collectively produced New York-based art and language journal whose title stands for "Lesbians to the Rescue."

"We feel a general sense of urgency about the world," says one participant. Among the things they're worried about: "Corporate politics, queers, and the AIDS crisis being marginalized; feeling misinformed about everything; having very little resources to be DIY." Seeking strength in numbers, they had a bunch of "very extensive open group discussions" to ensure that the event would be inclusive and diverse, then created a Web site and flyers announcing a call for submissions. Producers, actors, editing crews, lighting technicians, prop builders, makeup artists, costumers, bands, DJs, and composers were all were invited to throw their talents into the Pilot pool: "Trespass the corporate control of media with nomadic TV, pirate radio broadcasts, and guerrilla drive-in screenings!" the Web site reads. "Enjoy parties, community meals, and do things on camera that you could never do legally in real life!"

Fund-raising started in April with a benefit art show and a performance by Tracy and the Plastics. The organizers also created artists' books to promote the project, partnered with the women's media education group Beyondmedia to do outreach events, and have been throwing "secret brunches" on Sundays in a friend's apartment, where they prepared vegetarian breakfasts from scratch for 15 to 20 people at a time. Sample menu items, none of which cost more than $5, have included concoctions like tiramisu French toast and saffron biscuits with mushroom gravy. Even some of the condiments are homemade--one week the recipe for the ketchup was printed on the menu.

After the event, the material produced will be edited down by the organizers into a DVD--one describes it as a "public access series"--that each participant can copy, trade, sell, or distribute at will relying on word of mouth rather than commercial advertising.

The 50 projects on board at this point include a talk show on political depression by the local activist group Feeltank; an interactive video performance by New York artist K8 Hardy titled "Beautiful Radiating Energy"; a report on bioterrorism and homophobia by Tara Mateik, from the media collective Paper Tiger; and a "performative lecture" by Gregg Bordowitz, who's also contributing an essay to the project catalog. But even if you missed the application deadline of August 20, you're still welcome to participate. "This is all based on mutual aid," says an organizer. "We're trying to come up with a model of media production that isn't dependent on having lots of money--as long as people cooperate and share. Hopefully we'll be able to prove that you don't have to be dependent on the public aid/grant situation to bring about radical social change."

At 7 PM on Thursday, September 9, some of the Pilot crew are throwing a free party at Quimby's, 1854 W. North. They'll read from the hand-screened artist's books they created in the early stages of project planning, give "off-the-cuff performances," and show some videos; call 773-342-0910 for more info. At 9 PM on September 25, on the first floor of 3012 S. Archer, there'll be a benefit variety show featuring the King Cobra, the Weather, and Penny Winblood. It'll be preceded by a "secret dinner" at 7; admission is "pay what you can." Pilot takes place October 8 through 11; see www.pilotchicago.org for more.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bruce Powell.

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