Paul Ryan (video artist)

American video artist

Paul Louis Ryan (1943-2013) was an American video artist and communications theorist. In 1969, he exhibited in the seminal TV as a Creative Medium show (widely regarded as one of the birth pangs of video art) at the Howard Wise Gallery and co-founded the Raindance Foundation with Frank Gillette, Michael Shamberg and Ira Schneider. While Marshall McLuhan depicted World War III in 1970 as a "guerrilla information war," in the same year Ryan wrote "Cybernetic Guerrilla Warfare" for Raindance's Radical Software journal, anticipating the subsequent development of guerrilla television in 1971.


  • Traditional guerrilla activity such as bombings, snipings and kidnappings complete with printed manifestos seem like so many ecologically risky short change feedback devices compared with the real possibilities of portable video, maverick data banks, acid metaprogramming, Cable TV, satellites, cybernetic craft industries, and alternative lifestyles. Yet the guerrilla tradition is highly relevant in the current information environment. Guerrilla warfare is by nature irregular and non-repetitive. Like information theory, it recognizes that redundancy can easily become reactionary and result in entropy and defeat.
    • Paul Ryan, "Cybernetic Guerilla Warfare," Radical Software 3 (Spring 1971): 1
  • The arrangement I worked out with Fordham was that I would do my alternate service there as a conscientious objector, working with McLuhan directly during the 1967–1968 academic year and then experimenting with video for 1968–1969. It was terrific. I had an office two doors away from his. McLuhan would stop me in the hall and with great excitement tell me about a book he read the night before on the sense ratio of Russian peasants. Once he invited me into his office to talk about a paper I had written about war. He sat on this couch, spun around, lay on his back, held the paper up, read a bit from it, put it down, and continued to lie on the couch for a good hour, free-associating.

Quotes about Paul Ryan

  • Paul Ryan, a research assistant with Marshall McLuhan at Fordham University, lent Fordham's equipment to Frank Gillette, a painter; filmmaker Ira Schneider met Gillette at a party and later taught a video workshop at Antioch College with Gillette... Completing the variety of work in "TV as a Creative Medium" was Everyman's MobiusStrip, by Paul Ryan (who, along with Gillette, was soon to become the theoretical mover in the video collective Raindance). Working with McLuhan, Ryan was exploring video as a psychological mirror, asocial tool, and a communications device.
  • You are sitting in a curtained booth on a stool, a TV aperture hangs before you like a surrealistic picture frame, beyond which the portable video camera sits and observes, as you are prodded ever so gently by calculatedly stimulating questions: "React to the following people : Nixon, your mother, Eldridge Cleaver, Teddy Kennedy, you... for the next ten seconds, do what you want... now let your face be sad..." You watch yourself in full audio-picture recap of your "interview," erasing all but the fewest frames of the previous tape as your tape will be obliterated by the next.
    • Jud Yalkut, "TV as a Creative Medium," Arts Magazine (September-October 1969), p. 22, as cited in: Afterimage, May 1984; Yalkut, filmmaker and critic, described Ryan's 1984 piece
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