The Televised Revolution

The video that I have produced can be simply described as placing images carefully to the wise words to the late Gil Scott-Heron’s spoken word, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised. I compiled images primarily from the 1960’s-1970’s to represent the era that Heron is discussing, the images that he saw while growing up and his narration of living in times of oppression. The depiction that he states in his spoken word is that “the revolution will put you in the driver’s seat” which is the main message that he wishes to get across to listeners. This might be obvious within the spoken word alone, so why add visuals to explain what has already been stated clearly?

Video can be seen here:

The civil rights movement against America’s racism and discrimination was not marked clearly, leaving no true definition of when it started which leaves this movement ambiguous (King, Introduction: The Civil Rights Movement, a retrospective). When we think of the civil rights do we only think of Martin Luther King Jr., Bloody Sunday in 1956 or Freedom Rides in 1961? (King, Introduction: The Civil Rights Movement, a retrospective). There is no singular answer or singular way of expressing many of these separate movements, which is why there is no single form of displaying visual content from this time period. Documentaries and interviews do not display the same level of impact that eyewitness accounts can and even though that is not possible to receive from Scott-Heron’s eyes, a visual representation of this era through collages can have the same effect.

While I was listening to his spoken word, I thought of perspective in the first person through Scott-Heron’s eyes himself. I dwelled on how his perspective could be translated further than just words to a wider audience, the omniscient perspective, who rely more on their eyes to be stimulated. This influenced my interest in learning more about the scopic regime and the relation of images being connected to words to express the point further. I wanted to know how the scopic regime would affect the message that Heron was putting forward, furthering our ability to be able to view a first-person perspective through our own eyes and minds. The events that Heron experienced throughout his life were viewed through his eyes, which is a direct connection to the mind, compelling him to compose a piece for a change. The addition of these images makes viewers drawn to the images that are displayed in front of them, mostly consisting of televisual images such as the news, television shows,and movies. The images of black culture sewn in throughout the video directly emphasize and reiterate the idea and definition of what a revolution is; a dominating event, one of which is unfiltered and may not be compelling to watch.

Petticoat Juntion Season 3Episode 33. Hooterville Valley Project. 1970.

The Revolutionary Process

The process I went through while creating this video was starting with an effective way to create a television simulation that would bring forward the visual idea of watching entertainment, political debate, or advertisements overshadowing an upcoming revolution for a marginalized and oppressed group in America – The black community. I wished to show that it is regressive to watch television images that are not stimulating to the mind, so to add images to depict and help expand on the racism and bigotry black people have faced in the early 20th century. These images almost do not seem real against images of the Black Panther movement and famous black advocates because these are images that display the community that Gil Scott-Heron was advocating for. These are people who were being consistently ignored and marginalized for visuals that pleased the eyes of people who were not interested in the struggle and fight the black community faced for equality. I wanted to bring Heron’s perspective of this in its full aspect to provide a realistic vision of how the power of our eyes’ focus can also be the downfall of others, in this case, the black communities, whose perspectives were repressed.

Reflecting on the Revolution

The video is a production that offers a collage of actual footage to its best capability of what Heron was exposed to seeing in both media and the black community. I wanted to take his own words of frustration and comedic commentary and use strictly images from the 1960’s-70’s to reflect his viewpoints. By doing this it gives a distinct time period shift to when the black community decided that they were tired of being ignored and were still being ignored by America as a whole. The scopic regime uses a cinematic take to engage viewers to experience a display of images that they have to interpret even if they do not want to visualize the progression of black rights. Individuals who have viewed images such as wars or revolutions, like to view them from a safe distance by gazing from afar where they are not harmed or heavily involved (Darts 201). Heron states that “the revolution will be no rerun” (Heron, The Revolution Will Not Be Televised) here he tries to persuade viewers to reject the notion that sitting and viewing without action is enough to make a social impact. The spoken word playing in the background of my video ensures that there is a perspective being distinctly voiced and this voice is telling us, the viewers, that it is our time to make use of our own perspective and further our thought process. Displaying Heron’s perspective with this collage helps guide viewers towards a singular focus. I am bringing forward the question of whether or not a commentary of a person’s perspective can influence the minds of viewers enough to decipher which information is dominant and which ones are not.

News Cast about the Panther Party. 1970.

A Visual Representation of the Black Struggle

The civil rights movement was for black people to have equal rights and be treated as equals to their white counterparts was an impactful era in American and Canadian history, and the fight is still being fought to this day. The Pro Black Movement of the 1960’s is still relevant today with the mantel taken by the Black Lives Matter group, not because of textual evidence that has covered it, but through video visuals of these events. In my video, I used footage of the Black Panthers to symbolize the revolution because they were a notable feature of this movement that is recognizable revolutionaries till now. By playing around with Heron’s words, especially the meaning of revolution, I have brought forward my own interpretation of what his visual perspective of this era would entail. Showcasing the images he saw in his community through a first-person perspective will lead to a greater impact visually over visuals with a documentation soundtrack in the background. This method of perspective is more likely to reproduce an effect of wanting to imitate and respond positively to these visuals (Watanabe, Behavioral Advantages of the First-Person Perspective Model for Imitation). Video culture that engages with someone’s personal encounters of the time they lived in has the potential of being enlightening since there is a historical perspective being told; The addition of allowing the viewer receiving these visual collages to piece it together for their own understanding and audio input.

The Revolution Will Not Be Concluded, but This Assignment Will Be

When making this video I had the purpose of creating a visual that would connect to Gil Scott-Heron’s words to not only have the purpose of enhancing them but to create a visual that would impact the way viewers saw his perspective. Documentaries and interviews do not do justice to the visual culture when pertaining to a perspective of the struggle in a given timeframe, considering that that is not how our eyes see the world. I wanted to bring Heron’s experiences as a young black man self-documenting his life through his words, to life depicted with collages of what he saw through his eyes and felt compelled through his thoughts to writing about it; To make an impact on the black community somehow. The scopic regime of this piece enables us to view his own experiences through our own eyes and be as compelled as he was to conjure up our own solution as to how we, the viewers, can carry on revolutions that will impact our own futures.

Images in this online publication are either in the public domain or are being used under fair dealing for the purpose of research and are provided solely for the purposes of research, private study, or education.


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