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More Information | A Finding Aid to the Paul Ryan papers, 1931-2009

Paul Ryan papers, 1931-2009

More Information

A Finding Aid to the Paul Ryan papers, 1931-2009, in the Archives of American Art
Megan McShea
Scope and Contents
The Paul Ryan papers measure 19.7 linear feet and document Ryan's education and career as a pioneering video artist, theorist, writer, and educator. Records include school records, family papers, correspondence, writings, project files, video recordings, teaching files, printed materials, scattered photographs, and artwork by others. Organizational records are also found for the Earthscore Foundation, Earth Environmental Group, the Gaia Institute, and the Raindance Corporation, among others. The bulk of Ryan's professional work is documented in his writings and project files.
Biographical materials include family papers, early correspondence among Ryan family members, school records, selective service records, photographs of Paul Ryan, and career documentation such as résumés, CVs, recommendation letters, and narratives written by Ryan describing his career. Records related to Ryan's time in the seminary and monastery include letters home during this period, and his letter of resignation from 1965.
Correspondence is mainly professional in nature, and spans Ryan's career. Correspondence between Ryan and family members is also found. Professional correspondence is found with Myrdene Anderson, Peter Berg of Planet Drum, Morris Berman, Avery Johnson, Marga Bijvoet, Thomas Berry, Lois Bianchi, David Dunn, Roberta Kevelson, Gerrit Lansing, Aldo Lira, Oliver Lowenstein, Chip Lord, Claude Ponsol, Jody Procter, Jodi Sibert, Phyllis Gershuny Segura, Michael Shamberg, and Marita Sturken. Corporate correspondence is found regarding job applications, manuscript submissions to publishers, and video submissions to museums and broadcasters.
Writings include mainly articles and notebooks by Ryan, but also drafts of books, lectures, poetry, short stories, a treatment for a television show, and writings by others in various genres. Most of Ryan's prose writing is theoretical in nature, although personal writings and notes from projects are also found. Articles include both published and unpublished writings, with some published multiple times under different titles. Over one hundred notebooks spanning forty years contain a variety of content including drafts of letters, articles, grant proposals, lectures, and other writings. Ryan's two major publications,
Cybernetics of the Sacred
Video Mind, Earth Mind
, are documented with drafts, contracts, correspondence with publishers, layout documents, and notes.
Organizational records include writings, correspondence, printed material, financial records, grant proposals, and other records concerning various organizations, collectives, and companies in which Ryan participated, mostly having to do with environmental advocacy, video production, or a combination of the two. Organizations with substantial records in this series include the Earth Environmental Group, the Earthscore Foundation, Environment '89 (and '90, '91, and '92), the Gaia Institute, and the Raindance Corporation, among others. Documentation is most comprehensive for The Earthscore Foundation, including by-laws, grant proposals, extensive writings, financial records, and printed materials.
Project files contain video recordings, production notes, photographs, proposals, correspondence, a computer program designed by Ryan, prints for exhibition, illustrations and designs, posters, circulars, contracts, and scripts. Many of the projects documented in this series relate to Ryan's many explorations of the use of video to monitor and interpret two seemingly different subjects, environmental change and human behavior in relationships, expressed through a ritual of interaction among three persons designed by Ryan and called "Threeing," or "Triadic Behavior." The most thoroughly documented projects in this series include "Nature in New York City," "New York City Eco-Channel for Sustainable Television (NEST),"
Talking Wood
(a publication that incorporated the project "Watershed Watch"), "Inventing Triadic Behavior" (also known as the "Triadic Tapes"), "Tethys"(with artist Bob Schuler), and "Video Wake for my Father," a performance for video that saw many iterations, including a private performance, a public performance, an edited video program, and a published script.
Video recordings are found for three projects, including "Nature in New York City," "Inventing Triadic Behavior," and a threeing workshop held at the Kitchen entitled "Video Variations on Holy Week." A printout of records in a videotape database kept by Ryan is found in this series, with a proposal for video preservation; the list of tapes includes those found in the collection as well as tapes not extant.
Teaching files include documentation of Ryan's work at Dalton School, Hudson School, the New School for Social Research, and Savannah College of Art and Design, and many other workshops and training programs Ryan taught. Included are grade books, correspondence, curricula, training materials, and reports. Two of his programs, the Black Rock Rangers at the Dalton School, and the Urban Conservation Corps Pilot Video Program involve the implementation of the Earthscore Notational System in school curricula.
Printed material includes books, newspaper clippings, conference programs and published proceedings, exhibition catalogs and announcements, film and video programs, flyers, periodicals, poetry publications, posters, and materials relating to the artist Al Robbins, which includes an obituary written by Ryan. Also found are publications of the Raindance Corporation, which include the book,
Guerrilla Television
(1971), and four issues of their magazine,
Radical Software
(1971-1972). Most of the printed material was either written by Paul Ryan, contains articles by Paul Ryan, or documents activities of Paul Ryan. Other materials found contain works by Ryan's associates and collaborators.
Artwork contains artists' books, doodles, illustrations, prints, and photographs by named and unnamed artists. None of the artwork in this series appears to be by Ryan. Notable is an artist's book entitled "Patterns" by Lida Zerella, which incorporates still images from Ryan's Triadic Tapes in a small album. Two illustrations are found by Claude Ponsot, who also illustrated many of Ryan's publications relating to Kleinform and threeing.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
The papers of Paul Ryan were donated to the Archives of American Art by Ryan in 2008.
Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, administered through the Council on Library and Information Resources' Hidden Collections grant program.
Processing Information
The collection was fully processed and a finding aid prepared by Megan McShea in 2013-2014 with funding provided by the Council on Library and Information Resources' "Hidden Collections" grant program.