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This is the first in a series of posts about Early Computer Animation. Pre-1980 Computer Films started in the 1950s, depending on who you listen to and what you think constitutes a computer. I'd argue that the earliest important pioneers were at Bell Labs, where people like Lilian Schwartz, Ken Knowlton, and A. Michael Noll all plied their trade.
Stan Vanderbeek was a major player, working on projects with Knowlton and Schwartz at various times. His work Poemfields No. 2, the follow-on to a piece is created with Schwartz, is one of the most interesting of all the Artsy films made at Bell Labs. It's a series of word images in a poem along with music by the composer Paul Motian. I hesitate to call it text, or even words, as they play a more pivotal role than either of those terms denotes. They are the base upon which the film is based. The multiple examples of the words at once, the pixelation that encompasses the screen, and the effect of them are all out of proportion to the meaning of the words. Recontextualization doesn't really happen, instead it is a stripping of the meaning with nothing but the visual impression remaining. This, it appears, is the Poemfield, and while the poem itself is not without its charm (its reminiscent of 1960s San Francisco poet Michael McClure) but the imagery would become the marker, how the forms interacted with the screen's display, not the meaning of the words.
Klaus at Gunpoint
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