petak, 26. listopada 2012.

Stan VanDerBeek - neverbalni međunarodni slikovni jezik

Image result for Stan VanDerBeek

Pionir medijske umjetnosti, berač tehnološkog voća - stop-motion animacija, kolaži, eksperimentalni filmovi, imersivni okoliši, filmski murali (Movie-Drome), prošireni film (expanded cinema), Ethos-Cinema, Newsreel of Dreams, Image Libraries...


38 Films on UbuWeb:

What Who How, 1957
Mankinda, 1957
The Immaculate Contraption or Wheeeels or America on Wheels, Part 1, 1958
Street Meat/Meet, 1959
Astral Man an Illuminated Poem 1959, 2:30 min, color
Dance of the Looney Spoons 1959, 5:01 min, b&w, sound
Wheeeeels No. 2 1959, 7:06 min, b&w, sound
A La Mode 1959, 6:18 min, b&w, sound
Science Friction 1959, 9:46 min, color, sound
Achooo Mr. Kerrooschev 1960, 1:43 min, b&w, sound
The Smiling Workman 1960, 3:43 min, color
Blacks and Whites, Days and Nights 1960, 4:57 min, b&w, sound
Skullduggery Part II 1960-1961, 4:53 min, b&w, sound
Breathdeath 1963, 14:33 min, b&w, sound
Newsreel of Dreams Part 1, 1963–64
Curious Phenomenon No. 1, 1964
Site, 1964
Fluids, 1964
A Dam Rib Bed, 1964–65
Facescapes, 1964–65
The Birth of the American Flag, 1965
See Saw Seams 1965, 9:06 min, b&w, sound
The Human Face is a Monument 1965, 8:50min, b&w, sound
Poemfield No. 2 1966, 5:40 min, color, sound
Vision III, 1966
Spherical Space No. 1, 1966
Image After Image, 1967
Man and His World, 1967
Expo Faces, 1967
Panels for the Walls of the World, 1967
Oh, 1968
Poemfield No. 1 (Blue Version in Full Color)
Poemfield No. 5, 1968
Poemfield No. 7, 1967-8
Superimposition, 1968
Film Form #1, 1968
Moirage, 1970
Symmetricks 1972, 6:12 min, b&w, sound

A La Mode, Science Friction, Breath Death, Poemfield # 2  1959 - 1966

Stan VanDerBeek

A La Mode, Stan VanDerBeek
Still from A La Mode c. Stan VanDerBeek 1957. Courtesy of the Estate of Stan VanDerBeek
Stan VanDerBeek (1927–1984) studied art and architecture first at Cooper Union College in New York and then at Black Mountain College in North Carolina. VanDerBeek’s career spanned about a third of a century. His earlier compositions are in the spirit of the Surrealist and Dadaist collages. However his experiments were driven by a differently pragmatic agenda, VanDerBeek aimed at a radical, political and critical aesthetic.
The technological explosion of this last half-century, and the implied future are overwhelming, man is running the machines of his own invention... while the machine that is man... runs the risk of running wild. Technological research, development, and involvement of the world community has almost completely out-distanced the emotional-sociological (socio-"logical") comprehension of this technology. The "technique-power" and "culture-over-reach" that is just beginning to explode in many parts of the earth, is happening so quickly that it has put the logical fulcrum of man's intelligence so far outside himself that he cannot judge or estimate the results of his acts before he commits them…
Stan VanDerBeek
Throughout his career VanDerBeek collaborated with the likes of Claes Oldenburg, Allan Kaprow, Merce Cunningham and Yvonne Rainer. These associations lead him to experiment with what media-arts theorist Gene Youngblood proposed as ‘expanded cinema’. This form of cinema is exemplified by the development of new kinds of viewing spaces, like VanDerBeek’s own Movie Drome - a dome he designed for film screenings in Stony Brook, New York which consisted of a multi-projection apparatus for the staging of events and ‘Vortex-Concerts’ at which random image sequences were presented.
At the same time, VanDerBeek continued experimentation in dance film, painting, Polaroid photography and architecture. In the 1970s he went on to design global fax murals, steam projections and interactive television programs.
All films courtesy of the Estate of Stan VanDerBeek

A La Mode 1957 16mm, black and white, sound, 10 min
A rapidly edited, surreal collage animation: “A montage of women and appearances, a fantasy about beauty and the female, a fomage, a mirage. An attire satire.” Stan VanDerBeek

Science Friction 1959 16mm, colour, sound,9min
A stop-motion animation, a non-verbal political satire, reflecting society, the mass media and scientific inquiry: “A social satire aimed at the rockets, scientists, and competitive mania of our time." Stan VanDerBeek

Breathdeath 1964 16mm, black and white, sound, 15 min
A surreal fantasy based on 15th century woodcuts of The Dance of the Dead. Cut-up photos and newsreels, reassembled into a black comedy dedicated to Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton.

Poemfield # 2 1966 16mm, colour, sound, 6 min
One in a series of eight computer-animated projects VanDerBeek made in collaboration with Kenneth Knowlton at Bell Laboratories in the 60s. The results of their collaboration were a number of cathode-ray mosaics, typically brief, non-narrative and abstract. All of these films explore fragments of text, computer graphics, and in some cases combine live action with animation collage.
The Poemfield experiments signal more of a techno-Structuralist emphasis and helped forge the way for a whole range of computer-aided practices used today.-

Stan VanDerBeek
«Culture Intercom, A Proposal and Manifesto»

Stan VanDerBeek, «Culture Intercom, A Proposal and Manifesto»,

It is imperative that we [the world’s artists] invent a new world language, that we invent a non-verbal international picture-language. I propose the following:
* The establishement of audio-visual research centers, preferably on an international scale. Thes centers to explore the existing audio-visual hardware. The development of new image-making devices (the storage and transfer of image materials, motion pictures, television, computers, videotape, etc.)
* The immediate research and development of image-events and performances in the Movie-Drom. I shall call these prototype presentations: Movie Murals, Ethos-Cinema, Newsreel of Dreams, Feedback, Image Libraries.
* When I talk of the movie-dromes as image libraries, it is understood that such life-theatres would use some of the coming techniques...and thus be real communication and storage centers, that is, by satellite, each dome could receive its image from a world wide library source, store them and program a feedback presentation to the local community that lived near the cneter, thsi newsreel feedback, could authentically review the total world image ‹reality› in an hour-long show.
* Intra-communitronics, or dialogues with other centers would be likely, and instand reference material via transmission television and telephone would be called for and received at 186,000 m.p.s., from anywhere in the world. Thus I call this presentation,a newsreel of ideas, of dreams, a movie-mural. An image library, a culture de-compression chamber, a culture inter-com.

Excerpt from Stan VanDerBeek, «Culture Intercom, A Proposal and Manifesto», Film Culture 40, 1966, pp. 15–18, reprinted in Gregory Battcock, The New American Cinema. A Critical Anthology, New York, 1967, pp. 173–179, quoted by Jürgen Claus in Leonardo, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2003, p 229.

Scene inside the hemispherical dome used by VanDerBeek to create prototypes for his multimedia exhibits. orig. printed in Stewart Kranz, Science & Technology in the Arts. A tour through the realm of science + art, Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, New York, 1974, p. 238.

«Influenced by Buckminster Fuller’s spheres, VanDerBeek had the idea for a spherical theater where people would lie down and experience movies all around them. Floating multi-images would replace straight one-dimensional film projection. From 1957 on, VanDerBeek produced film sequences for the Movie-Drome, which he started building in 1963. His intention went far beyond the building itself and moved into the surrounding biosphere, the cosmos, the brain and even extraterrestrial intelligence.»
(source: Jürgen Claus in Leonardo, Vol. 36, No. 3, 2003, p. 229.)

Breathdeath Re: Vision
Breathdeath, (1964, also dated 1963),
16mm, 15 min, b&w, sound. view here ›
Re: Vision, The American Scholar, Volume
35, Number 2, Spring, 1966. view here ›


See, Saw, Seams, (1965) 16mm/35mm, 12 min, b&w. view here ›
Movie-drome, Stony Point, NY, 1963–1965. view here ›

Dance of the Looney Spoons, (1959) 16mm, 5 min, b&w, sound. view here ›
Early works: paintings, drawings, sculpture. view here ›

The Smiling Workman, (1960) 16 mm, 4 min, color view here ›
The Cinema Delimina, Film Quarterly, Volume 14, Number 4, Summer 1961 + Interview: Chapter 1, Film Culture, Issue 35, Winter 1964-1965 view here ›

Skullduggery Part 2, (1960-1961), 16 mm, 5 min, b&w, sound view here ›
Movies, Disposable Art, Synthetic Media and Artificial Intelligence, Take One, Volume 1, Number 2, January-February 1969 view here ›

The Human Face is a Monument (1965), 16 mm, 9 min, b&w, sound view here ›
History of Violence, Center for Advanced Visual Studies – MIT, ca. 1969-1970
view here ›

Poemfield No. 2, (1966), 6 min, color, sound view here ›
Telephone Mural / Panels for the Walls of the World, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, MN, 1970 view here ›

Symmetricks, (1972), 16 mm, 8 min, b&w, sound view here ›
Violence Sonata, Channels 2 & 44, WGBH-TV, Boston, MA, 1970 view here ›

The Computer Generation (excerpt 1), (1972), TV, 27 min, color, sound, directed by John Musilli view here ›
Artist in Residence to the World, Proposal, 1969 view here ›

The Computer Generation (excerpt 1), (1972), TV, 27 min, color, sound, directed by John Musilli view here ›
Stan VanDerBeek Working Biography
view here ›

Na UbuWebu:


Astral Man an Illuminated Poem 1959, 2:30 min, color

Dance of the Looney Spoons 1959, 5:01 min, b&w, sound

Wheeeeels No. 2 1959, 7:06 min, b&w, sound

A La Mode 1959, 6:18 min, b&w, sound

Science Friction 1959, 9:46 min, color, sound

Achooo Mr. Kerrooschev 1960, 1:43 min, b&w, sound

The Smiling Workman 1960, 3:43 min, color

Blacks and Whites, Days and Nights 1960, 4:57 min, b&w, sound

Skullduggery Part II 1960-1961, 4:53 min, b&w, sound

Breathdeath 1963, 14:33 min, b&w, sound

See Saw Seams 1965, 9:06 min, b&w, sound

The Human Face is a Monument 1965, 8:50min, b&w, sound

Poemfield No. 2 1966, 5:40 min, color, sound

Symmetricks 1972, 6:12 min, b&w, sound

Site (excerpt) (1964) 5 mins. 11 secs. | MOV (From Aspen 5 & 6)
"Site", (by Robert Morris - duet). Judson Dance Theater. Stage 73. Pocket Theater.
Carolee Schneeman, performer.

The following text is from the EAI Online Catalogue ( and reprinted with permission by Electronic Arts Intermix (EAI):

A pioneer in the development of experimental film and live-action animation techniques, Stan VanDerBeek achieved widespread recognition in the American avant-garde cinema. An advocate of the application of a utopian fusion of art and technology, he began making films in 1955. In the 1960s, he produced theatrical, multimedia pieces and computer animation, often working in collaboration with Bell Telephone Laboratories. In the 1970s, he constructed a "Movie Drome" in Stony Point, New York, which was an audiovisual laboratory for the projection of film, dance, magic theater, sound and other visual effects. His multimedia experiments included movie murals, projection systems, planetarium events and the exploration of early computer graphics and image-processing systems.
VanDerBeek was also intimately involved with the artists and art movements of his time; he filmed Happenings and merged dance with films and videos. VanDerBeek was a preeminent thinker, scientist, artist, and inventor who forged new links between art, technology, perception, and humankind. In 1966, he wrote a visionary manifesto about man losing his way in his place on earth and the power of artists to rectify the course.
VanDerBeek wrote: "It is imperative that we quickly find some way for the entire level of world human understanding to rise to a new human scale. The scale is the world" The risks are the life or death of this world. The technological explosion of this last half-century, and the implied future are overwhelming, man is running the machines of his own invention... while the machine that is man... runs the risk of running wild. Technological research, development, and involvement of the world community has almost completely out-distanced the emotional-sociological (socio-"logical") comprehension of this technology. The "technique-power" and "culture-over-reach" that is just beginning to explode in many parts of the earth, is happening so quickly that it has put the logical fulcrum of man's intelligence so far outside himself that he cannot judge or estimate the results of his acts before he commits them. The process of life as an experiment on earth has never been made clearer. It is this danger — that man does not have time to talk to himself — that man does not have the means to talk to other men. The world hangs by a thread of verbs and nouns. Language and cultural-semantics are as explosive as nuclear energy. It is imperative that we (the world's artists) invent a new world language..."
VanDerBeek was born in 1927 and died in 1984. He studied at Cooper Union and Black Mountain College, and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from Cooper Union in 1972. Among his numerous awards are grants from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Guggenheim Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts; and an American Film Institute Independent Filmmaker Award. He was artist-in-residence at WGBH and the University of South Florida, and professor of art at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. His work was the subject of retrospectives at The Museum of Modern Art and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.

Even Alien Whales: Stan VanDerBeek's Brainchildren

 Interview with Stan VanDerBeek from John Musilli's 1972 documentary The Computer Generation
Jonas Meekas crowned Stan VanDerBeek the "laughing man of the bomb age," refering to his starry-eyed embrace Cold War technology and its transformative aesthetic and spiritual potential. Of VanDerBeek’s numerous large scale proposals, his Movie-Drome was the most fully realized. VanDerBeek began creating films for the Drome in 1957. Built next to his home in Stony Point, NY, the Movie-Drome operated between 1963 and 1966. During that time, viewers would lie on the floor with their heads against the wall and watch and watch projections throughout the dome’s interior. It's visible at the New Museum as part of the exhibition "Ghosts in the Machine" next week until September 30.

The full potential of the Movie-Drome, as proposed in his Culture: Intercom manifesto, was not fully realized. In that tract, VanDerBeek proposed:
That immediate research begin on the possibility of a picture-language based on motion pictures.
That we combine audio-visual devices into an educational tool: an experience machine or "culture-intercom."
That audio-visual research centers be established on an inter-national scale to explore the existing audio-visual devices and procedures, develop new image-making devices, and store and transfer image materials, motion pictures, television, computers, video-tape, etc.
That artists be trained on an international basis in the use of these image tools.
The Movie-Drome was to be the exhibition space for these experiments: a network of Movie-Dromes would have been built throughout the world to show experiments from the culture-intercom. “The audience,” wrote VanDerBeek, “Takes what it can or wants from the presentation and makes its own conclusions. Each member of the audience will build his own references and realizations from the image-flow.” Additionally, the urgent utopianism of his project cannot be overstated. He closed the manifesto with the following proclamation: "In probing for the 'emotional denominator,' it would be possible by the visual 'power' of such a presentation to 'reach' any age or culture group regardless of background. There are an estimated 700 million people who are unlettered in the world: we have no time to lose or miscalculate."

Another Movie-Drome interior.
As the years passed, VanDerBeek saw that the image-flow didn’t need to be contained within the Movie-Drome. He made two proposals to NASA in the 1970s. One involved documenting football field-sized letters from space, turning the Earth into a planetary printing-press; the other asked to turn the Kennedy Space Center into an artistic “Center for Inner Space.” Eventually, VanDerBeek was an artist in residence at NASA, a role he also filled at MIT, WGBH (right before Nam Jun Paik), and Bell Labs, where he and Ken Knowlton made numerous complex and pioneering computer films in the 60s utilizing Knowlton’s TARPS programming language and his BEFLIX code, based on punch card technology.

Still from Knowlton & VanDerBeek's Poem Fields
In Expanded Cinema, VanDerBeek explained the thinking behind his many residencies and illuminated the reasons behind of his faith in technological promise:
This business of being artist-in-residence at some corporation is only part of the story; what we really want to be is artist-in-residence of the world, but we don't know where to apply... That's one reason for all these transfer systems... It's a tremendous urgent unconscious need to realize that we can't really see each other face to face. We only see each other through the subconsciousness of some other systems. Cybernetics and the looping-around of the man/machine synergy are what we've been after all along.
VanDerBeek's techno-utopianism got its start at Black Mountain College, the breeding-ground for radical aesthetic innovation with faculty like John Cage, Josef Albers, and Buckminster Fuller, whose geodesic domes provided architectural inspiration for the structure of the Movie-Drome. VanDerBeek’s handmade collage aesthetic, visible both in his early films and the guiding principle of his Culture: Intercom, has antecedents like Eduardo Paolozzi and Max Ernst, and its influence on digital copy-and-paste techniques is recognizable today. His concern with arranging the multitude of existing images has a similar-but-different relationship to ideas and practices by his contemporary Hollis Frampton. VanDerBeek, though, possesses an Age of Aquarius ethos all his own, and his blending of technology and mysticism indicates that he may have more in common with his namesake Brakhage than with Frampton.
True to his holistic style, VanDerBeek opened his lecture at a 1982 conference in Linz, Austria with a dedication to “the intelligence of the extraterrestrial whales,” definite proof that truly nothing remained excluded from his interconnected vision of the moving image-flow.

Stan VanDerBeek: Film On The Cutting Edge

Stan VanDerBeek is a legendary name in the history of experimental film. A restless adventurer who began making experimental animated films in the 1950s, VanDerBeek filmed happenings, designed windows for Tiffany's and worked with John Cage and Claes Oldenburg.
He also explored the artistic possibilities of new technologies of his time: video, computers, even the fax machine. He was artist-in-residence at Bell Labs and at NASA.
Now, a survey of VanDerBeek's work is on display at the Contemporary Arts Museum in Houston.
VanDerBeek's 1963 film Breathdeath is full of animated collages satirizing gender roles and politics. There's also an arresting staged scene — a woman sits on a bed nuzzling a figure made from an empty shirt and trousers, topped by a television set showing men's faces; she looks into the camera while "I Put a Spell on You" wails on the soundtrack.
Everything that artists made art from, or with, in the second half of the 20th century, he pretty much touched.
VanDerBeek made dozens of these collage films in the 1950s and early '60s, using altered clippings from magazines and newspapers to create whimsical but pointed commentary. The films look like they must be the primary inspiration for Terry Gilliam's Monty Python animated sequences, which appeared a few years later.
But VanDerBeek did not start out as a filmmaker. He attended Black Mountain College in North Carolina to study visual art. There he met people who were transforming art: composer John Cage, choreographer Merce Cunningham, painter Robert Rauschenberg. But painting wasn't enough for VanDerBeek.
"VanDerBeek called himself a technological fruit picker," says Joao Ribas, who is curator at MIT's LIST Visual Arts Center. The LIST Center was the first stop of the VanDerBeek exhibition, which Ribas and Bill Arning, director of the Houston museum, organized. Ribas says VanDerBeek reached higher and higher for more interesting fruit.
"Everything that artists made art from, or with, in the second half of the 20th century, he pretty much touched. The medium, whatever he was working with, was not adequate enough. Painting was too static, and then one film was too linear, and then four films were too cumbersome," says Ribas. VanDerBeek had "this sense of constantly trying something else that could get closer and closer to what he saw."
VanDerBeek's only technical training in filmmaking came from working on animation for a CBS children's show in the 1950s. He would use the editing equipment after hours to complete his own films, cajoling the night watchman to let him in even after he lost the job. The collage films were designed and created at his home, as his oldest daughter, August, recalls.
"I would sit on his lap and he would show me how to edit and move and cut collages around. He had magazines and I'd help cut," she says. "And one thing that my mother was reminding me of was that during the performances he would have my brother and I, Max VanDerBeek, walking around with tape players of ocean sounds or airplane sounds."
This was an early informal version of the much more complicated multimedia works her father created as his cinema expanded. He incorporated dance, performance, slides and movie clips, collaborating with giants of the avant-garde (and fellow Black Mountain alumni) such as Cunningham and Cage.
Stan VanDerBeek in front of Movie Mural. Installation view, Institute of  Contemporary Art, Boston, circa 1968
Enlarge Contemporary Arts Museum Houston Stan VanDerBeek in front of Movie Mural. Installation view, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, circa 1968
In the mid-'60s, VanDerBeek ordered a grain-silo kit and used the top to build a domed theater in the artists' cooperative where he lived in rural New York. The inside space was 31-feet high. August VanDerBeek says she helped build what her dad called the Movie Drome.
"There was of course a big event when everybody came from New York City," August recalls. "Andy Warhol and different people came to see the first showing. We had a beautiful cloth and pillows. There was a circular tray that was about probably 10 feet or 12 feet in diameter, that had many slide projectors and a lot of 16mm projectors, and it would just spin around the whole room. We would lie down and watch this incredible collage of images. He would find slides. He would make films and then edit them for the pieces."
Her father made a somewhat portable version called the Movie Mural that curators have tried to approximate in Houston. It's not really a dome and not quite wraparound. The table of projectors still has those cranky antiques — the carousel slide projector — but it's updated with video projectors too, since 16mm projectors could not run for hours without breaking down. The table doesn't spin, as the original did in the Movie Drome, but it still creates a dizzying array of sight and sound.
Blues music overlaps with Hollywood film clips of Gene Kelly or Humphrey Bogart. Photos of classical statuary and temples slide in next to VanDerBeek's own kinetic line drawings of figures. Newspaper headlines compete with the Rolling Stones. The Movie Mural is the dominant feature in the exhibition; no matter where you are in the Museum's long open space, you can always hear that energetic circus of sound.
VanDerBeek envisioned a global network of these environments linked by satellites. He called it the Culture Intercom (also the title of the exhibition). The term suggests a prescient imagining more than 40 years ago of today's Worldwide Web and social media.
VanDerBeek recorded his exuberant notes and proposals for the future on media that is now obsolete media or quite perishable: yellowing notebook paper, paper punch cards he used with some of the first computer-imaging software at Bell Labs, floppy disks, film stock that crumbles away. The exhibition reclaims this material in all its intimately detailed glory, right down to hand-drawn maps for people coming to the Movie Drome.
The exhibition also reclaims VanDerBeek's vision of the artist's role in the flood of technology, says curator Ribas:
"I think he really thought that artists were supposed to interject into the process of the technology being developed and in a sense humanize it's potential."
Sara VanDerBeek, his younger daughter and an artist herself, worked closely with the curators. She says the family wanted to convey Stan VanDerBeek's approach and spirit rather than following a diagram. After all, he didn't. He improvised, according to the moment and the place — even taking advantage of mishaps — when it came to the content of these multiprojector sound and image presentations.
"He did not document his installations very extensively," Sara says, "but I'm working off of photographs from notebooks and charts about what was on the different carousels, and film programs."
What she likes to call this "approximation" is titled "Movie Mural 1968-2011" precisely because she had to fill in some of the blanks, as well as adapt it to a museum setting.
"I thought of it almost like when you print a new print from a pre-existing negative, that it is a contemporary iteration of it, but some of the core elements come from that time period."
VanDerBeek made few recordings of himself, says Sara. A video called Newsreel of Dreams: Part I, however, caught her ear while installing the exhibition.
"It was as though he was there. It really struck me. His voice in the context of all this whirling machinery and everything and him speaking about dreams — It was kind of this beautiful succinct moment that really explains his whole perspective."
Newsreel of Dreams: Part I (made in 1976) features several retellings of dreams with figures in bright, mysterious video color manipulations. And at the end, a calm everyday voice extends an invitation to the world. "If this project interests you, and you would like to offer me your dreams or dream-related experiences for future projects, please write them to me, Stan VanDerBeek, care of the Art Department, Dream Media Research."
VanDerBeek then gives the address of the University of Maryland in Baltimore County, where he led the visual arts program until his death from cancer in 1984, at the age of 57.

VanDerBeek's surreal influence

Stan VanDerBeek in front of his Movie-Drome in Stony Point, N.Y., in 1965. Stan VanDerBeek in front of his Movie-Drome in Stony Point, N.Y., in 1965. (Lenny Lipton)
By Sebastian Smee
In 1963, Stan VanDerBeek, the subject of a revelatory new exhibition at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center, moved from Manhattan to an artists cooperative north of the city in Stony Point.
Two years later, he began work converting the rounded top of a grain silo into an experimental movie theater. The resulting 31-foot-high metal dome was a prototype for a communications system that he called the Movie-Drome.
Inside were dozens of film, slide, and overhead projectors. There was a mixing board and various kinds of sound and editing equipment.
On the interior walls of his Movie-Drome VanDerBeek planned to project unending streams of imagery — not just extracts from his own films but random imagery from all over in what he called “movie murals’’ — moving mosaics of slides, acetate projections, and random excerpts from the history of film.
VanDerBeek had attended Black Mountain College, in North Carolina, with artists and teachers such as Robert Rauschenberg and John Cage. By now — the late ’60s — he had already established a reputation as an avant-garde filmmaker.
While working for CBS on the 1950s children’s television show “Winky Dink and You,’’ he had made brilliantly inventive films based on collage and surrealistic imagery. It was the era of avant-garde “happenings’’ and performances. Forward-thinking artists were experimenting with burgeoning new media such as projectors, TV, and light shows. Collaborating was in.
But VanDerBeek’s experimental work — especially his animation techniques and multiscreen projections — had already gained attention far beyond the art world. Corporations such as IBM and TEAC, as well as the US military, NASA, and the BBC were all interested in what he was doing. His writings were published in mainstream publications such as Time, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, and American Scholar, as well as more specialist venues such as Radical Software.
Around the time he was building his Movie-Drome, VanDerBeek was publishing a series of improvised manifestos. In these essays, he called for large numbers of “dromes’’ to be built around the world. Each would be connected to an orbiting satellite, which would store and transmit images to the other sites.
VanDerBeek, we can safely say, did not invent the Internet. But in this age of Google, giant servers, and satellite communications, the prescience of his vision is unnerving (even if it sounds only marginally less kooky now than it must have at the time).
The fun of the List’s VanDerBeek show is not unrelated to the thrill of reading out-of-date science fiction, with its peculiar hybrids of old and new, of risible fantasy and keen-eyed prophecy.
The exhibition was organized by Bill Arning, the List’s former curator and now director of the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, and João Ribas, his successor at the List. It is, as Arning writes, a “project of reclamation’’: VanDerBeek, who died in 1984 at 57, came perilously close to falling through the cracks of art history. There’s no question that he deserves much better.
The show itself is a wild ride, both a joy and, in places, tough going.
VanDerBeek was, writes Arning, “unable to stay within institutional or media boundaries.’’ For three decades, he was “an inspiring one-man research-and-development department for using untried forms and forcing them to reveal their interior poetics.’’
That rings true. VanDerBeek was at the forefront of one new phenomenon after another: animation art, video collage, multiscreen projections, multimedia happenings, art-and-dance collaborations, interactive art, and computer art.
All these forms of art making and presentation have become standard fare today.
But being conscious of — and impressed by — VanDerBeek’s prescience doesn’t make fathoming his own “interior poetics’’ especially easy.
Entering the show, you feel slightly under bombardment. A room early on screens VanDerBeek’s early groundbreaking films, which are beacons in the history of experimental cinema. They’re wonderful, poignant, funny. Spend as long as you can with them.
Further in, the curators have reconfigured one of his so-called “movie murals.’’ Boy oh boy — what an onslaught!
A table supports an array of slide and film projectors pointing in various directions. To the accompaniment of arbitrary fragments of music, still images from the history of art are projected alongside (or overlapping) excerpts from the history of film, as well as news and documentary footage. One sees mushroom clouds, ancient sculptures, circus performers, Buster Keaton, synchronized swimmers, war footage, a bear riding a bicycle, racing cars, and so on.
It’s hectic, and it’s made more so by noise and imagery coming from other works nearby. But it’s also worth spending time with, because you need to get a feel for VanDerBeek’s interest in creating visual environments. It’s crucial to grasp that there was a logic behind his unceasing flows of imagery — the logic of collage. He was trying, among other things, to communicate subliminally — to the unconscious as well as the conscious mind.
One of the biggest influences on VanDerBeek was an event called “Theater Piece No. 1,’’ which took place in 1952 during his time in Black Mountain. Later described as the first art “happening,’’ it was a combination of poems read aloud from the tops of ladders by the likes of Cage and Charles Olson, improvised dancing by Merce Cunningham, scratched phonograph recordings and rearranged paintings by Rauschenberg, and performances on a prepared piano by David Tudor.
VanDerBeek remembered it as a seminal experience: “The fact that everything sort of happened at once was very inspirational,’’ he said. It “triggered off a lot of ideas about how you can make things grow and collage together.’’
In 1967, VanDerBeek moved to Cambridge. He was one of the first artists-in-residence at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies. CAVS was a trailblazing institution established two years earlier by former Bauhaus member György Kepes.
At MIT, VanDerBeek focused on feedback and two-way communication. He made, for instance, a massive collaged mural, composed in real time but from a distance by transmitting facsimiles. Such experiments predicted today’s interactive digital art forms — not to mention more popular phenomena such as viewer voting on reality TV.
He also made a film for public television called “Violence Sonata.’’ It was designed to be screened simultaneously on two television sets, and invited viewers to participate in a telephone discussion with studio panelists during an interval.
In essence, VanDerBeek was concerned, just as we increasingly are today, about the ways in which technological changes threaten to outpace our ability to cope, emotionally and spiritually, with their consequences.
Undoubtedly, he was prone to giddiness and cant. “I have been imaginizing about the future,’’ he would gleefully announce; or: “Sometimes I wake up and say it’s going to be a 60 mile-an-hour day’’ — just the sort of thing we’re used to hearing from self-help gurus or “corporate visionaries.’’
But he was refreshingly modest about his own work — unsure, at times, whether it tapped into what he called “extremely important ideas’’ or amounted merely to “wallpaper.’’ And he was no mindless cheerleader: He wavered, thoughtfully, between optimism and fear about the impact of new visual technologies.
He was interested in what new technologies, from film and TV to the burgeoning world of computers, did to what he called “the reordering of our visual semantics.’’ His premise was that embracing the creative potential of new technologies, rather than fearing their tendency to facilitate control and domination, was the best way forward. Human sensibilities, he believed, needed to be jolted out of the 19th century and into the present day.
Was he right?
Perhaps. Probably.
Unfortunately, there’s not a lot in his work to inspire confidence in his emotional or spiritual grip on life. But the optimism and derring-do behind it is strangely uplifting.

MIT List Visual Arts Center

Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom

The MIT List Visual Arts Center and the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, present the first museum survey of the work of media art pioneer Stan VanDerBeek, exploring his investigation of art, technology, and communication. Surveying the artist’s remarkable body of work in collage, experimental film, performance, participatory and computer-generated art over several decades, Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom highlights the artist’s pivotal contribution to today’s media-based artistic practices. The exhibition features a selection of early paintings and collages, a selection of his pioneering animations, recreations of immersive projection and ‘expanded cinema’ environments, documentation of site-specific and telecommunications projects, and material related to his performance and durational work.
Describing himself as a “technological fruit picker,” VanDerBeek consistently turned to new technological means to expand the emotional and expressive content of emergent technology and media. Emerging from the performance and intermedia tradition of Black Mountain College, VanDerBeek created technologically hybrid and participatory artworks through the 1960s and 1970s aimed at demonstrating the social and aesthetic possibilities of emergent media. His early drawings and collages, heavily influenced by DADA and the expressionism of the Beat Generation, already hinted at the expressive vocabulary the artist could elicit from the technology or artistic media he encountered. VanDerBeek’s animations and short films, beginning in the late 1950s, made him a central figure in American avant-garde cinema. Combining stop-motion animation—drawn from collages of magazine illustrations and advertisements—with filmed sequences and found footage, films such as Achoo Mr. Kerrichev (1960) and Breathdeath (1963) fused avant-garde cinematic techniques with social critique and Cold War politics.
VanDerBeek’s interest shifted to immersive and multimedia work, what he coined “expanded cinema” in the mid-1960s. His Movie-Drome (1963-1965), an audiovisual laboratory and theatre built in Stony Point, New York, to present multiple film projections. These so-called “movie-murals” and “newsreels of dreams” were part of the artist’s research into developing new visual languages that could be used as a tool for world communication. VanDerBeek articulated these concerns, centered on the social potential of media, through a series of influential texts, expressing his critical assessment of the social and utopian character of technology and the responsibility of the artist in shaping its future.
Always at the forefront of new information, communication, and visualization technologies, VanDerBeek readily embraced computer graphics, image-processing systems, and various new technological forms through the late 1960s and early 1970s. At Bell Labs, working with the first moving-image programming language, he produced Poemfields (1966-1969), a series of computer-generated films.  As a resident at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies and at the public television station, WGBH, between 1969-1971, he began to develop new forms of interdisciplinary work and integrated forms of aesthetic information that now stand as significant experiments in early new media art.  Telephone Mural (1970) used the fax machine to transmit images that could be collaged together into a large mural, executed at several museums simultaneously—highlighting how technology could free artistic expression over time and space.
Working with WGBH, VanDerBeek produced Violence Sonata (1970), a mix of live studio television transmission and prerecorded video work that questioned violence and race relations in America. VanDerBeek went on to conceive several complex cinematic and performance events at planetariums and museums before his untimely death in 1984, at the age of 53.
Beginning with a selection of early black-and-white photographs, small abstract paintings, and a series of watercolors, the exhibition will feature a one-hour program of more than a dozen of the artist’s renowned animations, along with a group of existing collages from the films. VanDerBeek’s series of computer-generated films, Poemfields (1966-1969), exploring early computer graphics and image-processing systems, will be included as multiple screen projections, along with Variations V (1966), VanDerBeek’s multi-media collaboration with Merce Cunningham, John Cage, David Tudor, and Nam June Paik. The exhibition will recreate two of VanDerBeek’s significant works: Movie Mural (1968), a multimedia installation comprised of several slide and video projections, and a version of the large fax murals created at MIT and the Walker Art Center in the early 1970s. Immersive, participatory, and media-based projects such as Violence Sonata (1970) and Cine-Dreams (1972) will be featured through rare footage, original drawings and texts, and extensive documentation.
Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom is organized by Bill Arning, Director, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and João Ribas, Curator, MIT List Visual Arts Center, with special thanks to the Estate of Stan VanDerBeek and London-based independent scholar Mark Bartlett.  The exhibition has been made possible by the generous support of the ART MENTOR FOUNDATION LUCERNE and The National Endowment for the Arts, a Federal agency, along with the Council for the Arts at MIT, the Massachusetts Cultural Council, Martin E. Zimmerman, the Union Pacific Foundation, the patrons, benefactors, and donors to the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston's Major Exhibition Fund.  The accompanying catalogue has been made possible by a grant from The Brown Foundation, Inc. Media sponsor: Phoenix Media/Communications Group.

Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome Recreated at The New Museum

Stan VanDerBeek was a revolutionary experimental filmmaker, video artist, and visual theoretician who began working in the 1950s and continued innovating right up until his untimely death in 1984.
He was famous early on for this collage films, in which he would manipulate, through animation, paper cutouts to create satirical comments on society, as in his films Breathdeath (1964), which VanDerBeek dedicated to Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton, and described as being a “surrealistic fantasy based on the 15th century woodcuts of the dance of the dead. A film experiment that deals with the photoreality and the surrealism of life. It is a collage-animation that cuts up photos and newsreel film and reassembles them, producing an image that is a mixture of unexplainable fact (Why is Harpo Marx playing a harp in the middle of a battlefield?) with the inexplicable act (Why is there a battlefield?). It is a black comedy, a fantasy that mocks at death … a parabolic parable,” and Achoo Mr. Keroochev (1959), described by its maker as a “sneezing, displeasing, crooked-looked of visual pratfalls by a patented politician in animation and live [action],” to mention just two of the many, many films he made during his lifetime.
But arguably his greatest achievement was the creation of his Movie-Drome, a geodesic dome whose interior served as a projection surface for a dazzling display of multiple images, in 16mm film or slide format, projected on the ceiling of the dome.
VanDerBeek wrote a manifesto describing his work with the Movie-Drome, which operated only briefly between 1963 and 1965, stating in part that: “it is imperative that we [the world’s artists] invent a new world language, that we invent a non-verbal international picture-language. I propose the following:
* The establishment of audio-visual research centers, preferably on an international scale. These centers to explore the existing audio-visual hardware. The development of new image-making devices (the storage and transfer of image materials, motion pictures, television, computers, videotape, etc.)
* The immediate research and development of image-events and performances in the Movie-Drome. I shall call these prototype presentations: Movie Murals, Ethos-Cinema, Newsreel of Dreams, Feedback, Image Libraries.
* When I talk of the Movie-Dromes as image libraries, it is understood that such life theaters would use some of the coming techniques…and thus be real communication and storage centers, that is, by satellite, each dome could receive its image from a world wide library source, store them and program a feedback presentation to the local community that lived near the center, this newsreel feedback, could authentically review the total world image reality in an hour-long show.
* Intra-communitronics, or dialogues with other centers would be likely, and instand reference material via transmission television and telephone would be called for and received at 186,000 m.p.s., from anywhere in the world. Thus I call this presentation,a newsreel of ideas, of dreams, a movie-mural. An image library, a culture de-compression chamber, a culture inter-com.”
Happily, The Movie-Drome has been recreated at The New Museum in New York as part of their “Ghosts in the Machine” show for a brief period of time — now through September 30, 2012 — and those lucky enough to live close by can experience it for themselves, a wondrous and humbling display of visual wizardry that has long been excluded from the conventional cinematic canon.
As the Museum writes in their program notes for the show, “the installation at the New Museum will include artists, writers, and visionaries whose works have explored the fears and aspirations generated by the technology of their time. From Jacob Mohr’s influencing machines to Emery Blagdon’s healing constructions, the exhibition brings together improvised technologies charged with magical powers. Historical works by Hans Haacke, Robert Breer, Otto Piene, and Gianni Colombo, amongst others, will be displayed alongside reconstructions of lost works and realizations of dystopian mechanical devices invented by figures like Franz Kafka. “Ghosts in the Machine” also takes its cue from a number of exhibitions designed by artists that incorporated modern technology to reimagine the role of art in contemporary societies, including Richard Hamilton’s “Man, Machine and Motion” (1955). Exploring the integration of art and science, “Ghosts in the Machine” also tries to identify an art historical lineage of works preoccupied with the way we imagine and experience the future, delineating an archeology of visionary dreams that have never become a reality.
Many of the artists in the show take a scientific approach to investigating the realm of the invisible, dismantling the mechanics of vision in order to conceive new possibilities for seeing. Central to the exhibition is a re-examination of Op Art and perceptual abstraction, with a particular focus on the work of painters Bridget Riley, Victor Vasarely, Richard Anuskiewicz, and Julian Stanczak, amongst others. Op Art was unique in the way it internalized technology and captured both the ecstatic and threatening qualities it posed to the human body. Furthermore, the exhibition will include a number of kinetic and “programmed” artworks as well as expanded cinema pieces, which amplify the radical effects of technology on vision.
A section of the exhibition will present a selection of experimental films and videos realized with early computer technology. One highlight of the installation will be a reconstruction of Stan VanDerBeek’s Movie-Drome (1963–65), an immersive cinematic environment where the viewer is bathed in a constant stream of moving images, anticipating the fusion of information and the body, typical of the digital era.”
The image at the top of this post is from the original Movie-Drome; the image directly above is from the recreation at the New Museum, now open to the public. If you live in the vicinity of New York City, and have any interest in the arts or cinema history at all, you owe it to yourself to see this once in a lifetime recreation of an authentic cultural phenomenon of the 1960s, which still resonates today with artists, critics, and even the most casual of observers as a refreshingly original and daring conception, from a time when cinema ruled the arts. It’s a uniquely life-affirming experience, as is all of VanDerBeek’s work. -Wheeler Winston Dixon

Exhibition Review – Stan VanDerBeek 

Stan VanDerBeek was once a major figure of the New York avant-guard. He associated with luminaries like Claes Oldenburg, Jim Dine, Robert Morris, Allan Kaprow, and Yvonne Rainer, showed at major museums, participated in international art events, and worked as an artist-in-residence at NASA and M.I.T. In 1977, he was the subject of a retrospective at the Anthology Film Archives. But, since his death in 1984 at the age of 57, he has been largely forgotten.
Recently, though, it has begun to seem that VanDerBeek’s work may not be fated to molder in obscurity forever. Signs have been appearing that indicate a burgeoning revival: Paul McCarthy, who has a history of championing undeservedly obscure artists, organized a film program at the Whitney devoted entirely to VanDerBeek’s work; one of his photo collages appeared on the cover of the most recent installment of Charley, the publication put out every-so-often by Wrong Gallery collaborators Maurizio Cattelan, Ali Subotnick, and Massimiliano Gioni; and, his work has been cropping up in an increasing number of group shows around the country. But the current show at Guild & Greyshkul, which could be billed as a mini-retrospective, is the greatest effort that has been made to bring VanDerBeek’s work back from the depths to date. This is not without good reason: the gallery was founded, in part, by two of VanDerBeek’s children, Sara and Johannes, and much of the work in the show—slides, films, videos, paintings, drawings, computer-generated prints, a vast wall of photomontages and film stills—was rescued by the younger VanDerBeeks from the basement of their mother’s house in Baltimore.
The show is a labor of love, and the work it contains is no different: it fairly crackles with frenetic creativity, the static discharge of a peripatetic life.  One gets the impression, in fact, that VanDerBeek was working under some infernal deadline, which barely allowed time for his hands to keep up with the constant churnings of his mind. While this may sound like an over-Romanticization of the Modernist variety, it is certainly an apt case: the work is passionate and hurried, messy in the best sense of the word—without the mediation of the studied wink.
VanDerBeek began studying art at The Cooper Union in New York, and later attended the storied Black Mountain College, where he associated with the likes of Merce Cunningham, John Cage, and Buckminster Fuller. The show includes an ample selection of VanDerBeek’s paintings and drawings from this period, many of which betray an affinity for the visual works of William Blake. These works certainly have merit, but it is clear that VanDerBeek’s work didn’t truly flower until after he had finished his formal schooling, when he underwent a seemingly Damascene conversion that compelled him to begin working with film.
From the late 1950s onward, VanDerBeek produced reel upon reel of film, largely using painstaking stop-motion technique to animate collages of found photographs, which he often painted or drew on and intercut with found footage. Immediately, and with a certain shock of recognition, the films bring to mind the whimsical animations produced by Terry Gilliam for Monty Python’s Flying Circus, though VanDerBeek’s early films pre-date Gilliam’s by at least a decade. (This is not a coincidence: Gilliam has cited VanDerBeek as an early influence.) Despite their obvious initial consonances, however, VanDerBeek’s films move in realms beyond Gilliam’s reach: they are more pointedly satirical and wildly surreal, whipping together Khrushchev and DuBuffet, Ernst and Eisenhower, tribalism and technoromanticism to create a turbulent, oneiric vision of sex, death, and politics in the machine age.
The show has a great number of these films on view, and they are accompanied by a large and notable selection of his photomontages, many of which were used in the films’ production. Despite their technical designation as “film stills,” these are far from mere ephemera: even rent from their original context they are fascinating and inspired, and, in fact, often benefit from reintroduction of the color and tactility that was necessarily wicked from them in the filming process. (VanDerBeek’s films, with some notable exceptions, such as Science Friction (1959), were largely shot in black and white.)
VanDerBeek’s initial interest in film paved the way for his much broader interest in technology, which he viewed as a force that could be used to both expand traditional artistic practice and, if used wisely, allow artists to participate in—and possibly guide—a shift in global consciousness. This latter, quasi-Utopian formulation fueled much of his late creative output, which saw him experimenting with various vanguard technologies like computers, fax machines, and video cameras, creating increasingly ambitious and encompassing art environments, and authoring urgent-sounding manifestos to codify his aesthetic and theoretical positions.
Though he is not mentioned by name, it is clear that many of VanDerBeek’s ideas concerning technology were inspired by the then-fashionable and still-influential Canadian philosopher and communications theorist Marshall McLuhan—a few of VanDerBeek’s manifestos are even reminiscent, both visually and textually, of McLuhan’s landmark The Medium Is The Massage. This is, of course, not to say that VanDerBeek has engaged in any kind of intellectual plagiarism. Rather, it is remarkable how VanDerBeek takes McLuhan’s ideas about sensory expansion, visual learning, and then-incipient global information networks and transforms them into tangible projects that attempt to push McLuhan’s theory into practice
This tendency pushed VanDerBeek to produce a number of remarkable works that are also on view in the show—a large mural that VanDerBeek created in his Boston studio and then faxed piece-by-piece to the Walker Art Center in Minnesota for exhibition, quilt-like computer printouts, a pair of videos that were screened simultaneously on two separate Boston public access channels—but by far the most ambitious project that came out of this period was something VanDerBeek called a “Movie-Drome.” Essentially, the idea was this: Large dome structures would be erected in sites around the world, which would serve as hubs for the distribution of knowledge via the universal language of the information age—images. Programs at the various Movie-Dromes would be tailored to the needs and desires of local populations, and would draw on a limitless image library, parts of which would be stored electronically in each Movie-Drome, which would, in turn, be connected up to its fellows through a network of satellites, televisions, and telephones.
Obviously, this was a project that was never fully realized, or VanDerBeek might be credited with creating an imaginative precursor to the Internet. But, from 1963 to 1965 he did build a full-scale prototype of a Movie-Drome out of an abandoned grain silo up in Stony Point, New York. Inside, he held multi-media events that employed dozens of film and slide projectors to produce what he called “a super collage or movie mosaic.”
It would be nearly impossible to contain this kind of spectacle in a gallery space, but Guild & Greyskhul has pared down the Movie-Drome’s aesthetic by presenting a recreation of one of VanDerBeek’s “Electric Assemblages,” a collage of slides and film projected on an overlapping thicket of free-standing screens. It is, with good reason, the centerpiece of the show. The work looks stunningly fresh, a testament to VanDerBeek’s aesthetic prescience as much as it is an indicator of the accuracy of his technological prognostications.
Though the Electric Assemblage is an apt summation of VanDerBeek’s singular artistic achievement, there is another, more modest work in the show that helps illuminate the ambitions that he had for art making as a whole. Tucked away in the little back room is a watercolor on which these words are painted: “Art Moves Through The Infinity Of Perhaps.” It is an aphorism, or perhaps a Koan, that furnishes us with the most succinct summation of VanDerBeek’s practice that anyone could hope to provide. For his art did indeed move through the infinity of perhaps, to such an extent that climbing inside his Movie-Drome now would feel like getting a view of the inside of our own skulls. One can only imagine, with not a small feeling of loss, what his work might look like now, if he had lived.
More information about Stan VanDerBeek, including a collection of his writings, can be found here.

Stan VanDerBeek

In 1967, Stan VanDerBeek became an artist in residence at MIT’s nascent Center for Advanced Visual Studies, founded two years earlier by György Kepes. VanDerBeek, a filmmaker and a pioneer of what would soon be termed ‘expanded cinema’, was deeply interested in technology, which he called the ‘amplifier of the human imagination’. By this point, VanDerBeek had been working on the fringes of new technologies for several years. He created several experimental films in the 1950s and 1960s, and began working with computers in 1965. He had embarked, in collaboration with Ken Knowlton at Bell Labs, on a series of computer-generated films, using a programming language Knowlton wrote in 1963 called BEFLIX.
At ‘Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom’, the eye-opening recent retrospective of his work at MIT’s List Visual Arts Center (organized with the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston), punch-cards and yellowed print-outs of arcane BEFLIX code lay side by side with ‘Poemfields’ (1966–9), a stunning series of structural film collaborations with Knowlton. The hard lines of the bitmapped graphics are softened by the flicker of 16mm film, lending a haunting, ethereal effect as words in block lettering slowly fade in and out: ‘LIFE’; ‘THINGS’; ‘YOU’. The code nearby is covered with VanDerBeek’s copious notes and revisions in red and blue ink, and the punch-cards on view are the actual ones used; a computer scientist and I attempted to decipher the patterns of punches on VanDerBeek’s punch-cards, matching them to the lines of mostly inscrutable BEFLIX code. While VanDerBeek’s work has been shown in several other venues – a 2008 show at Guild & Greyshkul in New York, in particular, stands out – there is something peculiarly personal about seeing his work at MIT, where he worked for several years. One wonders what VanDerBeek would have thought of the MIT Media Lab, where the List is housed; the Media Lab was founded in 1985, a year after he died of cancer aged 57.
The List retrospective, which focused on VanDerBeek’s prolific output from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, functioned as a curious time-capsule of the history of art and technology. By tracing the arc of VanDerBeek’s life and work, the exhibition chronicled a period of remarkable convergence, one not only of the senses, and of multiple forms of media – concepts that VanDerBeek and other proponents of ‘expanded cinema’ embraced – but also of people and disparate institutions. It chronicled a time when an idiosyncratic artist like VanDerBeek could float between rural artist communes and Bell Labs, studying with both John Cage and MIT engineers.
In the 1950s VanDerBeek attended Black Mountain College, the legendary progressive school where Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Merce Cunningham and Josef Albers were among the instructors. His experience there was a major turning point in his life and, by the early 1960s, VanDerBeek had moved to an artist commune in upstate New York, where Cage was living for a time. Inspired by Fuller’s domes and Cage’s crash-collision of art forms, VanDerBeek began work on a 9.5-metre-high geodesic dome, planning for its interior to be awash in multiple film projections. This immersive environment, dubbed the ‘Movie-Drome’, would be a ‘prototype for a new kind of cinema-stage,’according to VanDerBeek.
In retrospect, the Movie-Drome seems like a quaint, trippy historical curiosity. At the List, the Movie-Drome was shown in the form of black and white photographs and written descriptions, making it difficult to visualize its breadth and vision. A motley assortment of projectors of various ages and sizes arranged on a table recreated a VanDerBeek ‘movie mural’ on a nearby wall; the riot of light and colour helped to simulate what the interior of the Movie-Drome may have been like. VanDerBeek’s overarching thesis is the most appealing: ‘The future holds unknown combinations of some of the present loosely knit ideas,’ he wrote during the time of the Movie-Drome. ‘Integration of cinema, theatre, dance, drama, electronic sound and sights, movie-dromes, video tape, libraries of film, kinetic and “expanded” cinema, “movie-murals,” “movie-mosaics”.’ It was the List exhibition’s emphasis on VanDerBeek’s internal dialogue, even more than the works themselves – his numerous notes, schematics, scrawls, drawings, diagrams – that made this survey so engrossing. ‘I like the process of making films,’ he wrote in 1966, ‘because it is a way for me to have dialogues with myself.’
Much of VanDerBeek’s most intriguing work occurred after he left the commune in upstate New York and came to MIT, where he ventured further into computer graphics, communications, and other emerging fields. His grasp of new technologies became more sophisticated, and better integrated into his artistic vision. Two works from this period, in particular, stand out: Violence Sonata, a double-channel video piece produced for public television in 1970 that instructed the viewer to take two television sets and place them next to each other, and the epic Telephone Murals (1970).
At the List, a massive telephone mural, conceived at the Center for Advanced Visual Studies in 1969 and sent, page by painstaking page, to the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in 1970, hung on one wall. Next to it were VanDerBeek’s detailed notes and instructions. It took two weeks to transmit a low-resolution black and white mural over telephone lines using a Telecopier, an ancestor of the fax machine. It was not only a technical feat, given the limitations at the time, but a visionary statement on the future of communication. In VanDerBeek’s voluminous writings from that period, he predicts the existence of the world wide web, Photoshop, YouTube, and much more. ‘The full flow of colour, sound, synthesized form, images changing image-ideas, and images of plastic form (abstract expression) have in no way begun to be explored in man’s experience,’ he wrote. VanDerBeek contributed to this full flow, in his work towards what he called a ‘non-verbal international picture-language’. As this inspired retrospective demonstrated, we are still catching up with his visions for the future. - Geeta Dayal

Stan VanDerBeek: Violence Sonata / The History of Violence in America (1969-70)

Stan VanDerBeek was part of the “Rockefeller Artists-in-Television” residency program at Boston public television station WGBH from 1969–1970, during which time he produced the simulcast television program Violence Sonata. The program, directed by David Atwood and Fred Barzyk, was transmitted simultaneously on both Channels 2 and 44 on January 12, 1970, with the suggestion that viewers place two television sets side-by-side. Following sonata form, the piece is composed of three segments: “Man,” “Man to Woman,” and “Man to Man.” The simultaneous broadcast consisted of material VanDerBeek composed from previous films, archival and newsreel footage, video shot in Boston for the show, and filmed collages, further manipulated and enhanced through overlays and color saturation. Sections of the broadcast were played before a live studio audience, with actors also performing a play written by VanDerBeek for the show. Home viewers were encouraged to call in their responses to the program between the acts. The series of collages entitled, The History of Violence in America was conceived as layouts for reproduction and publication in a booklet to accompany the broadcast.
video excerpt (Violence Sonata)
Download (Violence Sonata – script, photo documentation, sketches, collages, reviews) Download (The History of Violence in America, 22 pages)


See Saw Seams

Stan VanDerBeek (1927-1984) was a visionary avant-garde filmmaker, a painter and drawer, a master of cut-out animation, a collector of archival film stock, an experimental film projectionist and a pioneer in television art and computer animation. Always in search of new methods of representation, he explored the boundaries of filmmaking, opening it up to visual art, music, literature, performance, technology, architecture and consciousness. VanDerBeek's work combined a dark sense of satirical humor with a devout belief in the utopian potential of visual interaction. For him, images were language, a means of achieving universal communication. Stan VanDerBeek was a professor at UMBC and ran the Department of Visual Arts until his death in 1984.
25 years later, the email exhibition WHERE IS STAN VANDERBEEK? wants to instigate a dialog about VanDerBeek's legacy at UMBC. A selection of films and documents will be distributed to the current staff of the university who will be asked to forward these emails to students in various departments. Over the course of the exhibition (10 emails), staff and students will be asked to reflect on the following questions: Have you previously heard about Stan VanDerBeek? Did you perhaps know him personally? (If so, what does he mean to you?) Do you feel his legacy is kept alive at UMBC? Do you think it should be? Do you have ideas on how this could be done? Is there a future for Stan VanDerBeek at UMBC?

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