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The Experience Machine

Roger F. Malina, Executive Editor
Sean Cubitt, Editor-in-Chief
New Media Poetics: Contexts, Technotexts, and Theories, edited by Adalaide Morris and Thomas
Swiss, 2006
Aesthetic Computing, edited by Paul A. Fishwick, 2006
Digital Performance: A History of New Media in Theater, Dance, Performance Art, and Installation, Steve
Dixon, 2006
MediaArtHistories, edited by Oliver Grau, 2006
From Technological to Virtual Art, Frank Popper, 2007
META/DATA: A Digital Poetics, Mark Amerika, 2007
Signs of Life: Bio Art and Beyond, Eduardo Kac, 2007
The Hidden Sense: Synesthesia in Art and Science, Cretien van Campen, 2007
Closer: Performance, Technologies, Phenomenology, Susan Kozel, 2007
Video: The Reflexive Medium, Yvonne Spielmann, 2007
Software Studies: A Lexicon, Matthew Fuller, 2008
Tactical Biopolitics: Theory, Practice, and the Life Sciences, edited by Beatriz da Costa and Kavita
Philip, 2008
White Heat and Cold Logic: British Computer Art 1960 1980, edited by Paul Brown, Charlie Gere,
Nicholas Lambert, and Catherine Mason, 2008
Curating New Media Art, Beryl Graham and Sarah Cook, 2010
Green Light: Notes Toward an Art of Evolution, George Gessert, 2010
Enfoldment and Infinity: An Islamic Genealogy of New Media Art, Laura U. Marks, 2010
Synthetics: Aspects of Art & Technology in Australia, 1956-1975, Stephen Jones, 2011
Hybrid Cultures: Japanese Media Arts in Dialogue with the West, Yvonne Spielmann, 2012
Walking and Mapping: Artists as Cartographers, Karen ORourke, 2013
The Fourth Dimension and Non-Euclidean Geometry in Modern Art, revised edition Linda Dalrymple
Henderson, 2013
Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles Erkki Huhtamo,
Relive: Media Art Histories, edited by Sean Cubitt and Paul Thomas, 2013
Re-collection: New Media and Social Memory, Richard Rinehart and Jon Ippolito, 2013 Biopolitical
Screens: Image, Power, and the Neoliberal Brain Pasi Vliaho, 2014
The Practice of Light: A Genealogy of Visual Technologies from Prints to Pixels Sean Cubitt, 2014
The Tone of Our Times: Sound, Sense, Economy, and Ecology Frances Dyson, 2014
The Experience Machine: Stan VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome and Expanded Cinema Gloria Sutton, 2015
See for a complete list of titles in this series.

The Experience Machine

Stan VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome and Expanded Cinema

Gloria Sutton

The MIT Press

Cambridge, Massachusetts
London, England

2015 Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Unless otherwise noted, all images courtesy of the Stan VanDerBeek Estate.

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or
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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Sutton, Gloria.
The experience machine : Stan VanderBeeks Movie-Drome and expanded cinema / Gloria Sutton.
pages cm. (Leonardo book series)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-0-262-02849-3 (hardcover : alk. paper)
1. New media art. 2. Technology and the arts. 3. Vanderbeek, StanCriticism and interpretation. 4. ArtHistory. I. Title.


Dedicated to the memory of my brother

Jeffrey Kenneth Sutton


Series Foreword ix
Introduction: Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine 1
1 Prototyping Participation: Movie-Dromes Critical Reception within Expanded
2 Critical Limits: Vision 65 and Black Mountain College 51
3 Visual Velocity: Movie-Drome and Immersive Subjectivity 95
4 Paradigms of Display: Movie-Drome as Information Arrangement 147
5 Words within Words: The Poetics of Computer-Generated Film 161
Conclusion: Diagrams to Networks: Expanded Cinema and Contemporary

Series Foreword

Leonardo/International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology (ISAST)

Leonardo, the International Society for the Arts, Sciences, and Technology, and the
affiliated French organization Association Leonardo have some very simple goals:
1. To advocate, document and make known the work of artists, researchers, and scholars developing the new ways that the contemporary arts interact with science, technology, and society.
2. To create a forum and meeting places where artists, scientists, and engineers can
meet, exchange ideas, and, where appropriate, collaborate.
3. To contribute, through the interaction of the arts and sciences, to the creation of the
new culture that will be needed to transition to a sustainable planetary society.
When the journal Leonardo was started some forty-five years ago, these creative disciplines existed in segregated institutional and social networks, a situation dramatized
at that time by the Two Cultures debates initiated by C. P. Snow. Today we live in a
different time of cross-disciplinary ferment, collaboration, and intellectual confrontation enabled by new hybrid organizations, new funding sponsors, and the shared tools
of computers and the Internet. Above all, new generations of artist-researchers and
researcher-artists are now at work individually and in collaborative teams bridging the
art, science, and technology disciplines. For some of the hard problems in our society,
we have no choice but to find new ways to couple the arts and sciences. Perhaps in
our lifetime we will see the emergence of new Leonardos, hybrid creative individuals or teams that will not only develop a meaningful art for our times but also drive
new agendas in science and stimulate technological innovation that addresses todays
human needs.
For more information on the activities of the Leonardo organizations and networks,
please visit our websites at and

Roger F. Malina
Executive Editor, Leonardo Publications


The Experience Machine was motivated by two formative experiences. The first stems
from my role as a member of the board of directors at from 1998 to 2003
and the second was my participation in the Whitney Museum of American Art Independent Study Program as a Critical Studies Fellow between 1997 and 1998. This was
at a moment when searching the web meant browsing top-down text directories and
image search did not readily exist. established a toehold for networkbased art practices and helped to foster what can now be thought of as the first wave of
critical discourse on network culture. The public broadcast audience model was not just
a metaphor for Rhizomes membership but offered a type of operational ethic with the
decided purpose of bridging new media and contemporary art. It is between these two
fields that my scholarship continues to operate. As an art historian and critic on the
board, my role was to point to the myriad ways that new media art (itself a contested
category of contemporary art production) reflects the pluralism of earlier moments in
conceptual art and draws upon its strategies of anonymity, appropriation, and collective action while self-reflexively examining the role of media in culture more broadly
framed. Of paramount importance to me then as well as now was arts insistence on
making the distribution and circulation of ideas visible, an ethos imparted by the Whitney ISP. I am proud and grateful for the ways that the program, directed by Ron Clark
who founded the ISP in 1968, and its community of artists, historians, curators, writers, and filmmakers have shaped my thinking about the intellectual frameworks that
undergird this book.
In more pragmatic terms, The Experience Machine evolved directly from the research
I conducted while in the PhD program in the Department of Art History at the University of California, Los Angeles. At UCLA, I would first like to thank Miwon Kwon,
who was an invaluable advisor throughout my entire graduate studies and fostered my
sense of interdisciplinary scholarship. My dissertation was enhanced by George Bakers
insightful engagement and compelling questions. Cecile Whiting generously provided
key advice on an even earlier iteration as my MA thesis that became the article, Stan


VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome: Networking the Subject, published in Future Cinema: The

Cinematic Imaginary After Film (MIT Press, 2003). Mary Kelly, whose vital art practice
I first encountered at the Whitney ISP, continues to demonstrate that the seminar is
a site of production, a lesson I strive to enact in my own teaching. The dissertations
most direct interlocutor and immeasurable resource was Erkki Huhtamo, my advisor
in the Design | Media Arts Department, whose own advancement of the field of media
archaeology inspired my commitment to taking a material, archive-based approach to
this interpretive project.
The majority of this books research was undertaken before there was any semblance
of a VanDerBeek archive or retrospective exhibitions of his work. Any sense of detail
that The Experience Machine offers about Stan VanDerBeeks prolific output is directly
owed to the generosity of his dynamic family members now living in New York, Baltimore, and California. I have had the tremendous fortune and absolute pleasure of
digging through boxes of papers, sorting through photographs, wading through reels
of film, and having informative conversations with many of them. Any access we have
to this material is due to the VanDerBeek familys labor of love. In particular, I want
to thank Johanna VanDerBeek for inviting me to her studio and providing me hours
of her time and insight not only into VanDerBeeks work, but the dynamics of the
contemporary art world during the 1960s and beyond. Consulting with Sara VanDerBeek at several different phases of this research and on more recent installations of
her fathers work has been a profound experience. I hold the nuanced sensibility and
formal acumen established within her own practice in the highest regard as her work
continues to show us the force of photographys mutability. At the Stan VanDerBeek
Estate, Chelsea Spengemanns assistance with a large number of slides, papers, notes,
drawings, and other forms of documentation that have recently come to light benefited this book. I am enormously grateful to the VanDerBeek Estate for allowing me to
reproduce many of them in this volume.
Portions of The Experience Machine were written while I was a Fellow at the Getty
Research Institute in Los Angeles. The 20072008 fellows and scholars, especially Chelsea Foxwell, Irene Small, Susan Buck-Morss, and Karen Lang offered valuable feedback
and encouragement. This was of course, in addition to the GRIs Scholar Staff and Special Collections team, which aided my efforts in countless ways. My research was also
facilitated by the ingenuity of Andrew Lampert, archivist at Anthology Film Archives.
I thank Anthology Film Archives for generously granting permission to reproduce
images from Film Culture magazine. At the Museum of Modern Art, New York, Charles
Silver and Anne Morra were extremely helpful in providing access to VanDerBeeks
films and papers. I am indebted to Tamara Bloomberg of the Allan Kaprow Estate for
her counsel and generous aid regarding image permissions at critical junctures in my


The arguments in this book were shaped by the opportunities to present my ideas in
public lectures and contributions to catalogues accompanying screenings and exhibitions of VanDerBeeks work and I would like to thank the following institutions and
individuals: The Box Gallery in Los Angeles (Mara McCarthy), Los Angeles County
Museum of Art (Alex Klein), MIT List Center for Visual Art (Joo Ribas), Contemporary
Art Museum Houston (Bill Arning), the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum and
Art Gallery at Skidmore College (Ian Berry), and the New Museum in New York (Gary
Carrion-Murayari, Massimiliano Gioni, Megan Heuer). Especially beneficial was an
invitation to present at the international conference Regards sur lExpanded Cinema:
art, cinma, vido at Institut National dHistoire de lArt (INHA) in Paris organized by
Larisa Dryansky and Annie Claustres, where I met Gerald OGrady and Don Foresta
whose personal archives and subsequent interviews have clarified information about
this subject. I would also like to thank Hannah Higgins and Douglas Kahn for inviting
me to contribute an article based on an earlier version of Chapter 5 to their co-edited
volume, Mainframe Experimentalism: Early Computing and the Foundations of the Digital
Arts (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012).
At the MIT Press, I am honored to work with Doug Sery whose editorial guidance
and fresh perspectives were always appreciated. I am very grateful for his support. My
special thanks go to Susan Buckley and Ariel Baker-Gibbs for their skill and rigor in
bringing the manuscript through to its final stages. I would like to recognize the helpful comments on the manuscript from the anonymous readers as well as the support
Leonardo Book Series Editor, Sean Cubitt, has given to this project. I finished writing
this manuscript after joining the faculty at Northeastern University in Boston, and I
am fortunate to have the support of my colleagues in the Art+Design Department,
especially Mira Cantor, Nathan Felde, Julia Hechtman, Bill Kaizen, and Judy Ulman.
If the history of Expanded Cinema shows us that reception is a collective action,
then writing about it has certainly reflected a shared experience. My continued gratitude goes to those curators, editors and scholars whose lively exchanges have informed
and nurtured this project in numerous ways over the years. Among those are Dan Adler,
Rhea Anastas, Javier Anguera, Juli Carson, Stuart Comer, Ross Elfline, Mark Godfrey,
Rita Gonzalez, Karin Higa, Kathy Rae Huffman, Grant Kester, Cathy Lebowitz, Kathleen
Madden, Lev Manovich, Jane McFadden, Kimberli Meyer, Zabet Patterson, Andrew Perchuk, Elizabeth Pulsinelli, Paul Schimmel, Nizan Shaked, Jenni Sorkin, Linda Theung,
Andrew Uroskie, Joan Weinstein, Mika Yoshitake, and Maxa Zoller.
My work is deeply influenced by the artists who have invited me into their studios
and shared their processes and keen understanding of medias inherent variability. I am
grateful to have had the occasion to work closely with, and alongside Kirsten Everberg,
Karl Haendel, Sharon Hayes, David Lamelas, Kelly Nipper, Laura Owens, Paul Sietsema,
Mark Tribe, Kerry Tribe, Mungo Thomson, and especially Rene Green, who always


In the end, it is my familys generosity and spirit that I would most like to acknowledge: my parents, Gary and Incha Sutton, and my uncle and aunt, Kenny and Carolyn
Sutton. My work and my life are strengthened by Henry Raths boundless support and
good humor. He has been the witness to my thoughts and, together with Avery and
Arden, has shown me the marvelous force of loves invisible presence. This book is
dedicated to my dear brother Jeffrey, who we lost all too suddenly. It is the constant
shimmering glow of his memory that sustains my sense of wonderment in the world
outside of books.

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine

The Experience Machine asserts that the multimedia art practices that coalesced under
the loose rubric of Expanded Cinema were not simply an accretion of film, video,
and computer technology, but a critical means to assess the wider cultural experience
of the 1960s at the moment the era was fundamentally transformed by the rise of a
new digital computing economy. The development of fiber-optic cable and satellite
networks that allowed for the real-time transmission of images galvanized the creative
imaginary of a postwar generation of artists including Stan VanDerBeek (19271984),
who repurposed the domed top of a grain silo into a prototype for a communications system built on an artists cooperative thirty-five miles north of Manhattan. In a
compelling manifesto penned in 1965, VanDerBeek proposed that these Movie-Dromes
would be positioned throughout the globe, each linked to an orbiting satellite that
would store and transmit images between various sites to eradicate what he regarded as
technologys alienating impulse. VanDerBeeks emphasis on two-way communication
and data transfer introduced a telecommunications model for art production reflecting
the larger transformation from a mechanical to an information age.
Rather than treating VanDerBeek solely as a filmmaker whose celebrated animated
experimental films made him a progenitor of the New American Cinema, this book
recasts him as a visual artist committed to the radical aesthetic sensibilities imparted
by his experience studying painting, photography, and architecture at Black Mountain College in the 1950s. VanDerBeeks collaborative multimedia projects produced
throughout the 1960s and 1970s prioritized a transparency of processmaking visible
the construction and circulation of images and demonstrating how meaning hinged
on audience engagement. In many ways, these works presaged the current preponderance of multiscreen projection in contemporary art museums, galleries, art fairs,
biennials, as well as the modalities of spectatorship ushered in through these types of
temporary exhibitions and public events. Analyzing the aesthetic strategies deployed
within VanDerBeeks self-reflexive Expanded Cinema works and presenting a close
reading of the Movie-Drome, an unfinished and inherently failed artist project, serves
to reshape the contours between the fields of new media and contemporary art history,


two disciplines tethered to a type of presentism. Ultimately, The Experience Machine

underscores the idea that visual art itself is its own type of feedback mechanism that
turns on a set of relations, not a technology.
Diagramming Expanded Cinema
The 1966 winter issue of the magazine, Film Culture, was dedicated to the topic of
Expanded Artsa loose term that attempted to corral the myriad performance and
media art practices that emerged in the wake of the subjective, social, and commercial
transformations of advanced art production during the 1960s. Tucked into each perfectbound copy was a tabloid-sized foldout. Designed to look like a standard newspaper, the
headline, Special Issue, pragmatically and conceptually emphasized the fact that the
topic was outside the main purview of the American magazines highly regarded focus
on Independent and avant-garde cinema. Founded by two Lithuanian-born brothers,
Adolfas and Jonas Mekas, Film Culture was not only a more public outlet for conversations about experimental film, but also an advocate for film to remain a medium for
art-making. The aim of this special insert, wrote the editors, was twofold: To give
our readers an idea about what's going on in the avant-garde arts today, and to serve
as a sort of catalogue or index to the work of some of the artists involved...Expanded
Cinema, Expanded Music, Expanded Gags and Readymades, and some Happenings.1
Co-edited and designed by Fluxus impresario George Maciunascoincidently another
Lithuanian-born artistthe tabloid featured a visually arresting Expanded Arts Diagram with rectilinear forms and lines running the length of a full page (figure 0.1).2
The diagram comprised dozens of proper names, artists and collectives. Printed in a
compact sans serif font, each name was positioned like a line extending the range of
the overall grid pattern. The dense 21 6-inch chart functioned as a type of anachronistic infographic (avant la lettre), a visual representation of a complex set of relationships mapped from a completely subjective point of view, which clearly demonstrated
Maciunass background in both graphic design and art history.
Like the iconic diagram by Museum of Modern Art founding director Alfred H. Barr
Jr., which traced the development of modern art on the dust jacket of the catalogue
for the 1936 exhibition Cubism and Abstract Art, Maciunass diagram was also highly
prescriptive. From this contemporary vantage point, the diagram presents a discursive code that arranges information in order that it may be more visible, while also
remaining dogmatic and potentially authoritarian. Maciunas grouped individual artists
under bold-faced category headings in a paradoxical attempt to schematize inherently
cross-disciplinary and inscrutable art practices. Fluxus, for example, was situated as a
subset of Neo-Haiku Theatre Events and was obliquely derived from equal parts of
Bauhaus Functionalism and Rationalism, Vaudeville, and Anti-Art, and then filtered through outlets such as mass-produced objects, films, publications, and events

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine

Figure 0.1
George Maciunas, Expanded Arts Diagram,
Film Culture, no. 43
(Winter 1966): 7. Anthology Film Archives


authored by a host of international artists including Ben Vautier, Per Kirkeby, and Paul
Sharits, among many others. Maciunas included a wide-reaching set of individuals,
listed alphabetically along the bottom axis of the diagram. The sheer volume of names
asserted the role of the artist as the agent of change, counter to Barrs and subsequently
modernist art historys characteristic concentration on movements and isms. By
eschewing geographic or nationalistic affinities between these artists, and instead organizing them by lived experiencesgroup exhibitions, screenings, events, and political
sensibilitiesMaciunass graphic may function not only as a diagram for Expanded
Arts, but also signal a more radical typology and sense of temporality for the organization of contemporary art in a manner similar to the way Barrs chart became analogous
with the principles of the study of modern art.
Most notably, the Expanded Arts Diagram segmented history along a compressed
timeline with only four segments: before 1959, 19591964, 19641966, and after 1966.
All previous incarnations of events combining live theater, film projection, dance,
and music ranging from collage, junk art, concretism, John Cage, church processions,
Futurist Theater, and Wagners Gesamtkunstwerk were decisively consigned to the category of past. While the information used to populate the diagram was obviously
well researched and deeply considered, it remains more anecdotal than empirical. This
trait, however, is exactly what makes the Expanded Arts Diagram a unique instrument
for calibrating our understanding of the uneven development of Expanded Cinema,
which derived its formal strategies from an eclectic range of sources including theater,
kinetic art, avant-garde film, and early computer graphics. Most telling is the fact that
Expanded Cinema was the only category with the descriptor expanded in its title.
Nowhere else on the chart does the word cinema surface. Theater, with its insistence on live presence and audience interaction, not film (independent, avant-garde,
or otherwise) was the dominant reference. Within Maciunass metrics, the year 1959
provided the baseline for Expanded Cinema. And it occupied a position between Happeningsthe semi-scripted yet improvised situations orchestrated by Allan Kaprow,
Claes Oldenburg, Robert Whitman, and Dick Higginsand what Maciunas labeled the
Kinesthetic Theatre work of choreographers Merce Cunningham and Anna Halprin.
The lone label ascribed to the year 1964 is Political Culture and its blank horizontal
line can be filled in by ones own associations with the social and political tensions
that defined that particular moment, including the signing of the Civil Rights Act in
the United States and the Gulf of Tonkin Incident in Vietnam. The year 1964 bisects
the vertical links defining Expanded Cinema as stemming from the world fairs and
Walt Disney Spectacles of the past and represented by the 1959 (then contemporary)
work of five individuals: California-based designers Charles and Ray Eames, filmmaker
and musicologist Harry Smith, Dream Machine creator Brion Gysin, and the multiscreen
projection work of artist Stan VanDerBeek.

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine

The constraints of the diagrams design system would have precluded Maciunas
from elevating one individual over another. In fact, the diversity of character represented by this eclectic selection shows the meaninglessness in attempting to synthesize Expanded Cinema and corroborates its heterogeneous nature. But this does not
mean Maciunas was not swayed by particular methods. Five years before designing
the diagram, Maciunas offered VanDerBeek a commission for his new venue, AG Gallery, located in Manhattan at 925 Madison Avenue.3 Maciunas invited VanDerBeek
to contribute some of his recent collage films to the gallerys first film show in 1961.4
Taken with the expansive openness of the venues uptown fancy address, VanDerBeek attempted his first multiscreen piece. The resulting five-minute assembly film
made from collage material and junk stuff was what VanDerBeek described as his
first environmental situation and was projected against three of the gallerys walls.
Entitled Visioniii (VanDerBeek added a letter i for each of the three walls), this work
established VanDerBeeks investment in treating multiscreen work as an assembly
and signaled his enthusiasm for disrupting the clear reception of his own 16 mm films
(which were often composed of animated collage sequences) by intercutting them with
found footage, borrowed narrative films, and projecting them alongside 35 mm slides
and drawings made on overhead projectors.
VanDerBeeks insistence on the use of assembly at this juncture remains significant. VanDerBeek was not mining the formal operations of modernist film or choosing to employ its burgeoning vocabulary. The perseverance of the terms assembly,
environment, and collage, evince VanDerBeeks alignment with neo-avant-garde
strategies that challenged the primacy of the canvas (not just cinema) and a deep commitment to exploring the disjunctive sensorial qualities generated within multimedia
presentations. More explicitly, VanDerBeeks well-established fondness for introducing
neologisms into the critical discourse (Expanded Cinema and Underground Film are
two important examples attributed to VanDerBeek) supports the value he placed on
deploying these types of specific descriptors.5 What remains significant is not the fact
that VanDerBeeks mixed-media filmic assemblies interwove disparate image sources,
but that these works also altered the durational qualities associated with these disparate
media forms. The result was that, at times, 16 mm film could take on the staccato pacing of 35 mm slides rotating around a projection carousel, and overhead transparencies could function as moving images when the sheets were manually slid across the
surface of a projection lamp. Like the later conceptual provocations ushered in by the
material heterogeneity of Robert Rauschenbergs combines, VanDerBeeks particular
type of media assembly should be cast within the same critical stakes for the historical
reconsideration of postwar paradigms, such as assemblage, that used found material to
wedge a space between modernist painting and sculpture.
The prosaic endpoint of the Expanded Arts Diagram is 1966. As the diagram makes
clear, it was simply the publication date of the Film Culture issue that resulted from


the New York Filmmakers Cinematheque Expanded Cinema film series. The future
remained curiously unplumbed. Prognosticating the social effects of a flux-centric culture was a frequent subject of Fluxus manifestos, poems, and events. And instead of
any type of hypothesis on Expanded Arts prospects, 1966 draws out like a continuous
extension of the present. And in many ways, this sense of continuity remains evocative
of how the 1960s more generally have come to define the present, or what constitutes
the category of the contemporary within art history, especially within the context of
the United States.
Many of the artists identified in the diagram who came to prominence in the 1960s
and whose prolific work has defined much of the discourse on contemporary art, most
notably Andy Warhol, Nam June Paik, and Robert Rauschenberg, combined a renewed
understanding of the strategies of the historical avant-garde with the periods introduction of technologies of transmission and reproduction in myriad ways, which have
been the subject of relentless analysis, reconsideration, and exhibition. The ongoing
and compelling work of other significant figures listed along the Expanded Arts axis,
especially that of Yvonne Rainer and Carolee Schneemann, draws from phenomenology, structuralism, and feminism in an effort to question the ethical and political
imperatives within contemporary art and Expanded Cinema. Aldo Tambellinis inclusion within this diagram points Expanded Cinemas recognition of a type of artists
television distinct from that defined by corporate broadcast standards.6 In addition to
highlighting the uneven reception and visibility of these artists work within contemporary art history, it is the range of contestation, differing methodological and political
approaches within Expanded Cinemas framework, that is key to its emergence in the
1960s. Above all, the fact that Expanded Cinema provoked and sustained these disparate practices is precisely the reason it remains a compelling model for mapping the
plurality of contemporary art practices that has developed in its wake.
The most idiosyncratic elements of the diagram are the connections or links that
Maciunas literally drew between the various groups or categories. Some were made
through specific individuals. George Brecht and Henry Flynt were two frequent nexus
points. Others were linked by a shared material sensibility, the use of junk or collage techniques, for example. The links joining Expanded Cinema to the rest of the
Expanded Arts categories were the three terms simultaneity, indeterminism, and
pseudotechnology, which I would argue have remained Expanded Cinemas most
potent and proleptic tags (figure 0.2).
These concepts precisely describe the ways in which the selected individuals worked.
Artists listed in the diagram often indiscriminately chose various media platforms to produce their works based on factors like access and portability; frequently switched back
and forth between different types of formats within a single work; and simultaneously
projected multiple images and sounds, obscuring their sources and points of origin. To
this extent, Expanded Cinema appears impervious to the ideological debates initiated

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine

Figure 0.2
George Maciunas, Expanded Arts Diagram, Film Culture, no. 43 (Winter 1966): 7. Detail. Anthology Film Archives

and advanced by Film Culture. Since its start in 1954 by the advocates of experimental
and structural film, the editorial direction of Film Culture often considered analog video,
broadcast television, and other forms of digital media in discrete terms anathema to
the ethos and aesthetics of independent cinema. In identifying pseudotechnology as
a key condition of Expanded Cinema (the term links Expanded Cinema in all directions on the diagram), Maciunas pointed to the complex relationship these artists had
with adapting the skills demanded by newer formats, communications, and computing technology. Whether intended as a critique or as a reference to how these artists
referred to technology in a self-styled, mock, or even fake manner, the insistence on the
descriptor pseudo underscored, or at least registered, a level of skepticism toward the
role of technology within this heady techno-utopian period. This suspicion represents a


break from the more overt optimism that usually accompanied the deployment of the
term during the mid-century.7 More importantly, these phrases also refer to a condition
or knowledge base rather than a specific type of device or equipment. That is to say,
instead of emphasizing the apparatus or means of image projection, Maciunass diagram
visually reminds us that Expanded Cinema was based on material, historical and political relationships and not a specific apparatus or type of media technology. And while
the primary focus of the Expanded Arts Diagram was on those networks (professional
and personal) circulating in Europe and North America, there is very little in a national
agenda or creed to unify these practices.8 And arguably, Expanded Cinemas network
typologybased on the relative mobility of individual artists rather than discrete artistic
centers or geographic nodesprovides a more accurate image of the relativeness of the
descriptor global when applied to the contemporary art world.
Network Aesthetics
While the rise of Expanded Cinema, in all of its various and international permutations, is concomitant with the availability of more portable electronic devices, including compact film cameras and cheaper editing equipment introduced in the 1960s, it
is not defined by those terms. The argument put forth here is that this paradigmatic
shift in postwar art production does not hinge on technological developments in film,
or more aptly, cinema, but on the introduction of network-based models of communication. These include the development of fiber-optic cable and satellite networks that
allowed for the real-time transmission of images over vast geographical distances. And
more specifically, Expanded Cinemas engagement with these emerging communication structures was not delivered through a rhetoric of revolution that would announce
the advent of video art a decade later, but in the more nuanced terms of a complex
social sphere in which art and technology intersect.9 The variable nature of Expanded
Cinemaunderstood here as artworks that employed multiple audio and visual projection sources in an intimate environmentchafed against object-based arts engagement with originality and singularity. Instead Expanded Cinema projects and events
prioritized the principles of collaboration and transparency of process in order to illuminate the broader media ecology within which these types of art works circulated.
More significantly, The Experience Machine demonstrates that emergence of Expanded
Cinema reflected visual arts adoption of the specific semantic codes and modalities
ushered in by cybernetics and systems theory. It is my aim to demonstrate that the
inherently differential practices within Expanded Cinema anticipated the types of network aestheticsincluding collective authorship, anonymity, agency, and mobility,
not to mention a proclivity for aping scientific discourse, or a type of pseudotechnologythat would come to occupy and define more recent iterations of contemporary
art, especially those associated with during the mid-1990s.

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine

The concept of a communication network within this context is most closely associated with the influential theories of Norbert Wiener, R. Buckminster Fuller, and Marshall McLuhan, whose writings began to filter out of academic departments and into
public discourse during late 1950s and early 1960s. This was also a moment when computers began to be employed not only for powerful calculations, but also as a means
to store, edit, and transmit data. More notably, the concept of a network also refers
to the introduction of the digital computer itself in art production during the same
period.10 Fuller, Wiener, and McLuhans provocative ideas about messages and computing machines both captivated and distressed VanDerBeek, who aligned emerging social
science theories with the humanist views on subjectivity imparted by his teachers at
Black Mountain College, especially John Cage and the poet, potter, philosopher, and
translator M. C. Richards.11
Addressing the rise of the neo-avant-garde in the United States only obliquely, The
Experience Machine is not invested in presenting Expanded Cinema as a counter-history
to the more established narratives of postwar art history. Instead Expanded Cinema
should be viewed as a close counterpart to the media art experiments that exploded in
New York in the late 1950s and early 1960s, including Fluxus, Happenings, and Judson
Church performances. These intersecting nodes on the same diagram are indicative
of a shared sense of porosity or openness to alternative means of exhibiting and circulating works of art and the adaptation of emerging media within existing visual art
traditions. More urgently, this book is an attempt to recast the historical and critical
stakes of visual arts broader engagement with the aesthetic and political ramifications
of technological change. That is to say, rather than seeing art and technology as a subset of neo-avant-garde aesthetics, this book demonstrates how these experimental art
practices can be reframed as part of the broader cultural impact of media technology in
the postwar period.12 To do so, The Experience Machine offers an interpretive framework
that does treat new media as the convergence of cinema and computing histories. The
Movie-Drome and VanDerBeeks Expanded Cinema were not the result of the convergence of film and computer technology, but a critical means advanced by the artist to
suggest that visual art offered an important vantage point from which to assess the
wider cultural impact of a rising computing economy.
I want to suggest that equally as important as the adoption of new media technology was for Expanded Cinemas proponents were the considerable changes made to the
overall conception of what constituted an art audience.13 This is a reference to the onsite audiences gathered in the ad hoc screening and exhibition spaces dotting New York
Citys experimental art scene that became the setting for some of Expanded Cinemas
most noted agitprop performances. Rather than a full-tilt visual spectacle, many of these
decidedly low-tech and lo-fi events were exercises in patience and strained listening. In
addition, a secondary mediated audience experienced Expanded Cinema works in an
altogether different locale from the venues of the performances or screenings. Mediation


occurred not only through standard forms of print and photographic documentation,
but also through the transmission of events via telefax, telephone, video, and closedcircuit television. In this manner, Expanded Cinema complicated the notion of what it
meant to be present even before the advent of the discourse on presence ushered in by
the Internet and the platforms it supports for real-time connectivity.14 The remaining
documentation of these types of Expanded Cinema events suggests a third, historical
audience, comprising not only scholars and researchers, but also curators, artists, archivists, and festival programmers. Attempting to reconstitute Expanded Cinemas highly
subjective activities for exhibitions and catalogues, interpretations are frequently based
on a single grainy photograph, not because it is definitive or even accurate, but merely
because it has been recirculated within the nascent literature. To a large degree, the
history of Expanded Cinema has therefore, been based on the interpretations of static
images that have come to stand in for more intentionally itinerant and flexible events.15
While politics, perception, and personal relationships have all been transformed
by the dominant computing economy and its transition, or rather, its constant toggling between analog and digital media, The Experience Machine tests the prevailing
notion that media change has been sudden and definitive, even revolutionary. More
explicitly, it responds to the call for a pragmatic and historically informed perspective
that maps a sensible ground between the euphoria and panic surrounding new media
made by David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins, and counters the assumption that the
turn toward computer-based media forms rapidly displaced older or communication
systems.16 Instead, The Experience Machine advances the idea of an accretive model of
change. Within the history of Expanded Cinema, we will see media change as slow,
clumsy, and subject to technical difficulties. And more significantly, the measure of
transformation is not so much about technological advancements in image projection
as it is about how Expanded Cinema engendered a particular type of collective audience akin to what Susan Buck-Morss has referred to as solidarity among strangers.17
Within the trajectory of contemporary visual art, I would argue, this type of collective audience occupies the position between the singular modernist viewing subject of
abstract film and painting and the dispersed, atomized audience of broadcast television
and the Internet. And it highlights the types of technologically connected, yet isolated
audiences (including the often ignored racial and class disparities) of the use of more
recent forms of mobile or social media within contemporary art.
The Experience Machine: Ways and Means
Wary of taking a monolithic approach toward the notion of media change that cuts
across eras or cultures writ large, The Experience Machine considers the subject from a
specific vantage point. It is a monograph in the most literal sense, taking as its subject
a singular object that is considered an icon of Expanded Cinema: a conceptual theater

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine


called the Movie-Drome created by New Yorkbased artist Stan VanDerBeek around 1965
and unveiled at the 1966 New York Film Festival. It presents the particular view of postwar art afforded by a modest DIY structure that was built on the wooded slope of an
artists cooperative yet also situated squarely within the complicated milieu of the civil
rights movement, the Vietnam War, the rhetoric of the space age, and the American
computing industrial complex. Through a close examination of Movie-Dromes formal
traits and using an interpretive method of analyzing VanDerBeeks films, drawings, collages, photographs, and writings, The Experience Machine suggests that Expanded Cinema attempted to address broader political systems of distribution, social regulation,
and the mechanization of information. Instead of deploying the visual effects of film
and computer graphics as a tool for escapist entertainment, Movie-Drome represented
VanDerBeeks reaction against the alienating impulse of computer and telecommunications technology. Movie-Dromes aim was to heighten social awareness through a variety
of methods rather than isolating viewers from existing political conditions. Conveying
his signature satirical approach to art making, VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome registered
specific dystopian cultural conditions largely ignored by Andy Warhol, Marshall McLuhan, and other media visionaries of the 1960s who figure more prominently within
the history of new media and contemporary art.
Although Movie-Drome shares many formal and viewing traits with other forms of
mass visual entertainment, it did not develop out of the genealogy of cinematic devices
that would link the field of Expanded Cinema to the history of widescreen theaters.
Movie-Drome functioned as a communication tool, or in VanDerBeeks own words, an
experience machine.18 The thirty-one-foot-high metal dome structure VanDerBeek
built on the Land, an artists co-op outside Manhattan, was a prototype for an unrealized communications system in which several Dromesor interfaceswould be positioned throughout the world, each linked to an orbiting satellite that would store and
transmit images between various sites. Deviating from the prevailing industrial-based
model of art production, in which artists adopted commercial fabrication techniques,
Movie-Dromes emphasis on two-way communication and the treatment of images as
variable data reflected a telecommunications model for art production demonstrative
of the larger transformation from a mechanical to an information age within the 1960s.
In this manner, the Movie-Drome is intended to function in The Experience Machine as
a critical nexusan anecdotal diagramilluminating a set of relations with other more
established postwar visual art paradigms; connecting Expanded Cinema to the thenburgeoning discourse on media art; and presaging many of the conceptual issues currently preoccupying the field of new media. Finally, by providing a slight rural detour
from the decidedly urban background against which so much of art historical writing
on the neo-avant-garde figures, this monograph may then serve as an opening to other
contemporaneous aesthetic genealogies that map the intricate relationship between art
and technology in the postwar period.


Simultaneously, The Experience Machine is the first in-depth study of the work and
impact of American artist Stan VanDerBeek. Expanded Cinema was an international
and inherently inchoate enterprise with diverging theories and applications. These
range from Vienna-based VALIE EXPORTs ground-breaking feminist Street Aktions
in the early 1960s and her continued tactical media projects, to the more structural
discourse emanating from the London Film-Makers Co-operative, as represented by
the ongoing work and writing of Malcolm Le Grice.19 Moreover, Birgit Heins important XSCREEN series and the publication of her book, Film im Underground (1971),
which deftly parsed the differences between narrative and political film, remains one
of Expanded Cinemas most vital resources. Methodologically, however, the coverage
of Expanded Cinema in this book has been consciously limited to the historical record
mapped by VanDerBeeks own enterprise. VanDerBeeks papers, diaries, notes, select
projects, and the materials about the cultural contexts in which they appear are used
to illuminate one another.
The scholarship seizes on the advantages of an experimental artists practice to analyze a particular strain of Expanded Cinema within the ethos of emerging communication theories in the United States between the 1950s and 1970s. Incorporating
documentation from the artists catalogued archive and previously unpublished material, this study provides an introduction to this influential artists work and investigates
VanDerBeeks strategies for art production based on the type of close reading, archival
research, and recognition of material culture that the discipline of art history offers.
The stakes of The Experience Machine are therefore grounded in the need to provide
a narrative of Expanded Cinema that is based in the historical debates and theories
that emerged in concert with a new set of visual practices and an attempt (admittedly
not always successful) commensurate with VanDerBeeks poignancy, humor, and satire.
The Experience Machine does not offer a definitive reading on all aspects of this artists
varied output, but takes the form of open scholarship, letting readers draw their own
conclusions about the many contradictory moments of this period, and enabling the
archival research that buttresses the individual chapters in this book to remain relevant
for the debates and discussions to come.
Dispelling Archetypes
While VanDerBeeks multimedia installations, film events, collages, murals, drawings, and visual essays extrapolated from the disciplines of painting, photography and
architecture, his work never completely adhered to any medias particular orthodoxy.
Instead, the artist displayed an indefatigable aptitude for experimenting with emerging forms of communication technology and computer-based media. Besides various
types of programming, VanDerBeeks work made use of novel devices such as lasers,
light pens, video recording and editing equipment, and most prominently, image

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine


transmission technology, including proto-fax machines, television broadcast, and digital video.
VanDerBeek also engaged in collaborative multimedia projects during the 1960s,
which frequently brought him together with other artists experimenting with film and
performance, such as Claes Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras, Yvonne Rainer, Carolee Schneemann, and Robert Morris. Simultaneously, VanDerBeeks interest in digital media and
computers led him to seek out the expertise of those directly shaping these fields,
including Ken Knowlton. Trained as a physicist, Knowlton started out in the Computer Techniques Research Department at Bell Labs in 1962, where he developed several innovative computer graphic programming languages including BEFLIX, which
VanDerBeek used to create the Poemfield animation series starting in 1964. Indicative
of VanDerBeeks collaborative media art experiments, his work from this moment into
to the early 1980s continued to incorporate computer graphics as well as novel uses
of audio and visual projection systems, planetariums, digital image processing, and
presaged visual arts current preoccupation on architecturally scaled video and film
installation. VanDerBeeks reliance on large computer processing facilities and editing
equipment necessitated his affiliation with universities rather than galleries. Throughout the 1970s and until his death in 1984 (due to complications from stomach cancer),
he held a variety of professorships and residencies in universities and public television
studios, which facilitated his prolific output.
While VanDerBeek occupied a prominent role in the New York neo-avant-garde, the
current scholarly literature is exclusively concentrated on VanDerBeeks celebrated single-authored films with little discussion devoted to his decidedly mixed-media enterprise.20 The Experience Machine does not treat VanDerBeeks film oeuvre in detail, nor
does it evoke established film theories to unpack VanDerBeeks rich and varied celluloid
output. What is of concern here is the new relationship to images (filmic and otherwise) that occurs within the context of visual art.21 The focus on authorship also drives
the more recent reception of his work within the field of contemporary art. The 2011
exhibition Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom, organized by the MIT List Center for
Visual Art and the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, presented the first museum
survey of the artists work. The exhibitions narrative, like many exhibitions focused on
the 1960s and 1970s (what is quickly becoming the high period of contemporary art
history), was based on rediscovering a lost visionary, as it chronicled his early student
paintings to the broadcast experiments he orchestrated as a resident at MITs Center for
Advanced Visual Studies between 1969 and 1971.22 This recuperative narrative trope
has become habitual for a contemporary art world that traffics in the obsolete, where a
premium is placed on recovering the seemingly forgotten or overlooked.23 And though
the commercial market has yet to fully absorb VanDerBeeks work or estate, his recognition can be measured through the vital range of his artist colleagueswhich includes
Allan Kaprow, Dan Graham, and Paul McCarthywith whom he was in dialogue either
directly or by proxy through group exhibitions and other events.


However entrenched VanDerBeek was in the discourse and language of visual art, he
clearly intended to push the discussion outside of what he considered its limited purview into the broader cultural framework of the period. The result would be the advent
of another purely VanDerBeekian idiom, Culture: Intercom, a conceptual term that
referred to his long-standing commitment to treating moving image works as interchangeable and infinitely variable media that could be stored, transferred, circulated
among a variety of venues, and shared among the broadest possible swath of audience.24 More significantly, this book asserts that VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome pointed to
the notion of a programmable interface that could accommodate various media and
execute a variety of operations based on instructions set by the artist, reflecting the
basic traits associated with computer programming rather than any formal concerns of
Structural or experimental film. Therefore, the argument advanced here is that VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome should be read as neither a film-specific medium nor a type of
technology, but rather as an apparatus that functioned as a means and a place for interaction: an interface, a term introduced by Marshall McLuhan in 1962.25 Operationally,
an interface is an apparatus designed to connect two different or distinct systems so
they can be operated jointly, thus generating a point of exchange. But fundamentally
speaking, interfaces connect individuals. While interfaces as a concept may be more
compatible with the arguments that surround formats such as video, television, and
digital computing, their application and the possible reconsideration of Expanded Cinema and contemporary art practices that follows have yet to be fully realized.
The first chapter, Prototyping Participation: Movie-Dromes Critical Reception
within Expanded Cinema starts by taking a field trip of sorts. The first stop takes place
at Lincoln Centers auditorium during the Fourth New York Film Festival in September 1966, where discordant voices clashed during a provocative panel on the nascent
field of Expanded Cinema. In this context, which is outlined in the Expanded Arts
Diagram, VanDerBeek became a quasi-spokesperson for Expanded Cinema, articulating
the equivocal and searching tone of its practitioners. More importantly, these forgotten
recordings and unpublished reports generated by nonacademic symposia and artists
talks provide a new level of historical specificity for Expanded Cinema, which has been
subject to generalizations and anachronistic theorizations.
Moving from the broader constellation of Expanded Cinema, chapter two, Critical Limits: Vision 65 and Black Mountain College, presents the literal nuts and bolts
of how VanDerBeek constructed the prototype in Stony Point, New York. Drawing on
photographs taken throughout the Dromes various building phases between 1962 and
1966, construction plans, and VanDerBeeks diffuse notes documenting his various
ideas for the Drome, a portrait of the theater as a conceptual apparatus, or Experience
Machine, takes shape. The chapter begins with the back side of VanDerBeeks conference registration pamphlet for Vision 65, an international graphic arts conference
staged in Carbondale, Illinois, in the fall of 1965, where VanDerBeek, Buckminster

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine


Fuller, and Marshall McLuhan were keynote speakers. The Dromes construction is
linked to VanDerBeeks pedagogical experiences studying painting and architecture at
Black Mountain College.
Chapter three, Visual Velocity: Movie-Drome and Immersive Subjectivity, offers an
analysis of how the perceptual conditions of the Movie-Drome engendered an immersive subject by prioritizing multisensory experience over concerns exclusive to visual
representation (mimesis or depiction). Groups of viewers inside the domed space of
the Movie-Drome were bombarded with a seemingly endless stream of sounds and
images, what VanDerBeek referred to as a visual velocity. On-the-spot illustrations
(projected through overhead projectors while being drawn) and roving lights were
superimposed over a montage of stock newsreel footage and found films. The Dromes
interior space pulsated with the multidirectional movement of the projectors (affixed
to a turntable or wheeled carts) and the distortion of mixed sounds and voices emanating from unspecified sources. Chapter three considers how immersion within the
context of Movie-Drome reinforces communications scholar Alison Griffithss claim that
the spatial relations in immersive viewing practices are often more complex, chaotic,
and improvised than in theaters, planetariums, and other traditional venues.26 And as
art historian Oliver Grau writes, even though the concept appears somewhat opaque
and contradictory, immersion is undoubtedly key to any understanding of the development of media, and I would argue that it is a concept integral to early Expanded
The fourth chapter, Paradigms of Display: Art as Information Arrangement, draws
parallels between the particular display strategies orchestrated within the Movie-Drome
to Michel Foucaults description of how spatial concerns operate within technological space. In his 1967 essay Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, Foucault
registered technological space not as material form, but as an arrangement of stored
information characterized by the circulation of discrete elements to random outlets.28
Within Expanded Cinema in general, the arrangement of stored information is read
as the various strategies that were employed at different moments throughout history to contend with the changing demands for staging visual and performing art. In
particular, the arrangement of information is applied to museum exhibition design
innovations and the configuration of temporary structures built to house worlds fairs
and international expositions, as well as the element of scalability added to live performance venues so that one space could be altered to accommodate events ranging
from intimate to arena scale. The specific conditions for viewing and moving through
these various types of spatial configurations that structure Expanded Cinema in general, and Movie-Drome in particular, are presented in comparison to three paradigmatic
precedents: the arrangement of paintings in an eighteenth-century European salon,
El Lissitzkys Cabinet of Abstract Art from 1926, and Frederick Kieslers 1924 Spatial
Theater [Raumbhne]. The specific display techniques articulated by the Movie-Drome


are compared to the display strategies found in other contemporaneously developing

models of Expanded Cinema.
The following chapter, Words within Words: The Poetics of Computer-Generated
Film, offers a close reading of a subset of VanDerBeeks computer-generated films produced expressly for the Movie-Drome. Entitled Poemfield No. 1No. 8, each animated
16 mm film in the series offered a ten-minute formal treatise on language and movement. Taken as a whole, Poemfields melded the syntax of concrete poetry with the
programming mechanics of early computing to generate a new type of animation that
presented poetry in cinematic time. Ultimately, Poemfields functions as an aesthetic
fulcrum demonstrating how animation can turn from the purely formal operations of
abstract film and painting toward a more conceptually driven artistic practice.
Instead of capturing images with a camera, the computer became, in VanDerBeeks
terms, an abstract notation system for making movies; and the artist conceived of
film as raw data for image storage and retrieval systems, rather than a singular work
of art.29 This reconsideration, VanDerBeek noted, opens a door for a kind of mental
attitude of movie-making. The artist is no longer restricted to the exact execution of the
form. The graphical text-based images generated by subroutines and punch cards in
Poemfields introduced a variable notation system for making films that employed powerful paradigms intrinsic to media art practices of the 1960s and 1970s, such as seriality,
modularity, and variability. The concluding chapter, Diagrams to Networks: Expanded
Cinema and Contemporary Art focuses on the satellite-networked component of the
project and articulates VanDerBeeks unique interest in telecommunications and computer processing as a future model for art production. The Experience Machine closes by
looping back to the initial starting point of the study, the 1966 New York Film Festival
and the inspiration for the publication of the Expanded Arts Diagram in Film Culture.
In addition to publicly unveiling the Movie-Drome, the Fourth New York Film Festival
was also the event where Annette Michelson first delivered her signal essay Film and
the Radical Aspiration, in which she dissected the state of American film culture and
weighed in on its unlikely prospect of remaining an avant-garde art form. Although
the political backdrop to Michelsons talk was an imperialist war in Southeast Asia,
her critical acuity resonates deeply at this moment. It is precisely Expanded Cinemas
own deep imbrication with government agencies, corporate sponsorship, and the culture industry at large that makes this particular postwar art phenomenon a compelling
model of new media arts complex relationship with spectacle culture, consumerism,
and technology.
VanDerBeeks focus on media feedback mechanisms throughout the 1970s moved
beyond the novelty of using real-time communication devices or live satellite feeds to
initiate international dialogues between artists and citizens. Core to the development
of VanDerBeeks own media pedagogy was the notion that visual art itself was a direct
form of communication, its own feedback mechanism. In 1975 when he joined the

Movie-Drome: An Experience Machine


art faculty at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (where he lived with his
second wife, Louise, and their children Julia, Sara, and Johannes), he quickly became
disillusioned with how quickly the advancement of communication technology outstripped his students abilities to articulate any sense of creative agency. In a 1982
article on media art and pedagogy published shortly before his death, he outlined his
ideal arts program as a type of corrective that would stress research as well as performancewhere past artistic achievements and future utilizations of technology would
be examined so that students create ideas to change the cultural environment.30 An
artist, in VanDerBeeks estimation, has an ethical imperative to consider the question
of how it is that we absorb the world around us, and to offer possibilities for modeling
that irrevocably fragmentary experience. In this manner, VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome
offered a radical reformulation of subjectivity as an accretive process, in what could be
considered in his own terms a collage experience where you take and reshape.

1 Prototyping Participation: Movie-Dromes Critical Reception within

Expanded Cinema

Stan VanDerBeek set off a chain of associations when he responded to a request from
the Metropolitan Museum Curator of American Art, Henry Geldzahler, to define the
term Expanded Cinema at the 1966 New York Film Festival symposium panel dedicated
to the topic. In his typical run-on style of speaking, VanDerBeek said, When we talk
about Expanded Cinema, were really just talking about the metaphor of man who is
really multi-man who wants to draw in or soak up all that is in our culture, all that is
potentially within our grasp and somehow massage it, or use it, and give it back to us.1
VanDerBeeks ideas for absorbing and processing contemporary visual culture had been
substantiated just a few days earlier during the New York Film Festival-sponsored trip to
his house and studio. The studio was part of the Gate Hill Artists Cooperative in Stony
Point, located in rural Rockland County, New York. A hand-sketched map circulated by
VanDerBeek indicated the co-ops relatively remote location, with the northern most
tip of Manhattan being the last discernable signpost (figure 1.1). In addition to his
fellow New York Film Festival participants and other esteemed experimental filmmakers, including Shirley Clarke, Ed Emshwiller, and Agns Varda, the draw for stalwart
scholars including Annette Michelson and celebrities such as Andy Warhol to board a
chartered bus for a thirty-five-mile trip was to experience what Geldzahler described as
the unveiling of VanDerBeeks recently constructed prototype for his Movie-Drome.
The Movie-Drome functioned in a generative capacity for the primary audience of
festival participants who made the field trip to the home and dome. VanDerBeeks
explication of the Movie-Dromes conceptual basis as an experience machine designed
to absorb, process, and recirculate cultural phenomena undergirded his definition of
Expanded Cinema. His prolific use of the expression in grant applications, artists statements, publications, and public panels throughout the early 1960s helped to establish
VanDerBeek as the originator of the phrase Expanded Cinema within the critical
literature.2 While the discussion initiated by the panel at the film festival did not
introduce the term, it certainly elevated Expanded Cinemas profile and made VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome synonymous with its American context. Subsequently, through the
projects broader public and critical elaboration, the Movie-Drome turned the rangy,


Chapter 1

Figure 1.1
Directions from Manhattan to Gate Hill Co-op, site of the Movie-Drome drawn and circulated by
VanDerBeek for the Fourth New York Film Festival, 1966.

Prototyping Participation


sandy-haired artist into a mouthpiece of sorts for the subjective multimedia practices
that coalesced under the loose rubric of Expanded Cinema. In the words of Newsweek
reporter Fran Heller, for example:
The bright 200-seat auditorium of the Museum of the Performing Arts at Lincoln Center is not
exactly the Cinematheque or a Movie-Drome, but it was the place chosen to house the Independent Cinema program for this years New York Film Festival, the two-week home for all of the
new intellectualisms intermedia, kinetic environment, mixed-media, Expanded Cinema,
the new idioms of the Underground.3

Hellers chronicle of the festival colorfully described the audience:

filled to capacity with the young people that have been the most ardent sponsors of the Independent cinema in America. The average age was about 25 and the average dress was the casual,
mini-skirted, blue jeaned [sic], longhaired, sandaled garb that is fashionable today. There were,
however, some three-piece suits, coats and ties among the crowds, but even these people looked
more the interested intellectual types.4

In her unpublished notes for the Newsweek review, Heller made the observation that
if the unconscious dress of the audience was at home with the events, their wellinformed, aware, and articulate questions asked at the end of the screenings were also
This same engaged audience of suited and mini-skirted students, filmmakers, artists,
and writers sat listening to Geldzahler moderate the discussion between VanDerBeek,
critic John Gruen, author of The New Bohemia: The Combine Generation, and New Yorkbased artists Robert Whitman and Ken Dewey as they debated the relative merits and
criteria of Expanded Cinema.6 Throughout the afternoon each panelist proffered his
own pliable definition by describing recent projects involving multiple screen projection, film dance, moving slides, handheld projectors, video projections, and light
and sound experiments. Among the dissonant opinions, VanDerBeeks voice in particular expressed the enthusiasm rippling through this young and committed set of
intellectual types gathered at Lincoln Center and the nascent field at large. More significantly, his effusive manner of speech reflected the struggle by Expanded Cinemas
practitioners to articulate the visual grammar for a not-yet fully formed language. The
casual tone of the panel discussion echoed the loose development of Expanded Cinema
itself, which took shape in the United States through a variable set of media practices
defined by informal exchanges rather than fixed formal criteria.
My key aim here is to argue that VanDerBeeks interest in coining this new term points to
durational medias incommensurability with the more established genres of visual art.
And more importantly, the deployment of the term Expanded Cinema itself was not so
much an effort to delimit a particular aesthetic, style, or territory. Instead its inherent
variability could accommodate a range of practices that often remained contradictory


Chapter 1

even within the relatively small circle of artists operating in North America and distinct from how the term was used concurrently in Austria, Germany, and the United
Kingdom. Expanded Cinemas intrinsically differential qualities have contributed to
the tendency within current scholarship to condense a purposefully messy enterprise
into a series of seemingly complete examples or recognized case studies, which delinks
the artworks from the material and cultural conditions that informed their uneven
development and reception. My return to the debates about the term through archival
research (diagrams, photographs, period accounts, and transcripts) is not an effort to
present a corrective to a historical record that will continue to be incomplete and distorted. Rather it reflects a point of methodological distinction. First, by its very nature,
archival research is subject to the same processes and habits of interpretation, ascribing
intentionality to documentation as a means of establishing authorship. Within the category of Expanded Cinema, one cannot trace a linear progression from a stable point of
origin and insist on disciplinary specificity.7 Efforts to construct a critical discourse for
Expanded Cinema remain an essentially interdisciplinary enterprise. And in this case,
an endeavor to unpack the cultural and material forces that made Expanded Cinema
an enticing enterprise for artists at the exact moment when the provocations ushered
in by minimalism, conceptualism, and performance were all engaged in upending the
reception models for contemporary art. Secondly, focusing on the descriptors generated by the artists themselves helps to distinguish the period-specific debates from the
discourse surrounding more recent large-scale, multiscreen projection. Frequently and
somewhat arbitrarily referred to as moving image arts and artists cinema (though rarely
by the artists themselves), these architecturally scaled cinematic forms include celluloid film installations, multichannel digital video projections, sculptural film objects,
and computer screen installations that connect to web-based projects. Typically, these
types of contemporary art works place an emphasis on media (both in digital and
analog formats) as technologies of projection and have become pervasive within the
context of international biennials and exhibitions largely because it is now technically
and financially more feasible to erect these types of spectacular installations.8
Film without Cinema
Discussion throughout the Fourth New York Film Festival panel on Expanded Cinema
detailed the range of editing techniques and film genres drawn into these types of multimedia works, which spanned from abstract to figurative forms, fantasy to documentary,
and included all available projection equipment, such as slide, overhead, and various
gauge film projectors. In addition, multipleand often mobilescreens were used in
combination with live dance, music, and theatrical staging. This fluidity led Geldzahler
to remark, The nice thing about the topic Expanded Cinema is that it makes everybody feel like hes talking about his own work.9 Even the validity of the term itself was

Prototyping Participation


up for debate as the artists interchangeably used many of the new descriptors coined
during this period: New Cinema (Gregory Battcock), Theater of Mixed Means (Richard
Kostelanetz), Environmental Theater (Michael Kirby), Intermedia (Dick Higgins), Combine Generation Art (Ken Dewey), Space Theatre (Milton Cohen and ONCE Group),10
Filmstage (Robert Blossom), and Cinema Combine (Sheldon Renan).
The profusion of monikers given to the various multimedia events that erupted in
the 1960s and 1970s indicates the need for altogether different strategies for building a critical discourse. Expanded Cinema can be read as an expressive manifestation
within the overarching trajectory of the framework of the historical European avantgarde that includes Futurism, Dada, and the pedagogy advanced by the Bauhaus. This
is evidenced by the tendency to direct attention toward the quotidian, an inclination
for spontaneous actions, a proclivity for mixing media, and the conviction that art production is a means for taking a politically critical stance. In equal measure, Expanded
Cinemas disruption of the conventions and standards for spectatorship and medium
specificity also reflected avant-garde strategies of negation, absurdity, and failure as a
counter to normative social conditions.
However, an emphasis on multimedia and multisensory reception displaces the
conventional notion of a continuous lineage with the historical avant-garde and the
Western visual tradition more broadly defined. Typically, this lineage traces classical
mimetic representation from the camera obscura (both the apparatus and ideology of
vision) through Renaissance perspective onward to modernisms regime of vision and
the establishment of a cinematic avant-garde.11 Expanded Cinemas incorporation of
the communication theory that was developing in the 1950s and 1960s epistemologically shifted these types of multimedia practices away from the history of avant-garde
film.12 More significantly, it suggests more convoluted pathways for film and video
beyond merely functioning as newer media within the context of 1960s art production.
Beyond thinking of video or film as a material substrate that supports an image, video
and film instead introduce altogether different forms, such as the loop, as well as audience models, such as feedback and two-way communication. This transition occurred
at a moment when broadcast television, cable, and even satellite transmissions were
all considered viable outlets for visual artists to experiment, tamper, and, often times,
spectacularly fail with, all the while engaging in a generative model of art production.
Typically, treatments of Expanded Cinema have been almost exclusively situated
within the discourse on film history, which has provided an apt context to consider
its relation to the art of film and filmmaking. Rudolf Arnheims early account, Film als
Kunst (1933) (translated from the German as Film as Art, 1957), established the precedent for the treatment of film as an artistic medium alongside painting, music, literature, and dance.13 In this pivotal text, Arnheim established that the qualities that made
film an art form derived from the very specific limitations of filmic representation,
which he identified as the projection of solids upon a plane surface, the reduction of


Chapter 1

depth, lighting and the absence of color, the limitations of the frame and distance from
the object, the absence of the space-time continuum, and the absence of the nonvisual
world of the senses.14 While Arnheim was clearly addressing silent film in this early
iteration of his essay, his texts influence on experimental film history is unassailable. It
also led to Arnheim being invited to address the previous years New York Film Festival
in a talk he titled Art Today and the Film.15
However, Expanded Cinema cannot be limited to the context of film history. By
examining several parallel histories that are formed and circulated in correspondence,
if not in conjunction, with one another within an actively unfolding media culture,
my aim is not to embrace the illusion of comprehensiveness in providing a survey or
chronology of Expanded Cinema. Rather, by identifying key points or nodes within
the diverse historical and cultural contexts of the 1960s, Expanded Cinemas wider
diagram becomes more visible. To this end, researching the Movie-Drome is less focused
on recovering a seemingly lost or failed work, and more about identifying a recursive
structure that manifests the various types of Expanded Cinema practices that emerged
in this period. These include multimedia performance events, projects that formally
interrogate the apparatus of spectatorship, explorations of emerging media and computer technology, and temporary multimedia festivals and events. Moreover, a focused
historical account of the development of the Movie-Drome makes evident that what is at
issue is not the dissipation of the medium specificity of film within Expanded Cinema,
but the introduction of a multimedia subjectivity and a changing conception of the
audience from the unified spectator to a dispersed collective that no longer typified the
standard viewing habits as conditioned by museums, galleries, or other institutions for
the dissemination of art.
A Field Trip
Though unfinished, the Movie-Dromes unveiling garnered national media coverage.
Reporter Fran Heller noted, [John] Brockman, [managing director of the Filmmakers Cinematheque] arranged a series of showings and discussions, the high point of
which was a bus outing to the Movie-Drome at Stony Point, where 36-year old filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek lives and works.16 The Lincoln Centersponsored bus trip to
the Movie-Drome included a mix of press, curators, and what Heller labeled the New
York City film core, explaining why this seemingly brief event would be covered in
multiple media outlets. It made stops at the studio of Robert Breer in Palisades, New
Jersey, and included a visit to the communal home/church of USCO (US Company), an
art collective that included Gerd Stern, Steve Durkee, and Jud Yalkut, and was located
in Garnerville, New York. In many ways this trip up the Palisades Parkway revealed
several of Expanded Cinemas broader predilections. Breers experiments in animation
techniques, for example, moved away from abstract films that showcased his detailed

Prototyping Participation


line drawings and live action sequences, such as A Man and His Dog Out for Air (1957),
toward his subtly animated or kinetic sculptures that he made in the 1970s. Most notably, these include the almost imperceptibly moving human-scale geode sculptures
that stood outside of the Pepsi Pavilion at Expo 70 in Osaka. Never abandoning film
entirely, both his film and sculptural enterprises demonstrated Breers concern with
movement, composition, and spatial perception in the viewer. At the opposite end
of this Expanded Cinema spectrum, USCOs various experiments in collective living
and art making mined the vernacular of business entrepreneurship, Eastern mysticism,
religious organizations, psychology, psychedelics, and cybernetic theory alike. In the
end these divergent interests were too difficult to sustain and USCOs collective splintered off into two different enterprises: Intermedia Systems Corporation, and the Lama
Foundation, a spiritual community based in New Mexico.17
In addition to local papers and national news outlets such as Newsweek, the visit
to the Movie-Drome was also covered in both Film Culture and the Village Voice, which
published photographs capturing the relaxed field trip atmosphere of the September afternoon, including an image of Clarke and Emshwiller laughing on the bus. A
range of visitors sitting on scraps of building materials with the Movie-Drome in profile
substantiated the Newsweek report that the structure was hastily finished with little
time left for cleaning up. Additional images focused on specific visitors, such as Andy
Warhol shown with a coffee cup and newspaper in hand leaning on a sled, or Warhol, Paul Morrissey, and Shirley Clarke skipping along the grounds of Gate Hill Co-op
around the Movie-Drome. Complementing these relatively candid images were the more
expected staged interior views of the Drome, including photographs featuring VanDerBeek manipulating projection equipment. Another photo underscored the diverse
audience drawn to Stony Point showing young children scaling the exterior of the
Movie-Drome in the background while Warhol in dark sunglasses, Dewey, VanDerBeek,
and Michelson held court in the foreground below (figure 1.2).
While the 1966 New York Film Festival presented an opportunity for a public unveiling, VanDerBeek actually conceived the Drome project in the late 1950s, as articulated
in a series of journal entries and notes. A prototype began taking form in earnest
between 1962 and 1964 (figure 1.3). Though he was an associate professor at Columbia
University from 1963 to 1965, teaching animation and film production, VanDerBeek
scrambled under the most penurious conditions, spending two years cobbling together
various financial and equipment sources. As a polymath artist, VanDerBeeks practice
remained too diffuse for the programmatic approach most galleries cultivated (even
those dealers that purported to support experimental art quickly settled into the routine practice of relying on the sales of painting and sculpture). So what was an artist
whose primary output remained variable, reproducible, inherently collaborative, and
dependent on proprietary software and equipment, to do? Finding a curve, was how
VanDerBeek described his working methods.


Chapter 1

Figure 1.2
New York Film Festival tour of the Movie-Drome. Left: Ken Dewey and Fred Wellington. Center:
Stan VanDerBeek. Center rear: Andy Warhol. Right: Annette Michelson. Photograph by Elliot
Landy. Anthology Film Archives
I always find it amusing to hear artists talk about not compromising. I mean in what world? You
always have to deal with certain kinds of inherent contradictions. Youre not compromising, but
youre finding a curve.

The range of institutions that VanDerBeek worked with and the variety of professional roles that he occupied corroborates his description of the need to navigate various pathways to find support. These included being a research fellow and the recipient
of grants and residencies, alongside sponsorship from cultural, government, and corporate entities. VanDerBeeks own method of finding a curve between the art world,
academia, and corporate and government agencies draws needed attention to the fact
that a civic arena for art was on the rise in the 1960s.19 It is within this context of
burgeoning state-funded arts councils, such as the New York State Council for the Arts
and the National Endowment for the Arts (established in 1960 and 1965 respectively),
that VanDerBeek directed many of his efforts for funding. More significantly, the recognition of a civic arena for arts funding in the 1960s triangulates the dichotomous

Prototyping Participation

Figure 1.3
Stan VanDerBeek inside the Movie-Drome c. 1965.



Chapter 1

relationship that has been typically drawn within contemporary art between the commercial art market (i.e., galleries) and the academy as being the only two designated
spheres of economic support that artists could chose to be affiliated or based.20
Throughout his entire career, VanDerBeek continually sought out and responded to
an extraordinary range of requests to show his work within decidedly nonart institutions and contexts, including the United States Military Academy at West Point, the
United States Department of State Art in Embassies program, United States Information
Agency, the BBC, and NASA. Government interest in the work of experimental artists
during the 1960s until the recession of the 1970s was not altruistic, but rather a strategic means of building cultural capital abroad combined with specific programmatic
aims domestically. Artists were certainly aware of the potential for their work to be used
as propaganda, as a means of ameliorating the countrys reputation abroad during its
actions in Vietnam. The screening of experimental films at venues such as the United
States Information Agencyrun American Cultural Center in Paris, as VanDerBeeks
multiscreen work Newsreel of Dreams was in September 1971, could be seen on the
surface as a promotion of American values and suggestive of the type of cultural openness of a democratic society even under the leadership of President Richard Nixon.21
VanDerBeeks civic aims prompted his working with various government agencies. This
also registered the ongoing tension of the period for many artists who weighed the
potential for instrumentalization against the unique opportunity for genuine cultural
exchange with an international audience. In particular, the establishment of new types
of collaborative research centers between industry and academia, the founding of arts
agencies and national cultural centers, and the rise of philanthropic entities with specific public policy aims such as the Ford and the Rockefeller Foundations ushered in
new venues and frameworks to support projects involving emerging communications
and media technology.
VanDerBeeks skill set and working methods were primed for this uncharted civic
arena, from which he drew to support the Movie-Drome prototype. VanDerBeek combined a modest grant for filmmakers with a sizable award from the Ford Foundation for
studies in what he labeled as nonverbal communication. In addition, he repurposed
a variety of materials such as a mail-order grain silo and a plethora of donated film
equipment. In a 1963 report to the Ford Foundation outlining his use of the grant,
VanDerBeek recounted his move away from creating his renowned underground films
toward experiments in what he called new visual medias and offered one of the first
explanations of the projects unique moniker:
As far as my future is concerned I am completely dedicated to my new experiments and studies
in new visual medias. My newly built, self-made dome studio fills me with pride and I certainly
intend to use my studio as a theatre for films, and to experiment with projections and live actors in a kind of moviedrome (which is what I intend to call it).22

Prototyping Participation


The word Drome evokes both the spatial shape of a rounded or spherical space (as in
the aerodrome, a rounded hangar that houses air balloons or other aircraft) as well as
dromes Greek root as a place or course for running. The name Movie-Drome therefore
conveys the sense of a spherical structure designed to animate images.
While the decision to situate the Movie-Drome in an artists enclave in a rural setting well outside of the urban milieu of Manhattan may have been motivated primarily by VanDerBeeks financial limitations, the locale does have larger implications for
understanding the project.23 The Dromes decidedly rustic setting amid the self-built
homes and studios at Gate Hill Co-op thwarts the tendency to pair avant-garde aesthetic production with distinctly metropolitan conditions.24 Founded by Vera Williams
and other artists, writers, and potters in the wake of Black Mountain Colleges dissolution in 1954, the organization of Gate Hill Co-op represented a postBlack Mountain experiment in combining life, art, community, and family. In practical terms, as
a cooperativenot a commune or other type of experimental living constructGate
Hill was an organized attempt to create a generative environment for art production.
As such, the co-op reflected the residents desire for community building and flexible
live/work spaces that would accommodate their multidisciplinary practices better than
a traditional studio set up. Clearly, the definition of what constituted a studio or the
definition of a studio practice is not fixed and has shifted throughout art history. However, as Caroline Jones has argued the role of the studio or more precisely the image
of the solitary individual artist in a scared studio space remains a powerful topos
within postwar art.25
Preparing for the Unveiling
Figure 1.4 shows an open letter dated May 1965 that circulated widely to fellow artists and filmmakers through which VanDerBeek posted the following update on the
In Stony Point, N.Y. I am nearing completion of my dome-studio-laboratory-theatre to be called
the Movie-Drome. At present I am completing seven films that I have made over this winter with
a grant from the Ford Foundation, it has been an extremely good year for my work, I have made
more than twice the number of films I had expected to do under the grant, unfortunately, the
grant runs out soon and I will then be left to my devices to continue my film projects. To realize
the full possibilities for the Movie-Drome as a complex visual theatre, I have taken the liberty to
list my needs. ... Anyone interested in helping can do so in the form of money ... any kind of
film ... old, new, junk film, 8mm, 16mm, 35mm, black and white, color, short ends, outdated, for
still cameras or movies any kind of graphic material ... old magazines, books, engravings, old
photographs, Photostats, negatives ... any kind of optical equipment...cameras, parts of cameras,
projectors, obsolete, incomplete, replete...lenses, prisms, stage lights...any kind of sound equipment...1/4 inch tapes, 16mm magnetic tapes, old records, tape recorders, amplifiers, mixers.26


Figure 1.4
Stan VanDerBeek open letter c. 1965.

Chapter 1

Prototyping Participation


Through this solicitation VanDerBeek managed to collect around thirty projectors (the majority of which were inoperable) before he was finally able to get a dozen
slide and film projectors (of various types) in working condition, complimented by a
sound system capable of mixing thirteen channels. His wife, artist Johanna VanDerBeek, sewed dozens of cushions for the audience to lie down upon. The audio/visual
equipment and seating were all set up about two hours before the first performance
was slated to begin.27 By two oclock on September 18, 1966, over forty visitors packed
into the dome, which designed to hold only twenty-five. The polyurethane lining the
curved interior wall/screen was still incomplete (figure 1.5) and there had been no time
to test the strength of the network of fuses and cables, let alone engage in a practice
run or rehearsal of the material VanDerBeek intended to show that Sunday afternoon.
Like most early Expanded Cinema projects, the Movie-Dromes initial run-through
for the New York Film Festival audience was a clumsy episode. As the music critic
Robert Christgau, then a reporter covering the event for the New York World Journal
Tribune, observed, The idea of lying down in a theater titillated some, and there were
still muffled giggles as VanDerBeek talked about the culture-intercomthe non-verbal
international picture-language before commencing with his multimedia presentation
called Feedback.28 The title Feedback referred to an ongoing collection of found film
footage, art historical slides, and other images in what VanDerBeek labeled an indeterminate name for an indeterminate form.29 A photograph taken by Elliot Landy during
the film festival visit shows VanDerBeek in suit and tie instructing the prone audience
to spread out around the Dromes wooden floor and lie with their feet pointed toward
the center (figure 1.6).
The title Feedback referenced the overarching aims for the Movie-Drome as a mechanism to absorb and understand contemporary culture through mixed media and sound
works. Rather than reflecting a set program or play list, Feedback became a variable
program. An eclectic range of visuals, including 35 mm images of billboards advertising
consumer goods from the 1950s, faded anthropological and art historical slides showing statues and architectural sites in close-up, an 8 mm film loop shot in Central Park,
abstract patterns created in pressed-glass sides, and outtakes from VanDerBeeks own
animated 16 mm films, filled the space. One common element mentioned among the
various news reports was a sense of the physical actions of the audience mixing with
the sounds and images bouncing around the Dromes interior walls. Christgau observed
that as Stan and Johannas young daughter, August, alternated colored filters over one
slide projector; another child played an 8 mm loop over the image-covered walls then,
one by one, images began to flicker out, until the audience was left alone with the Central Park loop, a solitary boy kicking a soccer ball.30 Regarding the audio conditions
of the Drome, Heller claimed that the acoustics are fantastic, explaining that when
someone speaks on the other side of the Drome, it not only sounds like they are behind
you instead of in front of you, but also like they are reverberating all over the room.31


Chapter 1

Figure 1.5
Interior view of the Movie-Drome. Photograph by Elliot Landy. Anthology Film Archives

Prototyping Participation


Figure 1.6
Stan VanDerBeek directing the audience in the Movie-Drome. Johanna VanDerBeek leaning on
projector on left side. Photograph by Elliot Landy. Anthology Film Archives

The first public display of the Movie-Drome concluded when VanDerBeek picked up a 35
mm slide projector, spun the image twice around the room, concentrated it to the size
of a small TV screen, then unceremoniously cut the image off (figure 1.7).
The audiences immediate response was less than enthusiastic. Uncertain applause
followed the lights being turned back on, and according to Christgau, Andy Warhol
gazed imperturbably at the ribbed, cylindrical ceiling during the entire twenty-minute program, after which Agns Varda declared, Its useless, and another guest added,
and you cant see it all.32 The last commenter seemed to have inadvertently keyed in
on a crucial point for VanDerBeek. The structure completed in time to be shown during the festival was very much still a work in progress for a loosely conceived network.
VanDerBeek explained to Heller that he intended to have various Dromes positioned
like electronic Grange Halls, where images might be received by satellite from farflung storage centers, orchestrated by a corps of artists and presented so that each
member of the local audience could arrive at his own sense of the world, picking and
choosing from the bombardment of images as he reclines in the dark.33


Chapter 1

Figure 1.7
Stan VanDerBeek aiming projector during the first Movie-Drome event organized for the New York
Film Festival. Photograph by Elliot Landy. Anthology Film Archives

More directly, VanDerBeek drew a prescient analysis between print media and more
dynamic forms of digital media by explaining, the world needs a technique through
which it can digest the worlds news, a way to get an idea of how the world went that
day. I hope to eventually have satellite transmissions through my Drome so that I can
communicate with other parts of the world.34 Though casually delivered, the statement is critical because it clearly outlines VanDerBeeks aims for the Movie-Drome to
operate as a node within a broader system rather than in isolation. In addition, VanDerBeeks insistence that artists, not just engineers, programmers, or scientists, should be
capable of accessing the relatively untested platform of satellite transmissions reflected
his interest in a type of art and technology collaboration.
Moreover, his statements foreshadowed how advanced, proprietary telecommunications technology would provide the backbone to deliver not only pressing real-time
information but also more quotidian news, weather, and of paramount importance
to VanDerBeek, conversation among and between a global public. Of equal import to
being able to transmit images is the metaphor of the Movie-Drome as an electronic
grange hall, on a global scale, a community-based place designed specifically to share
information and promote economic and social well-being. Moreover, VanDerBeeks

Prototyping Participation


comments point to the ways in which he imagined viewers being able to pick and
choose among the volumes of information available, thus linking Movie-Drome to the
rhetoric associated with the ways in which users negotiate accessing web-based information and media today.
Mixed Means
Throughout the Fourth New York Film Festival symposium, a recurring exercise was
parsing Expanded Cinemas muddled relationship to other established media while
simultaneously attempting to define the term itself. The role of painting became a
point of focus not least because all the artists on the panel, including VanDerBeek,
received formal training as painters.35 VanDerBeek goaded the crowd gathered at Lincoln Center with contrived provocations about paintings demise.
To simplify the issues here I would say something to the extreme that, for instance, painting is
dead and that just recently weve grown out of our kind of industrial puritan background and our
romantic aspects and are now quite seriously and enthusiastically embracing our technology.36

More than just invoking a clich, VanDerBeek attempted to shift the discussion by
sounding paintings death knell. He insisted that the resolute orthodoxy of medium
specificity was being corroded by Expanded Cinemas promiscuous use of novel formal techniques introduced by quickly evolving film, video, and computer-generated
imagery. Though less explicit, VanDerBeeks assertion was also aimed at blunting the
primacy of established notions of artistic autonomy within visual art that had accumulated over three decades of formal criticism within the United States.
In an effort to flesh out a working definition of Expanded Cinema from each artists
own practical experience, Ken Dewey remarked that with a background in both theater
and sculpture, his own practice developed at a time when it was necessary to choose
between the two; you had to do one or the other, you really couldnt do both.37 The
stranglehold of this prevailing condition relaxed for Dewey after experiencing Robert
Whitmans highly celebrated work, American Moon (1960).38
A series of ten performances that initially took place in the winter of 1960 at Reuben
Gallery in New York City, American Moon revolved around performers George Bretherton, Kamaia Deveroe, Simone Forti, Lucas Samaras, Clifford Smith, and Whitman
himself engaging in decidedly nontheatrical physical movements such as swinging
on rope swings, rolling on the ground, and gently bumping one another while draped
in swaths of boldly dyed canvas festooned with bits of crumbled paper.39 In addition,
Anita Baker Simon, Max Baker, and Hugh Mitchell (credited as helpers) operated the
ropes and pulleys that shifted the sets collaged and crudely painted paper walls, as well
as activating a series of transparent plastic screens, or what Simone Forti called membranes and critic Michael Kirby described as a mosaic screen.40


Chapter 1

When the lights were out in the central space, the spectators could see through the transparent
plastic that separated the pieces of paper and watch, from the rear, the film being projected in
the opposite tunnel. The basic images of the filmcloth-covered mounds of balls that moved in
various wayswere repeated and echoed during several other parts of the presentation.

In contrast to Kirbys account, Forti described the images on the color film as the
performers wearing their papier-mch costumes outside in the woods. The discrepancy underscores the completely subjective interpretation and recollection characteristic to these types of Expanded Cinema events.41 Key to the piece was the arrangement
of the audience into distinct sectionswhat Forti described as baysthat opened
onto a central performance space so that each audience section saw the action from
its own particular vantage point.42 Art historian and critic, Barbara Rose interpreted
Whitmans arrangement as a three-dimensional continuum designed to intimately
connect spectators to the performance. Rose was one of the periods most active participants and prolific writers offering her keen analysis on a range of new paradigms in
art including minimalisms formal enterprise as well as the mixedmedia performances
associated with happenings and Expanded Cinema. Her interpretation contexualized
Whitmans American Moon within a broader consideration of sculpture and painting.
Rose described this process:
As the horizon line had disappeared from abstract painting, the sight lines of conventional theater were exchanged for a more direct, immediate perception of actions, sounds and in Whitmans case, projected images, which surrounded and enveloped the spectators, who were now
inside of and intimately connected to the performance as opposed to isolated from the performers
by a barrier of lights.43

Upon seeing how Whitman divided the audience into six movable enclosures and
projected his 8 mm abstract films against sheets of clear plastic checkered with pieces of
white paper, Dewey became convinced that you could perfectly well do both painting and sculptureand Expanded Cinema pointed to the very possibility.44
Deweys anecdote highlighted the underlying current running through the debates
surrounding Expanded Cinema not only in the discussion in the auditorium at Lincoln
Center, but also the ones circulating outside amid the broader discourse on visual art
and media developing during the mid- to late 1960s. Not only was film writ large, and
film projection in particular, undergoing a radical transformation beyond the modernist engagement with the cinematic apparatus, but also the powerful convention of
media specificity as the prevailing typology around which all visual art was organized
was dissipating. The result was that film, as well as more established visual art traditions such as painting and sculpture, was expanding as it was remixed and recast into
a variety of public exchanges and presentations. This refers not only to the rise of
abstraction in the postwar period but also to the simultaneous reduction of pictorial
elements overall and a pervasive questioning of the picture plane itself, as represented

Prototyping Participation


by the numerous examples of paintings shift into three-dimensional space. This overarching interest in exceeding boundaries is also reinforced by the proliferation of art
practices that built on acts of wearing art and highlighting the relationship of color,
form, and movement to the body. This was exemplified in American Moon as well as
a range of more diffuse works, such as Hlio Oiticicas Parangols (19641965). From
Piero Manzonis conceptual maneuvers of the readymade (his living sculptures, pneumatic sculptures, and magic bases) to Atsuko Tanakas more perilous sculptural explorations of bodies and electrical networks, as represented by her Electric Dress (1956), the
primacy of authorial intentionality (and its corollary, a false sense of artistic autonomy)
over material criteria was also at play within these shifting sculptural paradigms as
well. These examples highlighted here serve only to broaden the scope of performance
practices that are more typically associated with the postwar efforts at emancipating
the audience.
It is against this backdrop of contemporaneous international contestation and irreverence for the orthodoxies of medium specificity that film figures within the Expanded
Cinema context of the 1960s. My view is that Expanded Cinema has had an equal if
not more remarkable impact on the history of postwar visual art than cinema during
the same period. Typically, film is thought to adhere to the universal specifications (16
mm, for example) required for use with standard machines in both its production and
projection. However, a profusion of mixed-media art practices became manifest in a
variety of novel presentation formats including traveling film festivals, mixedmedia
shows that repurposed traditional venues such as theaters or planetariums, and the
staging of art events and actions in quotidian contexts, such as stores, restaurants,
streets, schools, parking lots, and open fields. The inclusion of so many visual artists in
the 1966 New York Film Festival put pressure on the concept of film as a stable medium
and the screen as a fixed or even stationary site of projection. More specifically, the
conception of film as a fixed form defined by a set running time or scale of projection
that was predetermined or somehow executed in relation to industry standards gave
way to a view of film as pliable, with formal properties that could be amended to match
the particular demands of nontraditional screening spaces or the impulses of the artists
and their collaborators who projected the films.
A Spirit of Inquiry
These challenges to films rigidity were voiced at another Fourth New York Film Festival panel, prosaically entitled, What Are the New Critics Saying? Moderated by
author and film critic Parker Tyler, the panel was billed as a showcase for the opinions
of his four young film critic colleagues: Ken Kelman, P. Adams Sitney, Toby Mussman,
and Sheldon Renan.45 Renan, who at the time was completing what would become
the landmark book An Introduction to the American Underground Film (1967), made the


Chapter 1

observation that experimental films are produced primarily in the same fashion that
all films have been produced.
In the way that even the films of Lumire and Mlis were produced: They are (1) conceived, (2)
directed and photographed, (3) edited into more or less permanent form, and (4) projected for an
audience from one projector onto one screen46 and as rich in potential as this time-honored
process is, it is still limited. Therefore the artists have attacked it, have fragmented it liberating
from the concept of standardization, the personal art film in America, which has pushed on into
a fourth avant-garde.47

While Renan proposed that Expanded Cinema may be considered a fourth avantgarde, due to the fact that so many underground filmmakers were engaged with
challenging standard film practices, he also made the crucial point that experimental
film is only one of the many sources of Expanded Cinema,48 suggesting that what
changed cinema to Expanded Cinema has been nothing less than the development of
whole new conditions and sensibilities spreading across all the arts.49 Thus, not only
was the adherence to medium specificity on the wane, so too was the propensity for
standardization, reflecting the implications for Expanded Cinema beyond academic
debates internal to the history of art. The paradigms of standardization that governed
the broader field of cultural production were called into question. In fact, as Renan
suggested, the notion of inquiry would underpin Expanded Cinema as a means of art
production overall.
Renans An Introduction to the American Underground Film resulted in one of the first
methodological treatments of Expanded Cinema and its practioners. In the opening to
his chapter on Expanded Cinema, Renan declared,
Expanded Cinema is not a particular style of filmmaking. It is a name for a spirit of inquiry that is
leading in many different directions. It is cinema expanded to include many different projectors in the showing of one work. It is cinema expanded to include computer-generated images
and the electronic manipulation of images on television. It is cinema expanded to the point at
which the effect of film may be produced without the use of film at all.51

Beyond simply confounding the expectation for film to deal exclusively in celluloid,
Renans primer indicated that Expanded Cinema was not mired in the intensifying
academic debates on the status of the cinematic apparatus that would come to dominate the discourse later in the 1960s and early 1970s. By cinematic apparatus, Renan
referred to both the machinery of cinema, including the technological requirements
to shoot, process, edit, and project films, as well as the psychological, perceptual, and
social dynamics at play in spectatorship.
The primacy of Renans survey was augmented three years later by the publication
of Gene Youngbloods pivotal book, Expanded Cinema (1970). While both Renan and
Youngblood accounted for a wide variety of practices and profiled a large number of
artists, both authors limited their concerns and coverage to the United States.52 In

Prototyping Participation


contrast, Hans Scheugl and Ernst Schmidt Jr.s Lexicon des Avantgarde-Experimental und
Underground Films, published in 1974, contextualized Expanded Cinema within the
context of European conceptual practices developing in the 1960s. In addition to discussing the work of well-known American practioneers such as VanDerBeek, Lexicon
introduced the work of artists based in Germany, Austria, and the United Kingdom.53
Likewise, Birgit Heins nuanced book, Film im Underground Von seinen Anfngen bis zum
Unabhngigen Kino (1971), would foreground what she identified as Expanded Cinemas
connections to a range of new tendencies in the United States and Europe, including
narrative film (der erzhlerische Film), Aktionsfilme, Politische Filme, computer, and
video.54 Despite the divergent trajectories for Expanded Cinema established by these
differing approaches, all three treatments make clear that Expanded Cinema practices
developing simultaneously in the United States and Europe did not converge into a
single artistic movement, nor can it be limited to a narrow time period. References
to the multidisciplinary practices that fit under its rubric, such as film installations
and multimedia shows using film, video, and computer-generated imagery, provide
a historical context and a theoretical framework that anchors much contemporary new
media. As such, Expanded Cinema evades being constrained by the bookends of periodization. That being said, the influence of the specific cultural and political climate
of the early 1960s, particularly in the United States, cannot be overstated. Expanded
Cinema registered the introduction and proliferation of computer and telecommunications technology within the complex milieu of the civil rights movement, the Vietnam
War, and the terse rhetoric of the Cold War.
In addition, the aleatory and experimental nature of most Expanded Cinema projects solicited an altogether different type of audience model, which emerged in the spatial vacuum between the singular modernist viewing subject of avant-garde film and
abstract painting and the atomized, mass audience associated with the growing reach
of broadcast television. To this end, the history of Expanded Cinema cannot be written in discrete terms, but takes the shape of the intricate media ecology that it maps.55
If Renan saw Expanded Cinema as reflecting altogether new conditions and sensibilities spreading across all the arts, VanDerBeek described it as more of a cross-referencing between all of the arts. During the New York Film Festival panel, VanDerBeek
made repeated overtures identifying the core of Expanded Cinema as being a question of involvement. According to VanDerBeeks observations, rather than aiming to
address a specific art audience as in traditional live performance, artists since the early
1960s had been attempting to articulate that art and life and life and art are really
the same thing and that we can trace the facets of our culture down to the level of
when the paintings came off the wallits all about going away from the centers and
spreading out.56
The rhetoric of an art/life axiom clearly harkens back to the historical avant-garde
and was popular refrain throughout the 1960s. In this regard, VanDerBeek trailed


Chapter 1

Rauschenberg and Kaprows more strenuous examinations of this dictum. When in

1959 Rauschenberg illustriously wrote, Painting relates to both art and life...neither
can be made (I try to act in that gap between the two), he represented this notion as it
related directly to paintings changing formal attributes.57 His Combines pointed to the
invention of a hybrid form drawn from the vocabularies of both painting and sculpture. Kaprows prolific writings throughout the 1960s elucidated his interest in shifting
the production of art from the specialized zones of the art world toward the broader,
more mundane situations of everyday life.58 Another point of reference for the notion
of art being inseparable from experience would be found in Art as Experience (1934),
the seminal book by American philosopher John Dewey. This text was introduced to
VanDerBeek during his studies at North Carolinas Black Mountain College where all
students were inculcated with Deweys writings, which deeply influenced the colleges
pedagogical philosophy leading to Dewey serving on the colleges advisory council,
which was made up of eminent scholars, scientists, and artists.59 VanDerBeeks point
about the current erosion of the boundary between the art world and the real world
helped clarify his motivation for making the earlier statement about painting being
irrelevant to his contemporary moment. During the Expanded Cinema symposium,
VanDerBeek elaborated by stating,
I say [painting is] dead. It isnt really. It clears the air for me to say so because I can see other
courses that are happening to us and weve now come into this idea that art is not an object, that
it is an experience and as such it loses semantic definition, it loses the museum tradition.60

Here VanDerBeek is clearly invoking the critique of assimilating radical, avant-garde

practices into the canonical narrative of art history and the coincident effect of these
institutions transforming ephemera, detritus, and the other residue into commodities
to be sold, traded, and collected as luxury goods.
Fused with VanDerBeeks claim that Expanded Cinemas shift toward the experiential reflected losing the museum tradition is the fact thatunlike the history of
paintingart institutions and, to an even starker degree, the commercial art market
(with its clearly delimited exhibition and collection protocols) were not oxygenators
of Expanded Cinema, which burned more brightly outside the institutional framework of museums, commercial galleries, and existing art publications. While Expanded
Cinema activities in the United States were created and largely proliferated by artists
who circulated in Manhattans museum and gallery world, Expanded Cinema did not
become synonymous with specific venues in the way, for example, Reuben Gallery had
become a nexus for early Happenings orchestrated by Kaprow, Whitman, Red Grooms,
Jim Dine, and Claes Oldenburg.
Instead artists that were engaged in Expanded Cinema projects relied on a loose network of changing venues and formats, such as traveling festivals and temporary as well
as serial screening programs. In The New Bohemia, John Gruens insiders chronicle of

Prototyping Participation


the transformation of New Yorks Lower East Side and East Village into a radically different Bohemia symptomatic of an international movement in the arts, he remarked,
So it is at places such as the Filmmakers Cinematheque, the Bridge Theater, and rented lofts that
audiences are exposed to cinematic free-for-alls that range from grueling exercises in boredom to
events that are neither cinema, music, dance, painting, poetry, nor drama, but often deafening
and blinding combinations of all of them.61

Jonas Mekas noted in his May 26, 1966, Village Voice column, suddenly, the intermedia shows are all over town. At the Dom (Jackie Cassen and USCO); at the Cheetah;
at the Martinique Theatre (Robert Whitman); at the Riverside Museum (USCO); at the
Cinematheque (Takehisa Kosugi), giving credence not only to the diffuse nature of
Expanded Cinema, but also to the quick pace at which a broad range of venues started
to program Expanded Cinema events.62 Critic Toby Mussman, who also covered the
growing field of Expanded Cinema, averred in a 1967 review that people like Andy
Warhol, Robert Whitman, Stan VanDerBeek, Ken Dewey, the USCO Group and others
have created a sensation in the last year with their movie environments and performances using multiple projectors and lighting systems.63 Mussmans conclusion that
the efforts by these artists in particular represented a digging into and ultimately an
expansion of the mechanics of the film medium and its accompanying atmosphere,
highlighted the fact that not only were the technical aspects of film changing, but its
reception as an art form constituted a shift in the public expectations for where and
how film could be experienced.
The panel at Lincoln Center raised the issue of the changing nature of audience
reception. Continuing to push the panelists to further define Expanded Cinema,
Geldzahler set up the following comparison:
When we say Expanded Cinema do we mean expanded in the sense of Stan VanDerBeeks
Cinedrome [sic], where instead of having a flat screen which is in a normal relationship to the
viewer, the fisheye lens projects a hemispheric image on the surface that simulates the inside of a
planetarium dome? Or do we mean what Bob Whitman might do in a piece, which is to use the
human figure with cinema with a piece of sculpture, projecting the film occasionally on a human
body, expanding in the sense of adding elements?64

Rather than giving into Geldzahlers either/or proposition, VanDerBeek asserted that
Expanded Cinema could move in both directions and at the same time extend beyond
the confines of conventional theatrical spectatorship. The concept of the Movie-Drome
was not limited to providing a novel multiscreen spatial configuration for art. It was
evocative of Expanded Cinemas contestation of medium specificity beyond the formal
realm of visual art and moved toward the notion that communication itself could be
a model for art production. Or as VanDerBeek plainly stated during the symposium


Chapter 1

When I talk about Expanded Cinema, I am talking about an Expanded Cinema that quite literally
circles the world in one form or another. In other words, communications systems that just arent
peculiarthey are particular to each culture, they are not peculiar to the total world cultureand
I think that sort of thing is something we are coming into.65

1965 Expanded Cinema Survey

Just prior to organizing many of the symposia and panels related to the 1966 New York
Film Festival, John Brockman, managing director of the Filmmakers Cinematheque,
orchestrated the 1965 Expanded Cinema Survey.66 Officially called the New Cinema
Festival One, the month-long series of events was staged at the Cinematheques Astor
Place Playhouse, located in the basement of 434 Lafayette Street. In addition to asking
VanDerBeek to prepare the Movie-Drome in time to display to critics and filmmakers for
the September 1966 New York Film Festival, Brockman had also invited VanDerBeek
to preview the types of projection projects that he planned for the Movie-Drome during the New Cinema Festivalnine months earlier, in November 1965.67 Many of the
productions VanDerBeek exhibited at the New Cinema Festival, including Feedback No.
1 (1965), Move-Movies (1965), and Pastorale et al. (1965)made in collaboration with
Elaine Summers and Burt Supreewere rehearsals for the types of multiscreen, mobileaudience works envisioned specifically for the particular spatial configuration of the
An image of a long exposure capturing Elaine Summers in profile on stage at the Cinematheque, for example, is indicative of VanDerBeeks longstanding interest in using
dancers bodies as mobile screens, and the ways in which the human form disrupts and
alters the flow of the image projection within a given space (figure 1.8). Likewise, Feedback No. 1 demonstrated VanDerBeeks use of multiple screens positioned at varying
lengths from the projector, which generated variations in scale and focus. According
to Renan, VanDerBeek used three screens, placed different distances and angles from
the six projectors, which showed slides, documentary footage, and his collage films.69
And in the well-attended presentation of Move-Movies, the viewer not only became
involved with the mechanics of the image, but the images themselves were mobilized,
not confined to a set point of projection, or reception.
To create Move-Movies at the Cinematheque, VanDerBeek enlisted the help of four
assistants to carry lightweight handheld 35 mm slide projectors. VanDerBeek took to
the front of the auditorium to explain that the action was not going to be taking place
only on the screen. As he and the assistants roamed around the auditorium aiming the
beams of light at the audience and the walls, they were able to distort and modulate
the light beams with their hands and pacing. They included fixed projection images
emanating from four or five 16 mm projectors mounted in the back of the auditorium.
Black and white film footage VanDerBeek had previously shot of a street parade was

Prototyping Participation


Figure 1.8
Elaine Summers and Burt Supree in VanDerBeeks Pastorale et al. at the Filmmakers Cinematheque
during the New Cinema Festival 1, November 1965.

projected against the large central screen. Because the machine was held upside down,
the rows of uniformed people seemed to be marching on the ceiling. During the evening of the performance VanDerBeek and the participants huddled together in front
of the audience holding their projectors out at chest height and moving throughout
the auditorium thereby doubling animating the images. The resulting abraded images
created by using portable projectors against bodies in motion was a technique VanDerBeek would continue to explore in the Movie-Drome and it would become a hallmark of
his future Expanded Cinema works in which moving bodies disrupt the registration of
the filmic image. Projecting the images against moving bodies not only altered the legibility of the image but also functioned as a means of eroding the primacy of vision.70
Jonas Mekass review of the Expanded Cinema Survey exemplified the reception of
Expanded Cinema as a new type of art practice not invested in the traditional discourse
on vision tied to film. In his November 11, 1965, Village Voice column, Mekas observed,
Not all thats happening at the Filmmakers Cinematheque this month is or can be called cinema.
Light is there, motion is there, the screen is there; and the film image, very often is there; but it
cannot be described or experienced in terms you would use to describe or experience the Griffith
cinema, the Godard cinema, or even Brakhage cinema.71

Mekass particular style of criticism, a simultaneous delivery of on-the-scene reporting and running commentary, captured the real-time reception of Expanded Cinema.


Chapter 1

In a rare moment of overt praise for VanDerBeek, he singled out Feedback No. 1 as
a sound and image experience so unusual and so full of motion and visual impact
that we all suddenly said, Yes it works! It works! [meaning the multiple projection
cinema].72 He continued by noting that the screening of VanDerBeeks film collage
was followed by one of those applauses, which, in the newspapers, usually are called
half-hour applauses. Mekass nuanced summary of the screening in the Filmmakers
Cinematheque reiterated the fact that much of Expanded Cinema was not concerned
with cinematic standards or critiquing those conventions as much as with kinetic
movement and experimenting with audience expectations for experiencing film. He
The feeling was that we had witnessed something very new, and very beautiful, something that
could neither be described nor explained. It acted up on us with its multiplicity of images, associations, memories, eyes.73 the impact was both on our retina and a physical, kinesthetic impact
on our bodyand it wasnt Cinerama, where it is the vertigo that does it. Here the impact was
produced by something that was more formal; it came from the organization of visual, kinesthetic

He concluded his review with the crucial point, thats where art comes in, offering a cogent reminder of Expanded Cinemas impact as a new means of absorbing and
processing culture.75
Prototyping Participation
VanDerBeek viewed the increasing popularity of newer modes of portable video and
telecommunication equipment as having the potential to speed up human sensitivities and expand sense organs, which was consistent with the eras romantic and
indiscriminant embrace of technologys promise to deliver newer, faster means of interacting with a broader public. While his effusive personality and the respect of his fellow artists positioned him as a natural spokesperson, VanDerBeeks position on new
media technology was more equivocal and he tended to vacillate between euphoria
and panic. His more measured responses later in the panel and in subsequent projects
pointed to the ethical implications of making art with media technology.76 VanDerBeek distilled Expanded Cinema into a metaphor for man as mobile-man suddenly
discovering tremendous amount[s] of communication consciousness, communication
aesthetics and communications instinct.77 He identified the particular operation of
communication as transferring information from one state to another:
I think we have the tools now, and the artists who are interested in these tools, to make fantastically
powerful audio-visual situations, that will quite literally transport the viewer from his state of mind
into some other state of mind. And I think that that particular kind of transfer, that particular kind
of mental mutation, is a very critical thing in our current life, and our immediate future.78

Prototyping Participation


Unlike his colleagues, such as Robert Whitman, who rarely commented on the use
of film and media technology (despite having been a key collaborator in the Pepsi
Pavilion at Expo 70, the paragon of Art and Technology events), VanDerBeeks pressing tone became characteristic of his manner of speech. His particular style of delivery
was cultivated through numerous public appearances accompanying his film screenings at universities, theaters, and museums across the United States and abroad. He
published texts not only in film and art journals, such as Tulane Drama Review, Film
Culture, and Art in America, but also in mass culture publications, including publishing
his own criticism, image-essays, manifestos, conducting interviews, and posing for profiles in magazines such as Harpers Bazaar, Popular Photography, Time, and Esquire, as well
as more esoteric publications produced by humanist organizations. These passionate
and prophetic essays were frequently filled with aphoristic statements and urgent calls
exhorting his fellow artists to take a more active role in shaping the emerging discourse
on communications technology.
The prototype VanDerBeek erected between 1962 and 1965 consisted of the aluminum dome and a rotating inventory of film and slide projectors as well as various film
and sound editing equipment. The Movie-Drome encapsulated what VanDerBeek called
an ethos-cinema. Published in the American Scholar the same year as the Fourth New
York Film Festival tour to the Drome, VanDerBeeks article, Re: Vision, reframed his
Culture Intercom and Expanded Cinema manifesto for the largely academic audience.
It outlined his theories on film, vision, and the future of media art, which he had been
voicing during the previous five years in public talks, most notably at Vision 65:
My own work leads me into multi-projection and the building of the Movie-Drome in which I plan
to develop a sight and sound research center, a prototype theater of the future, exploring motion pictures, image transmission and image storage, video graphics, electronic sound and music,
drama and experimental cinema-theater. I foresee motion pictures as the tool for a new form of
world communication (via satellite) about to open the future of ethos-cinema.

VanDerBeeks interest in communication technologys ability to accelerate human

sensitivities and expand sense organs through integrated circuits, computers, and
satellite networks is constituent of the periods heady rhetoric, which is most closely
associated with Marshall McLuhans writings. These concepts, of course, relate to a
longer history of artists fascination with machines, in terms of both mechanical and
psychological apparatuses of communication and control. In fact, VanDerBeeks reference to the Movie-Drome as an experience machine aligns the project within the trajectory of twentieth-century experiments with arts relationship to technology and with
humanist ideas of a borderless society, or what VanDerBeek described as a total world
VanDerBeeks definition of film as a new art, an international language understandably prompted nervous laughter from the New York Film Festival visitors to the


Chapter 1

Movie-Drome. But it is a key factor in understanding his specific conception of Expanded

Cinema as a means of global communication. This contrasts the dominant reading of
Expanded Cinema (particularly in the United States) as a means of expanding consciousness within the individual, as established by Gene Youngbloods Expanded Cinema. Youngbloods treatise on the changing nature of cinema presented a timely survey
of the enculturation of cybernetics and communication theories into the field of contemporary visual art in the previous two decades. Youngblood highlighted the ensuing
artistic experiments with newer forms of media technology that were no longer limited
to broadcast television and entertainment industry, such as film, video, holographic
technology, digital computers, and their related input and output hardware, such as
keyboards, light pens, plotters and cathode-ray tube (CRT) consoles.
More than just providing inventory lists of equipment available to artists in the
1960s, Youngblood brought an art critics consideration to the differing visual effects
generated by the various types of media. For instance, Youngblood astutely noted the
washed-out effects of CRT displays as well as the limited shading and color capabilities
of low-BIT imaging devices, which significantly impacted how images were registered.
Most significantly, the differing tonal qualities and chromatic scaling was compared
with more established fine art media such as photography and film, providing an early
and much-needed bridge between the formal vocabularies of fine art and computer
technology. For Youngblood, the structurally inventive and vibrant abstract films
produced by a new generation of artists, including Jordan Belson, Stan Brakhage, Len
Lye, John and James Whitney, and Stan VanDerBeek, represented not only technical
innovations for cinema, but an extreme mind-expanding film experience connected
to earlier twentieth- and-nineteenth-century synesthetic and psychedelic experiments,
including visual music and other experiments in sensory perception.81
In fact, for Youngblood, the two were interchangeable. Synaesthetic and psychedelic mean approximately the same thing, noted Youngblood, who stated, under the
influence of mind-manifesting hallucinogens one experiences synaethesia.82 Key for
Youngblood was that these types of abstract imagery signaled a shift toward addressing
what he labeled as a cosmic consciousness. However, his predisposition for linking
diverse art practices by drawing formal connections between filmic and digital imagery
tethers his notion of Expanded Cinema to a particularly Greenbergian notion of modernism (albeit with a countercultural bent) in which the works are read as a negation of
the pictorial in an effort to elevate or foreground the transcendent self.
Though advancing the notion of Expanded Cinema as yielding the type of imagery that evokes an expanded sense of consciousness is clearly Youngbloods aim, his
research and writing method suggest a more oblique trajectory for Expanded Cinema.
While not fully theorized, Youngbloods impressive translation of the complex functions and operations of these newer types of devices for a specifically nontechnical
audience made important early distinctions between working online, offline, and

Prototyping Participation


in real-time. Youngbloods assessment of the visual art practices of this period are
inextricably linked to the emerging discourse on networks, and he contextualized art
production within an amorphous media ecology concomitant with the one-world
ideology espoused by R. Buckminster Fuller and exemplified by the influential thinkers revolution by design mantra. In fact, in his sprawling introduction to Expanded
Cinema, Fuller glossed the contemporary conditions affecting humanity, a term
articulated from a distinctly new global vantage point, represented by recently formed
institutions such as the United Nations aimed at addressing an international constituency rather than a national one. Never before seen images of Earth enabled by recently
launched satellites quickly became symbols of this new global identity that would be
signified by Fullers term world man, which is further explicated in chapter 2.
While VanDerBeeks own writing shares Youngbloods sense of techno-euphoria, the
artist had a more decidedly social aim in regard to the overall conception of the MovieDrome. In response to Newsweek reporter Fran Hellers direct question about what the
social aim of the Movie-Drome was, VanDerBeek said,
The social implications are very important. Mass media is doing all sorts of things to kids; giving
them a sense of the world. Ten to twenty years from now they will have an entirely different attitude; they will be worldlier, more conscious of our unique abilities. We should find out what we
have to offer each other.83

This notion of the potential for addressing and educating future generations through
the Movie-Drome was also reiterated in the documentary images that showed children
interspersed throughout the audience (figures 1.3 and 1.5). VanDerBeeks concern for
how children processed mass media images underscored his ongoing commitment to
the notion that media itself offered new formats for pedagogy, and developing media
literacy. This concept would be articulated in a later multimedia project he called The
History of Violence. Produced between 1968 and 1971 using his self-styled technique of
mixing hand drawn figures with found footage and print materials, VanDerBeeks History of Violence attempted to outline the social impact of television and satellites. One
collage mounted on fiber board and incorporated newspaper clippings with prescient
headlines such as An End of Privacy by 2000 Predicted and Little Kids Said Spending
Too Much Time Before Tube, alongside other accounts such as Massachusetts Plans
College Without Walls, all under the poignant header We Will Get the Future We
Learn to Expect.
Even more crucial to VanDerBeeks social aim was the notion of participation. As
Heller noted in her account of the first Movie-Drome run-through, The important
thing was the fact that VanDerBeeks wife [Johanna VanDerBeek], his young daughter,
and her girlfriends, as well as Stan, were working the slides and projectors, improvising,
as the music or the mood moved them. Heller emphasized in her notes that, according to VanDerBeek, This is most important to the whole Drome conceptthe audience


Chapter 1

participation. Eventually he wants to have whomever comes inside work the projectors
as part of the total experience.84 In this regard VanDerBeek was not alone nor was he
first. Almost all artists on the Expanded Arts Diagram reconceptualized the viewer as an
active participant. What distinguished VanDerBeek was the concept he had of expanding the model of participation beyond the art world into a pedagogical capacity that
acknowledged the broadening role of the artist as a researcher, instructor, collaborator,
or facilitator. These would become more common descriptors to characterize select
artists in the 1990s, when the burgeoning field referred to as art as social practice
conspicuously adopted the nomenclature and methods of political activism, community organizing, environmentalism, performance art, and documentary or investigative journalism.
The notion of involvement was evoked not merely as a figure of speech to describe
activating a viewer in front of a screen, but also directly placed the artist in an ethical
situation. By asking audience members to participate or connect with the ideas presented in an artwork, artists had to assume a certain level of social responsibility. In
address to the symposium audience, VanDerBeek remarked,
I think its a problem that we are all quite hedgy about where do we make a stand, in conversation
among us, and you, as a group, sitting out there trying to get something from us, so Im making
a stand. I made a prototype theater, which I envisioned that we can experiment and develop. I
think its not only possible, I think its an absolute necessity.85 And so I would say that when
Im building this sort of prototype, Im really building a scale model of something that can be in
effect re-done.86

The issue of audience participation becoming a central component to an artwork

occupied much of the discourse surrounding Happenings that developed out the
agitprop performances of this period, but less frequently within contemporaneous
film-related events at this moment. VanDerBeeks insistence on opening this line of
discussion at the film festival symposium panel was further evidence of his interest in
transferring the dialogue within visual art into the context of film.
VanDerBeeks emphasis on the Movie-Drome as a reproducible prototype was reiterated in his response to questions about the Dromes lack of accessibility. During the film
festival field trip, Heller asked VanDerBeek to address what she labeled the limitations
imposed by environmental set-ups. She asked, How can you have a lot of people see
the Drome? VanDerBeek responded with the reminder that it is a laboratory, a prototype and you can rebuild them on a larger scale and go from there.87 The commitment
to designing a structure that could be easily reproduced reflected a do-it-yourself type
of ethos commonly associated with the growing American counterculture. The dome
shape became ubiquitous in counterculture literature, reflecting a growing preoccupation with alternative living environments. The iconic dome structure represented the
possibility of untethering oneself from the existing social infrastructure and conveyed

Prototyping Participation


a sense of mobility, or the potential to live a nomadic life. Simultaneously, the dome
also represented a techno-futurist shelter that could function as domicile or multipurpose laboratory and studio within the counterculture imaginary.88
While VanDerBeek never explicitly engaged the American counterculture rhetoric,
he did have a subscription to Archigrams newsletters. Published and distributed since
the groups founding in 1961, these pamphlets outlined many of the London-based
architectural collectives ideas for radically imagining housing, transportation, and
other urban planning issues. VanDerBeeks idea to erect modular Movie-Dromes easily
aligned more with the technologically utopian visions of Peter Cook and the members
of Archigram, who were in turn influenced by the writings of British architect Cedric
Price, rather than with American counterculture literature.89
In an unpublished interview conducted by Richard Kostelanetz in 1966 as research
for his book, The Theater of Mixed Means, VanDerBeek remarked, I have also thought
about opening up the dome in every sense of the word. It is a prototype situation. Ive
thought about it as a prototype of an educational institution in its fulfilled state, as a
kind of library, a reference pointas a place where you can come in and get things.90
Approximately three years earlier, in his follow-up report to the Ford Foundations program for filmmakers for his grant, VanDerBeek elaborated on the notion of the Drome
functioning as a learning center.
My newly built, self-made dome studio fills me with pride and I envision using it as the start for
a center for advanced studies in cinema, theatre, and the visual arts; such a center where artists
could come and inter-change ideas and use equipment is much needed, and who knows perhaps
it will begin up here.91

VanDerBeeks evocative use of the word prototype to describe Movie-Drome pushed

the terms of Expanded Cinema beyond simple semantics. Developing a project with
reproducibility fundamentally innate to its overall conceptualization was anathema to
the modernist engagement with originality and singularity. Moreover, the notion of
creating a prototype intimated an altogether different model of individuality. Instead
of reprising the archetype of individualism, VanDerBeeks notion of creating a prototype, which could be adapted as well as augmented by the intended audience, emphasized the operational or active, rather than passive, position of the audience member.
This focus on the role of the spectator in the implicit power relation between maker
and receiver, between subject and object, sustains a sense of tension rather than the
type of transcendence advanced through painterly or sculptural abstraction.

2 Critical Limits: Vision 65 and Black Mountain College

I am deeply interested in the play of our intuitions.

R. Buckminster Fuller, 19651

In December of 1973, VanDerBeek and the filmmaker Ed Emshwiller met in a nondescript room in the basement of Anthology Film Archives Second Avenue building and
engaged in a series of wide ranging discussions. Save for a few Anthology regulars who
meandered in and out, the room was empty. Over the course of several evenings, the
two men sat across from one another and took turns posing questions with a simple
audio tape recorder as their primary audience. The tenor of the resulting ten or so
hours of interviews slid effortlessly back and forth between a casual catch-up between
longtime friends and a serious analysis of the cross-section of cinema and visual art.
Each cassette was filled with insightful biographical details; postulating on the state of
American filmmaking and its ability to remain independent, critical assessments of
what it meant to be a contemporary artist in the era of McNamaras Vietnam, technical
developments in film, teaching art and media pedagogy, and ruminations about the
effects of their work.
Like most of his writings from the late 1950s through the early 1980s, VanDerBeeks
voice conveyed a sense of self-reflexivity about his own formation as an artist, and
more notably, a tone of urgency about the state of the field. Each cassettes spool of
magnetic tape seemed to fill up as quickly as VanDerBeek and Emshwiller could flip
over each side and press the record button. Audiotape was a fitting medium to capture
VanDerBeeks intensitythe frenetic pacing of his speech and his own peculiar syntax. Emshwiller and VanDerBeek had overlapping aesthetic and social concerns, which
converged around filmmaking as a type of visual art. The fact that both were key early
adaptors of emerging communication technology and exploited the relative malleability of video- and computer-based media made their film work anathema to Anthologys
Essential Cinema Repertory and was perhaps the reason why at times they felt the
need to whisper in the basement of Anthology Film Archives.


Chapter 2

When Emshwiller asked VanDerBeek to trace his own sense of evolution at the
start of the first tape, he instantly launched into a breathless circuitous monologue.
Listening to his response over thirty years later, it is possible to analyze two specific
episodes that stand out as pivotal points in a career of extraordinary range. The first
acknowledges his formative experience as a student at Black Mountain College where
he stumbled into filmmaking while studying architecture and photography. VanDerBeek told Emshwiller that the medium held his fascination precisely because it seemed
to be the most total media that had everything else in it.2 His fine arts training began
at Cooper Union and he served in the US Navy, in a staff position in the Navys communication division that kept him assigned to a desk at a local base on Long Island.
He continued to pursue studies in painting, photography, and architecture under the
GI Bill at Black Mountain College in western North Carolina between 1949 and 1950.3
VanDerBeek took the schools first photography course introduced in 1949 by Hazel
Larsen Archer, where in addition to learning the mechanics of still photography, he
also picked up his first film camera after the college acquired a Bolex. After leaving
North Carolina, VanDerBeek returned to New York City with his Black Mountain College colleagues and teachers. He supported himself with a string of freelance jobs that
situated him in what can be thought of as a new cultural establishment, a term introduced by critic Susan Sontag in 1965 to describe the critical turn by artists who looked
toward the developing scientific discourses on communication theory rather than literary or music models for conceptual inspiration.
Perhaps the most influential and least known event was Vision 65, a three-day
academic conference devoted to examining new forms of visual communication. The
growing recognition of VanDerBeeks work-in-progress on the Movie-Drome led to the
invitation to present his computer animations and multiple-screen film installations
to over five hundred designers, educators, scientists, politicians, and artists from all
over the world who converged on the campus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale in October 1965.4 Organized by the International Center for the Typographic
Arts, the ambitious mission for the conference was to analyze the complex challenges
of communications in todays shrinking world.5 VanDerBeek cited Vision 65 as a
motivational prompt to formalize his ideas on art and communication. The result was
a remarkable text, Culture: Intercom and Expanded Cinema: A Proposal and Manifesto. Published in a multitude of journals and anthologies, he itemized what he
considered the worrisome cultural and political impulses of the technique of power
and culture-over-reach of communication technology. His antidote to technologys
alienation was to develop an educational tool, or experience machine. In doing so, he
reasserted the conditions for Movie-Drome as a prototype for an international network
for nonverbal communication between various cultures.6

Critical Limits


Vision 65
The 65 manifesto came of out of a big international conference at Carbondale called
Vision 65, noted VanDerBeek to Emshwiller, who added, It was a glorious conference that talked about trying to make a difference in the world, and trying to make
sense of the work and deal with communication.7 Among the group that gathered
in Carbondale were two of VanDerBeeks theoretical interlocutors whose writings and
ideas helped shape VanDerBeeks conception of the Movie-Drome as a prototype for a
research center that would allow for the interchange of images and ideas as well as
what he called, intra-communitronics or dialogues with other centers. Both Buckminster Fuller and Marshall McLuhan were keynote speakers at Vision 65. Among
the vast sets of references in their separate presentations, Fuller and McLuhan both
advocated for cultural change along two specific trajectories: the development of a
common universal non-verbal language of signs and the need to use computers in
a more creative capacity than their current application as large-scale calculators.8 The
galvanizing mantra to do what needs to be done espoused by Fuller in his Vision 65
keynote address was a coda for his closing lecture to the conference, and became the
clear message that VanDerBeek took home with him to Stony Point and to his Culture: Intercom manifesto.9
After Vision 65, building the Movie-Drome prototype became more pressing.
VanDerBeek used his own copy of the Vision 65 conference program as an improvised
sketchpad to map out possible configurations for the installation of various projectors
and lights inside the Movie Drome, which, at the time of Vision 65, was still very much
under construction. Only the cleared and graded land in the back of the VanDerBeek
residence and the modest profile created by a series of wooden support pillars encased
in concrete poking out of the ground gave evidence to two years of concerted work on
the project. While the physical structure of the Movie-Drome had begun to take shape
on the VanDerBeeks wooded lot at Gate Hill Co-op in 1962, the construction process
slowed for the next few years due to gaps in funding and a screening schedule that took
VanDerBeek away from his home and studio to lecture and screen works at various
universities, museums, and film festivals across the United States as well as Europe, the
Middle East, and Asia. VanDerBeeks sketches clearly show how Movie-Dromes internal
workings were on top of his mind while participating in a conference devoted to innovations in communication.
The yellowing 8 11-inch sheets of light blue construction paper that covered the
modest Vision 65 conference agenda offer insight into the mechanics of the project.
The pamphlet is covered with a series of neat ink drawings and brief notes that VanDerBeek drafted possible arrangements for film and slide projectors and the directional
flow of their light in a round theater environment. Variations on the use of a central


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rotating platform, or alternatively a pole, to mount 35 mm slide projectors so that the

projected images could spin around the curved interior, an eventual realization, was
included in this early sketch of the Movie-Drome (figure 2.1).10 On the back left corner
of the worn pamphlet, VanDerBeek drew a literal equation linking his practice of projecting his films against a wall of multiple screens of varying sizes and heights to the
more fluid space of the curved interior of the dome (figure 2.2). As if he was attempting
to explain this concept to another person and needed the help of a visual aid, VanDerBeek drew a series of six rectangles of varying sizes positioned next to one another
and aligned them directly across from three vertically oriented rectangles representing the projectors. This multiscreen projection arrangement is recast in the adjoining
sketch which shows a grid embedded within a circle. The drawing includes VanDerBeeks notations on how 16 mm and 35 mm film projectors would be situated on tracks
diametrically cutting across the interior of the dome and slide projectors would be
mounted on the periphery. It would be a few more months before VanDerBeek was able
to acquire and actually begin installing the equipment in a belabored process of trial
and error. More importantly, however, the notes hastily drawn at Vision 65 indicate
a deep interest in moving away from the direct one-to-one ratio of matching a single
projector with a single screen.
Vision 65 took the form of a teach-in, reflecting of the pedagogical shifts in the
public education system in the United States during the 1950s and 1960s. The terms
adoption by the organizers of Vision 65 signaled a reconceptualization of the passive
audience and active presenter paradigm that was the custom of academic conferences.
As a reporter for Industrial Design observed, The success of Vision 65 was due less to
the formal proceedings than to the people-to-people contact.11 In fact, this notion
of an active participatory model of pedagogy was fundamental to both McLuhan and
Fullers theories and writings of the time. McLuhan took up the subject of the teach-in
in the following year when he produced the experimental graphic book, The Medium
is the Massage, with designers Quentin Fiore and Jerome Agel. In one of the few textheavy sections of the mostly pictorial book, McLuhan wrote, The classroom is now
in a vital struggle for survival with the immensely persuasive outside world created
by new informational media.12 The teach-in, according to him, represented a shift
from instruction to discovery and related to another catchphrase that emerged
during the same period: roles, not goals, which he linked to the idea of total involvement as the defining factor in education rather than the more fragmented concept
of goals or jobs.13 Clearly this book project resulted from his longstanding interest in
transposing techniques used in one type of media into another. An important earlier
permutation in the types of graphic experiments seen in this popularized book can
be found in Explorations 8, an issue of the journal edited by McLuhan and Edmund
Carpenter devoted to what they called, the Verbi-Voco-Visual published by the University of Toronto in 1957. Not only does this issue of the journal present innovative

Critical Limits


Figure 2.1
The front cover to VanDerBeeks copy of the Vision 65 conference program. Illustrations of the
interior of the Movie-Drome including placement of projectors on a spinning central platform
done while at the three-day conference in Carbondale, Illinois in 1965.


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Figure 2.2
The back cover to VanDerBeeks copy of the Vision 65 conference program showing the artist
working out ideas for the interior projection set up of the Movie-Drome.

Critical Limits


uses of typeface in relation to the context of essays, the content of the issue is organized
around items and pages reflecting the distinctions between seeing and reading that
McLuhan would investigate in later books. While VanDerBeek was an avid follower
of McLuhans writing, it is not clear if he perused this issue of the journal, but if so,
he would have undoubtedly been drawn to its cover art, the design of which derived
from what the editors described as the spherical nature of the oral world.14 Likewise,
a constant refrain throughout Fullers speeches and writings from the 1960s was his
cautioning of the younger generation not to earn a living, but instead to do what
needs to be done.15 McLuhan and Fullers overlapping interests in the application of
graphic design principles and communication also is made evident by the fact that in
1970, Fuller worked with both Jerome Agel and Quentin Fiore to create the Bantam
paperback book, I Seem to Be a Verb, which made novel use of photographs, Fullers
texts, and various fonts in a similar manner as The Medium is the Massage. The subsequent influence of McLuhans and Fullers teach-in rhetoric and graphic aesthetic on
VanDerBeeks conception of the Movie-Drome should not be underestimated.
Fuller, for his part, was the main draw for the teach-in to be held at Carbondale
since he spent most of the 1960s as Distinguished University Professor at Southern
Illinois University. This was a period that dovetailed with the wider appreciation of
the polymaths progressive ideas through the publication of five of his books on subjects ranging from economics to ecological sustainability. Fullers transformation from
a military consultant to Bucky, the popular hero, culminated in the iconic portrait of
the Dymaxion American drawn by Artzybasheff that entered homes and offices by
way of Time magazines cover in 1964 and followed up two years later by a profile in the
New Yorker penned by art critic Calvin Tomkins.16 By 1965, Fullers cultural influence
would not be limited to the fields of architecture, environmental science, and engineering, as evidenced by the fact that his identification became less occupational (such as
engineer) and more inventive monikers like creator, image-maker, and visionary
followed his name. At this point, the exclusively military and corporate names that
populated Fullers clientele list began to comingle with museums and universities.17
Fuller developed a peculiar style of public address, which included mixing personal anecdotes with historical analogies, relaying technical case studies, and parsing
voluminous amounts of data and statistics.18 While Fullers ability to synthesize vast
amounts of information into digestible parts was legend, exercising verbal restraint
was not.19 Fullers unique style of address must been viewed in combination with his
sophisticated use of visual display techniques. Despite Fullers professed disinterest
in the appearance or aesthetic properties of his prodigious presentations, books, and
even scientific reports, Mark Wigley has astutely noted that within Fullers output,
technical and otherwise, All the layers of science are carefully organized to produce an
aesthetic effect. Science is deployed as an art form.20 In particular, Fullers emphasis on
visually mapping (i.e., demonstrating relationships in spatial terms) rather than simply


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illustrating the physical and social properties under discussion became increasingly
significant to a generation of American artists engaged with exploring the multifarious
ways visual art intersected with emerging media technology and points to the types
of methodological links that develop later into the nascent field of data visualization.
A New Cultural Sensibility
VanDerBeek was clearly one of the key figures among this group of artists (including
future collaborator Gyrgy Kepes) who can be thought of as forming a diverse new
cultural establishment working at the nexus of visual art and communication technology. Kepess influential writings on what he termed the language of vision helped
cultivate the area within the field of visual studies that emphasizes visions cognitive
power. A tangible result was the establishment of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT in 1967 by Kepes, who invited VanDerBeek to become one of the first artists
in residence at the Center in 1969. In many ways, the establishment of a visual arts
research center at one of the premier educational institutions for engineering and technology is evidence of the shifting cultural landscape that critic Susan Sontag mapped
in her important essay One Culture and the New Sensibility included in the volume,
Against Interpretation. Outlining how the illusion of conflict between two-cultures,
the literary-artistic and the scientific, was being dismantled by the actions of contemporary art, Sontags analysis has ripened in current debates concerning the relevancy
of the humanities. The role of the individual artist, in the business of making unique
objects for the purpose of giving pleasure and educating conscience and sensibility,
has repeatedly been called into question, emphasized Sontag who sardonically noted
that many intellectuals have gone so far as to prophesy that art, in an automated
scientific society, would be unfunctional, useless.21 Having a front row view onto the
pluralism of the arts of the early 1960s, what she called the art of radical juxtaposition in another essay, she was quick to nullify this sentiment.22 What we are getting
is not the demise of art, but a transformation of the functions of art.23 She argued for
the recognition of a new cultural establishment that drew models from both scientific
and design developments as well as the visual and literary contexts.24
In addition, I would add that this new establishment overlapped with a more diverse
range of specialties not previously associated with the visual or performing arts. Sontags list gives evidence to this fact when she identified the formation of this group of
thinkers in 1965 as being comprised of certain painters, sculptors, architects, social
planners, film-makers, TV technicians, neurologists, musicians, electronics engineers,
dancers, philosophers, and sociologists.25 Sontag went on to explain that some of the
basic texts for this new cultural alignment are to be found in the writings of Buckminster Fuller, Marshall McLuhan, John Cage [and] Gyrgy Kepes.26 Most significantly,
Sontags essay outlines how this group of artists turned to the burgeoning field of the

Critical Limits


social sciences not only for novel forms and new jargon to interject into their visual art
practices, but also to engage with the new theories introduced by these growing fields
as a means to reconsider the production, circulation, and reception of visual art.
Another name that clearly belongs on Sontags list of sources is Norbert Wiener.
Wieners writings from the early 1950s were also very much on the radar of this diverse
group of cultural thinkers who were interested in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology mathematics professors theories on communication and control as articulated
in The Human Use of Human Beings (1950) and Cybernetics (first published in 1948).
These two influential books blended studies in the newer fields of neurology and psychiatry with methods from the more established praxis of mathematics and engineering, overlaid onto the subjects of social science.27 No doubt artists such as VanDerBeek
shared Wieners conviction voiced in the introduction to Cybernetics, or Control and
Communication in the Animal and Machine that the most fruitful areas for growth were
those which had been neglected as a no-mans land between the various established
fields.28 Echoed in similar sentiments during his Vision 65 presentation, VanDerBeek
stated, The contemporary artist, facing many opportunities in America, must find
ways to cut across definitions and pre-censorship of techniques.29 Moreover, Wieners
theories on the relationship between the human psyche and the various mechanisms
at play in verbal and visual communication were at the root of VanDerBeeks next
point elaborated in his talk:
The artist must make use of the force of art, with its influences on human psychology, to communicate and to announce.30 He must find ways to come out of his isolation from his community.
He must find ways to unite technology and the human condition.31

VanDerBeeks call to humanize technology first uttered in the lecture hall in Carbondale would echo through almost all of his projects and writings from this point
The markedly interdisciplinary pursuits of this new cultural establishment were
clearly in tune with the artists most closely associated with Expanded Cinema, who
themselves were engaged in negotiating the boundaries between art and media technology. These two constituencies were probably the key demographic producing what
Sontag described as a new sensibility in visual art, but they were not the only ones.
Key to the discussion here are the ideas introduced by Fuller that were also absorbed
by a much broader swath of contemporary art practices. Of particular note are the artists not typically associated with new media technology, but more conceptually driven
practices aligned with the perceptual shifts achieved through the formal reductivism
of minimalism. For example, Museum of Modern Art New York curator Kynaston
McShine referenced Fullers influence in relation to Sol LeWitts spare, geometric sculptures in the pivotal 1966 exhibition Primary Structures as well as Robert Smithsons citation of Fullers writing on entropy in the same exhibition.32 The critical attention that


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American artists afforded to the ideas of Fuller, McLuhan, Kepes, and Wiener swelled at
the same moment when the United States was a centrifugal force in the postwar culture
industry advancing new epistemologies of informatics and technical experimentation with emerging visual media.33 Another identifying marker of this new cultural
establishment, I would add, is the fact that artists such as VanDerBeek (and his fellow
American Expanded Cinema cohorts) engaged with the theories and methods developing around media technology circulating outside the purview of art criticism or art
history. Their own conceptualization of the role of the artist and who constituted their
audience suggested a more concerted, civic-minded outlook reflective of the changing
social and political landscape of the 1960s and 1970s.
1970 proved to be a signal year for artists interpolating advancements in graphic
and telecommunications technology into their practices. Beyond the appearance of
photocopiers and facsimile machines in museum and gallery exhibitions, 1970 saw a
conceptual shift toward more systems-based processes in visual art ushered in by the
broadening access to digital computing resources. Jack Burnhams watershed exhibition Software: Information TechnologyIts New Meaning for Art mounted at the Jewish
Museum in the fall of 1970 as well as Kynaston McShines Information exhibition at the
Museum of Modern Art, which ran concurrently that year, outlined these issues.
The ethical implications for artists working with emergent forms of technology,
however, were specifically singled out in a lesser-known group show called Explorations.
Organized by Gyrgy Kepes with fellows from MITs Center for Advanced Visual Studies at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC, Explorations opened in the spring of that
year. Artists must not only transform themselves as well as the social framework of
the creative process, wrote Kepes in the catalogue introduction entitled Toward Civic
Art where he maintained, this new imperative refers not only to the exploration of
new tools and mediabut also to the exploration of new ways in which the work of
art and the public can come together.34 The premise of Explorations was to invite visitors to ignore the do not touch directive of museums and handle many of the works
including light sculptures made by Jack Burnham and a mural created by VanDerBeek
that comprised images that were transmitted via fax from other cultural institutions
and mounted during the run of the exhibition at the Smithsonian.
Through this exhibition, Kepes consciously sought to link the artist with a broader
public, stating, today, artists like the rest of us, face a profound crisis brought about by
the increasingly dynamic complexity of our social fabric.35 Moving beyond the typical craft metaphors of weaving a complex pattern, his writing evoked the new digital
processes that artists would employ. Kepes remarked, Meeting its challenge requires
[arts] fundamental re-orientation in order to probe, scan, discover, absorb, change, and
re-edify their surroundings.36 More specifically, Kepes suggested that artists must not
only transform themselves as well as the social framework of the creative process, but
also make the important distinction that this new imperative refers not only to the

Critical Limits


exploration of new tools and mediacreating new idiomsbut also to the exploration
of new ways in which the work of art and the public can come together.37 Reflecting this reoriented position, Explorations included kinetic artworks by Otto Piene and
Takis mixed with video and film projection works by Ted Kraynik, Les Levine, and Jack
Burnham.38 The projects included by the latter group of artists responded to the introduction of concepts such as feedback and the installations by these artists incorporated
novel mechanisms such as strobe lighting as well as new types of commercial reproduction technology including a xerographic photocopier developed by Xerox Corporation
in the 1960s.39
Developing installations that employed these types of machines resulted in art works
that invited the Smithsonians visitors to touch, walk upon, walk through, whistle, and
play with the exhibitions on display, albeit in a very stilted and blunted manner. Explorations novelty factor resided on two fronts. Not only was the presentation of bulky,
often imposing, office equipment (the photocopier for example) in a museum exhibition context a curious gesture, but also in 1970 few people would have been familiar
with these types of machines in general. While the photocopiers use of dry heat to
transfer images gradually replaced other duplicating machines and materials such as
Verifax, Photostat, mimeograph machines, and carbon paper, the photocopier was not
yet the ubiquitous machine it was to become by the late 1970s. The term Xeroxing
was not yet synonymous with the act of photocopying. Not only did the curators need
to introduce the selected artists to the public, but the sheer novelty of these devices also
necessitated an explanation of how the machine themselves were designed to function.
Within the Smithsonian context, the image-transfer ability of the photocopier was not
instantly recognizable and the relative speed and ease of producing even fuzzy blackand-white results on white bond paper would have read as fairly advanced imaging
technology to the museum-going public.
Consequently, the program and map accompanying the exhibition included brief
overviews of the machines and described how their intended use was subtly manipulated by the artists to generate, or react to, what the curators called live audience
feedback. The program text relied on Norbert Wieners definition of feedback as a
cybernetic system that works like the brain gathering feedback from its surroundings
and modifying its actions accordingly. The arresting effect of stroboscopic lightsfirst
designed to allow cyclically moving, or vibrating ojects to appear slow-moving or stationary for studywere used in the exhibition to illuminate the visitors and not the
objects on display. This arrangement seemed to slow down the visitors actions and
movements through the exhibition space. The program text also highlights how the
Xerox Corporation introduced proto-fax machines (or telecopiers) as the ideal office
machines that used electrostatically charged plates to send signals over existing telephone lines to other machines, which were then able to produce printed copies of the
transmitted texts and images regardless of distance.


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The latter device was central to VanDerBeeks inclusion in the exhibition. His wallscale (approximately 8 20 feet) mural, Panels for the Walls of the World, was an ongoing
project in which collaged newspapers, drawings, and found images were scanned and
faxed to the Smithsonian from other institutions including the Center for Advanced
Visual Studies. This project developed from a set of fax murals that VanDerBeek started
experimenting with in 1969 at the start of his residency at MIT. The resulting blackand-white 11 x 14-inch pages were printed out in Washington and mounted on a wall
in the exhibition space over the duration of the exhibition, giving rise to a time-based
mural display following a set of instructions for the installation (figure 2.3). Designed
to be user-friendly avant la lettre, the exhibition instructions focused on the basic
mechanics of the fax machine (make sure the machine is plugged into the wall socket
was one helpful note). The instructions also included a grid layout with numbers corresponding to each sheet of paper to ease in the final installation. Most significantly,
according to VanDerBeek, the mural was installed in real-time, meaning the mural
[was] installed as a process, and [was] worked and re-work[ed] throughout the length
of the exhibition, by image transmission and continuing collage.40 VanDerBeek made
note of the fact that the length of transmission time was around ten minutes for an
8-1/2 14-inch section of mural, a pace that only appears slow compared to todays
standards for the instant transfer of images and information. Therefore, the murals
took an average of about four weeks to complete with 15 machines running around the
clock. After the exhibit at the Smithsonian, he was commissioned to generate a telefax
mural at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.
This project developed from the early set of experiments VanDerBeek started while
at MIT in 1969. VanDerBeek created black-and-white collages of newspapers, drawings,
and other graphic sources (figure 2.4 and figure 2.5), faxing images from his office at
MIT to various points around Cambridge and Boston. Most notably, the intended audience was a broader public, as the venues for the test phase were spaces such as Bostons
City Hall where the murals were mounted not in an exhibition context, but alongside
other postings for government service information and announcements. The murals
were also faxed and installed at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts. Founded in 1950,
the school was a cultural hub for Bostons African American community and offered
courses in art, dance, drama, and music to preschool children up through adults at its
Roxbury location (figure 2.6). These decidedly civic and educational contexts made
a contrast with the isolated installation views of the mural as it was erected in the
Smithsonians galleries. Covering two freestanding walls, the installation also featured
the actual fax machine on a plinth in the middle of the exhibition space for viewers to
examine like a sculptural object (figure 2.7).
The projects emphasis on what VanDerBeek identified as simultaneity, image dialogue, and the artwork being electronically shipped to its environment in the end

Critical Limits


represented the overarching concepts core to VanDerBeeks practice. These included

the notion of real-time production, remote authorship, scalability, and most significantly, variability. The latter underlies almost all of his projects throughout the 1960s
including the Movie-Drome and more diffuse presentations of his ideas for multiscreen
projection like those given in Carbondale during Vision 65.
The presentations at Vision 65, delivered in characteristically dramatic form by
both Fuller and McLuhan, squarely addressed Sontags new cultural establishment
identified in her essay One Culture and the New Sensibility, published the same year
as the conference. More pressingly, Fuller and McLuhan both enthusiastically detailed
how visual art offered a possible challenge to the dual forces of anxiety and celebration
preoccupying many artists. While the individual impulses of a diverse range of artistic
practices that proliferated between 1959 and 1966 make generalizations of the period
problematic, the plurality of artistic strategies associated with Fluxus, Happenings, and
Expanded Cinema did register artists responses to the cultural, political, and social
conditions of the same moment. Furthermore, this type of critical examination varied
along a sliding scale between the utopian desire for complete gender and racial equality
to the anxiety provoked by daily street demonstrations and other, more direct forms of
political activism staged in response to a series of government and corporate actions.
Defying any semblance of a unified message, Fullers sweeping talk delivered in his
famously unscripted and unprepared manner touched on everything from religious
scripture to heat entropy, and at the end called for artists to engage in a design revolution that would put an end to the basic causes of war.41 His Vision 65 keynote
lecture included the declaration, It is also part of the great message to humanity of
those who have the power to communicate that the worlds problems cannot be solved
by politics and can only be solved by a physical invention and design revolution.42
Fullers calculated move of presenting a technical evolution in design and architecture
as an antidote to war was not just a rhetorical flourish pulled out for the Vision 65
crowd.43 Fullers statement revolution by design turned into a mantra often repeated
in his writings and presentations; it became synonymous with his perhaps problematic practice of advocating for technological advancement as a substitute for direct
forms of political action and protest.44 The idea that participants would walk away
from Vision 65 thoroughly inspired and morally jolted into taking some type of social
action in terms of rethinking ones own position, or role within society, was definitely
not lost on VanDerBeek.45 In fact, Fullers lesson helped shaped the empathic aims for
the Movie-Drome to generate cultural exchange as a means of dampening the divisive
rhetoric of the Cold War. In many ways, VanDerBeeks equivocal views about the role
of technology as being the cause and the solution to cultural misunderstanding were
refracted through his complex reception of Fullers ideas.


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Critical Limits

Figure 2.3
Panels for the Walls of the World instruction sheets.



Figure 2.4
Source images for fax mural.

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Critical Limits

Figure 2.5
Source collages for fax mural.



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Figure 2.6
VanDerBeeks telefax mural installed at the Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, a Boston-area public
school located in Roxbury, c. 1969. Created in preparation for the installations of Panels for the
Walls of the World at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC and later the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis.

Failure as a Generative Process

VanDerBeeks preoccupation with the utopian possibilities of art production in the face
of what he deemed as an inevitable global annihilation due to nuclear proliferation was
not the only Fuller-influenced aspect of his project. In terms of a physical structure or
form, the Dromes dome shape most obviously referenced Fullers best known design:
the geodesic dome patented in 1954.46 In fact, among VanDerBeeks uncatalogued
papers and notes from his studio is a sales brochure produced by Price and Rutzebeck,
the Hayward, California, firm outlining potential domestic adaptations of Fullers geodesic domes. Designed for a general audience, the brochure explains Fullers design in
straightforward terms while a page of composite photographs demonstrates the varied
uses of such a structure from temporary housing, garages, and backyard bandshells.
From its widespread introduction in the mid-1950s, the signature spherical structure
quickly became an architectural icon making the angular profile of buildings seem

Critical Limits


Figure 2.7
Installation view of the Panels for the Walls of the World in the exhibition Explorations curated by
Gyrgy Kepes at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington, DC (AprilMay, 1970).

out of step with the curvilinear forms that proliferated during this period. Fullers
rounded, half-spherical design influenced a wide range of structures including largescale public works, stadiums to Worlds Fair pavilions, and gas stations throughout
the 1960s. Because of its patented scalability, the geodesic dome could be found in
starkly divergent contexts including both childrens playgrounds (Playdome climbing structure,1957) and shelters to safe guard military and government equipment. A
pneumatic, quilted double-skinned geodesic dome was built by Berger Brothers for the
US Air force, for example, and the radome, a fiberglass geodesic dome was used to
enclose the US governments radar equipment that comprised its Defense Early Warning System. The fact that the most prevalent use of the geodesic dome was to build
structures that would meet specific military objectives would seem to have diminished
Fullers message of revolution by design.
While VanDerBeek became enamored with Fullers message to immediately apply
comprehensive design strategies to enhance communication at Vision 65, the artist
had already been introduced to Fullers geodesic designs as a student at Black Mountain


Chapter 2

College several years earlier. A brief letter penned by VanDerBeek expressed his admiration for Fuller. In a very neat script VanDerBeek wrote, Dear Sir, I am a student of architecture and I feel the importance of your work; although I have only heard you lecture
once and have seen only photographs of your houses.47 VanDerBeeks brief studies at
the school directly overlapped with Fullers larger-than-life presence at Black Mountain
College in the summers of 1948 and 1949. Arriving on the rural campus located in
the foothills of western North Carolina in 1949, VanDerBeek was part of an influx of
new students taking advantage of the GI Bill. Black Mountain Colleges experimental
modela unique pedagogical approach of melding innovative art education with a nonhierarchical organization where teachers and students governed the school and were
equally responsible for its finances and operations was a gravitational pull to those who
were keen to fully engage the art/life maxim.48 All students, regardless of their training
or experience, participated in the maintenance of the schools facilities including growing and harvesting food through its legendary work program. Two of Black Mountain
Colleges founding philosophiescollectivism and collaboration in art making, and the
idea that visual art is an inherently interdisciplinary endeavorcontinued to undergird
VanDerBeeks practice well after his short time in the Blue Ridge mountains.
VanDerBeek was among a core group of students active in Black Mountains initial foray into the study of architecture. Martin Dubermans detailed chronicle of the
fabled colleges history notes specifically that VanDerBeek was among the number of
students on campus [who] became interested in architecture and met weekly to discuss
developments in the field in the postwar period.49 Duberman details how these seven
or eight students, including pivotal figures in Black Mountains transformation into
a postwar haven for the American avant-garde such as Paul Williams, Al Lanier, and
Si Sillman, worked together afternoons for about a year, designing and constructing
a Minimum House.50 The term minimum employed in this context is of particular note since the discourse around a type of minimalism, or reduction in form, was
conflated with an economy of scale and production, which was not necessarily the
definition of minimalism that would become associated with sculptural practices of the
1960s. In Dubermans account, VanDerBeek and the others wanted to show that good
design neednt be expensive; and in fact the total cost of the building came to only a
little over a thousand dollarsmoney provided by Paul Williamss mother, and the
stones for the walls were gathered from the woods.51 The lessons on low-cost design
and an interest in optimizing available materials absorbed by VanDerBeek during this
formative experience would prove essential to the ethos that drove the Movie-Dromes
construction a few years later. And the financial support provided by the Williams
family would also allow for the purchase of the land that would become the Gate Hill
Co-op after the dissolution of Black Mountain College.
By 1953, Black Mountain College had become reliant on the financial gifts and
loans of Paul Williams, a student who became a resident architect at the college, and

Critical Limits


his wife, Vera Williams, who also studied at Black Mountain College. The Williamses commitment to the college was eroded by the acrimony and disorganization that
characterized the schools final years. While their investment in maintaining Black
Mountain College waned, Paul and Vera Williamss interest in intentional communities intensified. In fact, directly influenced by the socio-psychological approach to
city planning and community building espoused in the book CommunitasMeans of
Livelihood and Ways of Life, first published in 1947 by architect Percival Goodman, his
brother and Black Mountain College creative writing faculty member Paul Goodman,
the Williamses made plans to form their own intentional community.52 Vera Williams,
already familiar with Goodmans ideas published in Communitas, was introduced to his
plays by M. C. Richards. She recalled that in Goodmans classes at Black Mountain College the role of architecture in community building was paramount: He talked about
space in relation to how its used, such as the subway and lunch counter and Protestant
church, having to do with the relation of people vis--vis each other and how this
related to architecture.53 Vera Williamss recollection of Goodmans teaching underscored the themes advanced by Communitas, which was an attempt to counter the
American proclivity for conformity and emulation that drove urban planning in the
postwar period of abundance. Americans seem to be trapped in their present pattern,
with no recourse but to complicate the present evils by more of the same.54 In an effort
not to emulate but to improve upon the lessons of Black Mountain College, Paul and
Vera Williams purchased about a hundred acres of slopping hillsides near Stony Point
and established the charter for Gate Hill Artists Cooperative in 1954. Together with
their Black Mountain College colleagues and friends (the poet and literature scholar,
M. C. Richards and her composer husband David Tudor, potters Karen Karnes and
David Weinrib, and John Cage), they headed for the land in an experiment in living
and working designed to cultivate their individual practices through the support of a
community. Drawing on their experiences building the minimum house as well as
many of Fullers design ideas, Gate Hill Co-op was set up expressly to engender collaboration through its organization as well as through the arrangement of its buildings,
which were designed by Paul Williams in partnership with each intended resident.
Josef Albers, who had been recruited to help form Black Mountain College after the
Nazis shuttered the Bauhaus, invited Fuller to teach at the schools summer institutes.55
Fuller took full advantage of the summer schools unique cooperative environment
to begin experimenting with tensegrity structures and modeling his geodesic breakthrough in three-dimensional form.56 In July 1948 Fuller and a group of students managed to assemble a forty-eight-foot diameter dome out of thirty-one interconnected
circles constructed out of rolls of varicolored, high-tensile aluminum Venetian blind
scrap stock that Fuller hauled down to North Carolina from Chicago.57 According to
Fullers calculations, the dome would weigh less than a hundred pounds but would
attain a fifty-foot height, demonstrating a newfound strength out of the slightest of


Chapter 2

building materials. Students and other faculty gathered to watch the ad hoc process in
which miles of Venetian blind strips were laid out on the campuss wet grass, connected
by metal bolts and arranged so that the dome could be raised by just a few hands. Like
most early art and technology experiments, Fullers initial dome construction did not
hold its form, but gently collapsed as it neared completion, giving rise to its renowned
nickname, the Supine Dome.
Narrative accounts by Merce Cunningham, Elaine de Kooning, and others who saw
the limp mass of beige ribbons struggling to take shape on a rainy July afternoon in
1949 differ in their interpretation of the relative success of the project.58 Instead of
reading the event as an aberrant structural failure by the illustrious engineer, it should
be taken as a polemical statement about the import of critical limits not only in terms
of architectural form, but also as the phenomena relates to the notion of a creating
form through a process of failure. The point of Fullers experiment at Black Mountain
was not to actually raise the dome, rather it concentrated on locating what he called
the critical limitthe point at which the structure could take form and that any
additional weight would result in its collapse.59 The experiment was designed to counter conventional building strategy, which was according to Fuller, to overbuild structures to make them safe, using materials so heavy that failures would bring fatalities.
Consequently, the critical limit capabilities of complex structures are never known.60
The geodesic design thwarted the construction industrys fortress mentality by emphasizing design over weight or material properties in determining structural strength.
Simultaneously the geodesic dome demonstrated several architectural truisms, such
as the fact that a sphere encloses more space using less surface and is stronger against
internal pressure than any other geometrical form.61 With the supine dome, Fuller
raised the dome to its critical capability through the slow process of adding discrete
elements, resulting in the construction being accomplished with one hundredth of the
weight of the material traditionally used to create similar structures.62 The purpose of
Fullers demonstration that summer was not to illustrate the shape of a geodesic dome,
but to offer an experiment in failure. The supine dome illustrated that the so-called failure of a structure is not necessarily hazardous, nor is the meaning of a structure always
found in its exterior form, but can be thought of as a process, or means of production.63
Dymaxion Dreams
If the notion of producing form from failure was the first lesson VanDerBeek gleaned
from Fuller, a second, more practical one derived from Fullers extensive experiments
in prefabrication. Specifically, Fullers conceptualization of shelter as a unit in a hub of
activity rather than as an autonomous structure was of great interest to VanDerBeek.
Movie-Dromes materials and construction most visibly resemble Fullers economical
design and fabrication method for the Dymaxion House devised much earlier than

Critical Limits


the geodesic dome in 1929 and included designs for a related Dymaxion car in 1933.
The plans for the Dymaxion house evolved from a refocused effort by Fuller to use
design to address what he termed the potential human emergence from general disadvantage to general advantage over physical environment, or more succinctly, to
rethink the role of shelter beyond simply providing protection against the elements.64
Fullers renowned project for single-family housing derived from his earlier proposals
and experiments for what he referred to as the 4D house (fourth dimensiontime)
and prioritized the use of inexpensive, mass-produced materials along with emphasizing the ease of distribution and construction in the structures own fabrication.65
Fundamental to the 4D house design was exhibiting the Fuller dictum of maximum
strength at minimum weight per unit of structure, presaging his geodesic experiments
of the 1940s and resulting in a design that eschewed the load-bearing construction
for housing that had not been altered since ancient times.66 In contrast, the 4D house
would bear stress like an airplane using newly available tension materials like steel alloy
cables, which would allow compression and tension parts to be separated like a wire
wheel turned on its side.67
More importantly to VanDerBeek was Fullers conception of comprehensive design
in which the notion of shelter encompassed virtually everything, which gave man
a local technical advantage in his struggle against the elements including not only a
house, the utilities which tended to make a house autonomous and the transportation which shuttled a man between his place of work and his place of physiological
renovation.68 The Dymaxion house rested on a series of tanks for water and power
that would allow for the house to be built off-the-grid, so to speakindependent
of existing utility lines for sewage and power and fully operative no matter the locale.
The Dymaxion house was in both design and spirit the embodiment of what would
be called a machine-for-living by architects.69 By 1928 Fuller had filed the patent for
the 4D house, which became the basis for series of stainless steel prototypes in 1944
46 called Dymaxion Dwelling Machines. These were mobile housing units built on
aircraft factory production lines and shipped directly to the consumer in a customdesigned aluminum package. The final assembly of Fullers Dymaxion Machine arrived
in a cylinder container that transported the materials used in its construction as seen
in figure 2.4. Describing the distinguishing characteristics of the Dymaxion Dwelling
Machine, Fuller quipped, it hangs rather than sits; its more or less circular instead of
square, giving maximum strength for each pound of material used. It was made so it
could be installed wherever you want it, so that you could call up and say, Id like my
dwelling machine here, or over there, like any service industry.70 Fullers conceptualization of housing design not only accommodated the need for an enclosed private
realm, but also suggested that a house could be a machine, facilitating connections to
the outside world through technological utilities, and in this manner closely reflected
VanDerBeeks intentions for the Movie-Drome.


Chapter 2

Due to the almost ubiquitous presence of domes and spherical forms popping
up throughout the United States both in commercial construction and architectural
design alikerounding the corners of movie theaters, exhibition pavilions, stadiums,
temporary shelters, and storage facilities by the start of the 1960sthe list of possible
formal and conceptual influences on the dome shape of the Movie-Drome is potentially
endless. Key to the project is not the novelty of the dome or whether Movie-Drome
merely represented a lo-fi version of Fullers highly engineered structures. Rather, a
more significant issue remains. As both a form and a model, Movie-Drome resided in
the cultural space between a 1950s Fuller-influenced desire for mass-produced, flexible
shelters that would allow the dome dweller to live efficiently and what Felicity Scott
has astutely described as the countercultural ethos motivating the use of domes as a
technology for dropping out.71 Or, in other words, the motivations behind VanDerBeeks construction choices for the Movie-Drome slid between Fullers dictum of total
resources for total production for total population and the DIY aims of the dome
builders of the 1970s.72 VanDerBeeks choice of the dome shape to create stand-alone
center that would allow artists to screen and share media art works regardless of location occupied a middle position between a postwar fascination with automation and
efficiency in the domestic realm, and the anti-authoritarian stance epitomized by the
expression living off the grid.
More specifically, the Movie-Dromes location on an artists cooperativenot a commune or other counterculture or alternative spaceunderscored the interest in the
role that intentional communities could play in altering the values of the postwar
American way of life, a theme advanced in the pages of Communitas. The Movie-Drome
was consciously built within the context of a self-initiated and self-run community of
artists who sought to integrate their art practice with their sense of social, political,
economic, and environmental ethics. VanDerBeeks construction choices for the Drome
also reflected the edicts in Communitas for people to be agents of their own needs
and create the spaces that would engender the type of lives they wanted to lead.73
Movie-Dromes dome construction was also reflective of VanDerBeeks scavenger mentality, put to use first on the minimum house at Black Mountain College, optimizing
any and all available resources including tapping the community of artists living and
working around him at the Gate Hill Co-op for donations of labor and equipment as
well as moral support. In this way, the Movie-Drome extended the types of intentional
communities throughout history outlined in Communitas including the kibbutz, progressive schools, and cooperative farming in which land, equipment, skills, ownership,
and risks are pooled together.
Unlike Fullers complex plans for the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine in which the
functionality of the house and choices pertaining to its construction derived from a
larger comprehensive design, the Movie-Drome was fabricated in an ad hoc manner,
repurposing a prefabricated grain silo top mail-ordered from a Midwest farm supply

Critical Limits


company and delivered to VanDerBeeks property in Rockland County.74 Clearly, the

operation of Movie-Drome as a type of experience machine and the Dymaxion House
projects were distinct in context, scope, and scale. Yet their structural similarities go
beyond just the anecdotal. Black-and-white photographs documenting the various elements of the Dymaxion House compared with recently located snapshots of the MovieDromes construction offer a means of assessing VanDerBeeks formal decisions.75
The metal wedges that VanDerBeek mail-ordered from the silo manufacturer
DeMuth, arrived from Schiller Park, Illinois, nested just like an orange, all round in
shape and sitting inside each other.76 In the same taped interview with Emshwiller,
VanDerBeek recounted the scene of the silo tops arrival in Stony Point. Packed in
wooden crates, the panels were precut and designed to join together at the seams.
VanDerBeek noted how the panels were packed into one another so tightly that he
could not pry them out of their crates, which were dropped off on the property by a
semitrailer truck. He resorted to tying a rope to one of the wedges and the other end
to the bumper of his truck, and then gunning the motor and yanking the panels out
of their crates.
Likewise, the six thousand pounds of components that comprised the Dymaxion
Dwelling Machine were packed and shipped in a streamlined vertical cylinder seen
positioned upright on the left side of the Dymaxion House in figure 2.8. Linking the
packaging with the overall design of the house, Robert Marks noted, It was a fundamental responsibility of the design, as Fuller conceived it, to have all of the parts
compact to minimum cubage and most parts were designed to nest together.77 This
represented an incredible feat of compact packaging design in which the individual
elements are bound and fitted inside one another to reduce waste and shipping costs.
The ability to assemble the structure unaided by heavy or specialized equipment was
also significant.
Any single part could be handled by one man with one hand, leaving his other hand free to fasten
the part in its place; consequently it was never necessary for any workman to require the services
of a helper.78

Theoretically, this might have been the case, but like most construction projects, more
hands are often necessary. Even a cursory examination of the documentation of the
first of only a few Dymaxion Dwelling Machines to be erected shows scores of construction workers fitting the malleable roof material over the metal framework (figure 2.9).
Similarly, the Movie-Drome relied on several bodies holding the weight of the aluminum panels as others attempted to conjoin them (figure 2.10). While cumbersome in
shape and balance, the aluminum material was light enough so that one person could
lift and place a panel as demonstrated in figure 2.11.
A rotating group of volunteers repeated the pattern of piecing individual panels
together on the ground and then hoisting and connecting the groups of panels to the


Chapter 2

Figure 2.8
The final assembly of Fullers Dymaxion Machine. The cylinder container that transported the
materials used in its construction is pictured at left. Courtesy the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller

already secured sections until the dome was a little more than halfway completed. The
pace of construction slowed down long enough to allow an American flag to remain
draped from the central mast (figure 2.12). Another black-and-white image shows how
this manner of piecemeal production continued until almost all the domes panels
were joined and reached the furthest edge of the Movie-Dromes wooden platform base
(figure 2.13). The area underneath the platform, visible in figure 2.13, was littered with
the various scraps of wood and plastic sheeting covering the dome between working
phases. Together this series of images conveys the ebb and flow of the Movie-Dromes ad
hoc construction process, which relied on neighbors and volunteers contributing their
time, tools, scrap materials, and labor to the project.
The spherical shapes structural stability relied on the conjoining of individually
cut aluminum wedges with bolts and weather sealant adhering the structure to its

Critical Limits


Figure 2.9
Aluminum foil sheeting being draped over the framework of the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine.
Courtesy the Estate of R. Buckminster Fuller

platform foundation and along the length of each of the panels forming a 180-degree
half shell when completed (figure 2.14). Movie-Drome was a fairly crude structure in this
regardlittle thought was given to regulate heat and ventilation for airflow. Like the
Dymaxion Dwelling Machine, the only structural element supporting the weight of
the aluminum panels during construction was a single, mast-like pole mounted in the
center. The pointed ends of the wedges rested against the ring at the top of the pole.
The central mast was subsequently removed once the weight and pressure of the panels
were balanced enough to hold the entire structure in place as typical for grain silos of
this size. The image of VanDerBeek standing inside the center of the enclosed dome
during the construction phase illustrates how scaffolding was used sparsely inside, but
was removed along with the central mast (figure 1.3).
The initial appearance of the panels hanging from a central mast in the Movie-Dromes
construction directly followed Fullers distinctly modern design innovation for the 4D


Chapter 2

Figure 2.10
Volunteers maneuvering a section of the Movie-Drome into place, 1965.

house and later the Dymaxion Dwelling Machine, the weight of the wedges seemed to
be supported from above, hanging from a central point, rather than grounded in the
constructions foundation. In Fullers estimation, a logical modern house would have
a structure similar to that of a wire wheel turned on its side, with the hub acting as
a central, pre-fabricated compression memberan inflatable Duralumin mast.79 For
example, the central masthead of the Dymaxion House from which spokes radiate can
be compared to VanDerBeeks more ad hoc but similar approach to creating a central
post and ring system around which the individual aluminum slats of the Movie-Drome
could be affixed (figure 2.15).
The interior side of the Movie-Dromes abutted aluminum panels formed a curved
surface and functioned as an expansive, albeit rough-hewn, movie screen. A blurred
image of VanDerBeek resting his arm against a scaffolding inside the dome gives a sense
of the scale of the wall (figure 1.3). The concept of the screen hanging from a central
spoke and spinning is of course integral to the zoetrope. In some of VanDerBeeks early
drawings and models for the Movie-Drome, the idea that the images would turn from
a central mast or post to create moving images is evident and is a recurring theme in
various permutations of VanDerBeeks designs for the Drome. His Primitive Projection

Critical Limits


Figure 2.11
The individual panels were light enough for one person to lift.

Wheel, a zoetrope-like mechanism in which images spin out from a central axis, is such
a device.
An early sketch made by VanDerBeek to accompany the version of his manifesto
Culture: Intercom that was published in Film Culture magazine indicates this longstanding interest in images emanating from a central post. However, in this photo of
the ink drawings used later in the publication, VanDerBeek replaced the pole with a
figure: a head inside a cupola filled with text and images (figure 2.16).80 The drawing
as viewed in its original context is surrounded by other recurring VanDerBeek motifs:
a figure stands in the foreground as a mushroom cloud erupts in the background; male
figures line up to create a human chain; conjoined heads engage in verbal combat and
fists emerge from mouths (figure 2.17). This sketch demonstrates what sets VanDerBeeks conception of the Movie-Drome slightly apart from moving image devices or
proto-cinema experiments that aimed to create a sense of verisimilitude with the outside world. In VanDerBeeks conception the mechanical or kinetic elements hinged
on the viewers personal experience: the viewer is the grounded mast around which
the images pivot in a manner that required viewers to piece any narrative or sequence
together themselves. The space of the dome was imagined as a multimedia environment


Chapter 2

Figure 2.12
Construction of the silo dome at a little more than halfway complete.

that must be tuned for the groups sensory experience. This sense of harmonic potential too was pivotal to Fullers plans.81
The interior structure of the Movie-Drome was intended to recede, giving way to a
feeling of physical directness with the images and sounds that could manifest in a type
of perceptual openness that can be thought of in Fullers terms as a type of high-standard functioning, unconsciously compatible with mans unconsciously coordinated
internal mechanisms and chemistries.82 Within the bare expanse of the Movie-Drome,
VanDerBeek had to strike a subtle balance between having the particular domed configuration articulate a type of abstract media space while not imposing an instrumentalizing experience upon those who gathered in Stony Point.
An important factor in this process was the Dromes ad hoc construction and its
location in a decidedly domestic setting. The Drome was situated against the sloping
hillside of VanDerBeeks backyard and just a few paces from his familys home. VanDerBeeks repurposed grain silo was not his only attempt at DIY architecture. The home
that the VanDerBeek family lived in was also constructed around the same time in
1965 by refitting an airplane hangar. Figure 2.18 shows the construction of the metal

Critical Limits

Figure 2.13
Sections of paneling added to complete the dome shape.



Chapter 2

Figure 2.14
VanDerBeek in front of the newly completed dome exterior.

hangar and the platform and the wedges from the soon-to-be built Drome are visible in
relation to the hangar home in front of which stand Stan and Johanna VanDerBeeks
young children, Maximilian and August. The home and the dome were literally steps
away from one another. However, media coverage of the Drome rarely discussed its
domesticated setting as a lived-in space adjoining the family house. There was also
little coverage given to the artists co-op, the Land, which owned the property and
the other improvised architectural projects that sprang up at this important but littlestudied outpost of the avant-garde.83 There are, however, two notable exceptions.
The first is a film essay that Japanese experimental filmmaker Takahiko Iimura created around 1968 in which he filmed both the interior of the house as well as the dome
spinning his 16 mm camera in a circle as he intoned the words dome and home.84
The second, more public exception is a grainy image that shows Johanna VanDerBeek
wrapped in a sweater in the foreground with Stan in the back with his arms spread
wide, which accompanied the article Home Is Where the Dome Is, which detailed
the Movie-Dromes construction, that ran in the New York Herald-Tribune in 1965.85 Likewise, a series of contact sheets documenting the installation of the aluminum wedges

Critical Limits


Figure 2.15
Ends of panels being affixed to central ring.

is interspersed with candid images of the VanDerBeek family in their home and images
of their children.
A hastily drafted chronology or diary recounting the sequence of activities around
the Dromes construction conveys the uneven pace of events. The log relates the many
delays and interruptions due to visits while also noting the first names of people who
lent a hand unpacking and aiding in the construction process.86 Seemingly handwritten at the end of an intense four-week window between September 27 and October 22,
the informal tenor of the log expresses that it was VanDerBeeks desire to add some
organization to a process marked by fits and starts, and to record the names, dates, trips
to the hardware store for supplies, hours, and amounts of cash going toward the goal of
building this prototype in Stony Point. The level of detail in the logfor example, put
weather-stripping on 3/4" edge of plywood dock to be squeezed up by dome,suggests that these notes would be the basis for a set of building instructions that could be
shared and used to guide other dome builders in their efforts.
And while the simple shape, malleability, and widely available materials made the construction job seem straightforward, the copious correspondence between VanDerBeek
and a series of silo manufacturing vendors indicates that the details of the construction


Chapter 2

Figure 2.16
Stan VanDerBeek, detail from drawing for the Culture: Intercom manifesto, c. 1965.

were not so simple. Especially illuminating was the set of mailed exchanges that started
in 1963 (while VanDerBeek still resided on Cherry Street in Manhattan before moving
up to Stony Point) and Harry C. DeMuth, president of DeMuth Steel, whose interest in
the project seemed to go beyond providing good customer service.87 DeMuths experience with constructing silos coupled with his knowledge of the properties of aluminum
helped guide several of VanDerBeeks construction choices. Among VanDerBeeks early
notes were the numerous brochures and pamphlets the company sent him detailing
new types of corrugated aluminum with illustrated examples of silos with various door
configurations. DeMuth answered all of VanDerBeeks questions large and small with
detailed and cordial responses over the years the two men corresponded. DeMuth also
sought VanDerBeeks input on creating a noncommercial film for the company to
use to show the silos possible applications beyond farming.
Evincive of the process of trial and error are the various ideas drawn up for accessing the Drome. Creating a way to enter and exit the Drome proved to be a challenge
and VanDerBeek went through several plans for accessing the interior space. A series
of schematic drawings and typed descriptions dated from 1964 to 1965 were used to
communicate his solutions to various prefabricated silo vendors. One set of correspondence in particular, shows how his initial plan was to cut a doorframe directly into

Critical Limits


Figure 2.17
Stan VanDerBeek, ink drawings for the Culture: Intercom manifesto, c. 1965.

one of the wedge-shaped panels, allowing for a door to be installed into the side (figure 2.19).88 Another drawing in the letter illustrates an early idea of creating a type of
extended doorway or elongated entrance that people would enter the dome through.89
In addition to illustrating the various phases of the plans design, VanDerBeeks correspondence with the silo manufacturers also makes it clear that the artists various
modifications were improvised after having received the initial shipment of panels
after the start of the structures construction.
In a similar vein, the decision to mount the dome on a platform was initially conceived so that the projection equipment could be installed underneath the dome,
but according to VanDerBeek, it was too technically difficult to house the projectors
underneath and project up through the floor.90 Instead, the mass of projectors was
housed inside, and over the period of a year VanDerBeek developed a centralized control panel from which he manipulated the projectors, sound, and lighting. A sketch
indicates how the various projectors were arranged around a central circular platform


Chapter 2

Figure 2.18
Side view of the VanDerBeek home with VanDerBeeks children and the dome construction visible in foreground.

that would rotate, adding another dimension of movement to the previously fixed
projection images (figure 2.20).
While the Movie-Drome offered a novel physical structure to house projection equipment and gather audiences, it also presented a reconceptualization of cinematic space
away from the palace and all of the ensuing associations (both theoretical and historical) that envelop a study of the cinematic or toward what VanDerBeek described in a
1971 article published in the Filmmakers Newsletter as an abstraction for media-data
systems.91 The idea for the Movie-Drome becomes a metaphoric reference to other
things, wrote VanDerBeek. The space itself gives you a message before the message
itself: architecture as media.92 What message was the Dromes architecture actually conveying? If VanDerBeek had channeled Fullers Dymaxion dreams for the Dromes prefab
construction and shape, he also tapped into another Fuller conceptthe dome as a node
in a larger information system. Consciously or not, VanDerBeeks plans for the Drome
reflected Fullers own means for diagramming or abstracting a system in terms of movements, distances, patterns, and intensities, which architectural curator Michael Hayes
writing recently on Fuller has termed geological. Describing Fullers first programmatic
drawings, Hayes zeroes in on the fact that by 1928, Fullers sense of scale was already

Critical Limits


Figure 2.19
Letter to silo manufacturer outlining the intention to build an entrance into the side of the silo.


Chapter 2

Figure 2.20
Diagram indicating the placement of various projectors on a rotating central platform inside the

global and that his direction of thinking was always from the inside out.93 The term
geological when applied to Fullers projects evokes what Hayes describes as a logic or
system that is centered on the earth as an environment and a planet in a cosmos.94 It
is this particularly Fulleresque definition of an expanded environment with the entire
earth as its center that influenced VanDerBeeks overall conception of the Movie-Drome
as a spherical node within a broader network of social relationships. One of the most
direct demonstrations of this new particular type of geological perspective can be located
in Fullers proposal for the Geoscope, a large-scale, three-dimensional model designed
to present a real-time global representation of the earth while tracking factors such as
population and natural resources. The 200-foot diameter globe married the unbroken
contour view afforded by Fullers Dymaxion Air-Ocean World map (1943) with a network of computer systems relaying census information and other statistics that would
activate millions of miniature computer-controlled pixels on the globes clear surface.
Fuller published his first plans for the Geoscope in 1962.95

Critical Limits


Fuller managed to build two low-tech models of the Geoscope (referred to as miniearth facilities by Fuller) at Cornell University and the other in Nottingham, UK.96
While engaged in computer programming experiments within a modestly constructed
spherical structure, neither mini-earth facility neared the plans call for what can be
thought of as an architecturally scaled high-definition video screen. In Fullers plans
he described the screen as a visually continuous surface picture equal in detailed resolution to that of a fine-screen half tone print or that of an excellent, omni-directionally viewable, spherical television tubes picturing.97 It is important to note that the
advancements on the Geoscope would not have possible without the help of another
artist, John McHale, who along with Richard Hamilton, Reyner Banham, Alison Smithson, and Peter Smithson formed the London-based Independent Group, which is
largely credited with introducing mass media techniques into advanced art production
which led to the advent of Pop Art in the UK and the US.
After leaving London, McHale worked with Fuller on the Geoscope and many other
ambitious projects. Perhaps most extraordinary was the World Design Science Decade
19651975. Produced by Southern Illinois University and described as five two-year
phases of a world retooling design proposed to the International Union of Architects
for Adoption by World Architectural Schools. The research project examined issues
such as ecological sustainability and population growth along with a wide assortment
of technological issues relating to architecture and design. The resulting publications
were edited by McHale, who was then executive director of the World Resources Inventory at Southern Illinois University. It is also interesting to note that McHales close
relationship with Fuller would ensure the circulation of Fullers writings and ideas in
the UK.98
The fact that Fullers ideal public site for a Geoscope was hovering above New York
Citys East River directly across from the United Nations building speaks to a new type
of American postwar international outlook. This was a decidedly global purview (as
represented by Fullers term world man), which also relayed the second half of the
centurys implicit confidence in computers and automated instrumentation, both of
which have become the hallmark of the information age and of the current moments
proclivity for real-time informational modeling. As Hayes writes, using cybernetic data
gathering and feedback all organized by the computer, the Geoscope would graphically
display the inventory and patterns of the worlds resources and needs, in real time,
slowed down, or speeded up, simultaneously or separately, for study and comparison
from energy consumption to stock trading, voting and weather patterns, tourists routes
to military movements.99 Hayes speculates that the Geoscope also included a spherical
computer display monitor for viewing Earth in the universe from the inside out, like an
enfolded Google Earth except with more cosmic ambitions.100 The Geoscopes decidedly cosmic ambitions are also corroborated by the fact that Fuller envisioned these
informational spheres as a type of new educational technology of world man who,


Chapter 2

in his particular approximation, would use the Geoscope as basic educational tools for
acquiring both cosmic and local Universe orientation. It will be universally used as the
visual reference for all hourly news broadcasts, everywhere around the Earth. Geoscope
will spontaneously induce total-Earth, total-humanity viewing significance in regard to
all of our individual daily experiences.101 In short, Fuller optimistically surmised that
the Geoscope will spontaneously eliminate nationalistic celebrating.102
Fascination with the Geoscope as a real-time reflection of the globe would soon give
way to a more popularized image of the world as a big blue marble starting in 1972.
This is the moment when the first highly saturated color images of the planet were
beamed down from the earliest weather satellites launched into orbit. The introduction
of satellite imagery of the earths spherethe birds-eye view of the globeushered in
a new type of subjectivity, a planetary being with a technological real-time connection regardless of geographic location. It is precisely this type of new world man
that VanDerBeek sought to address via the Movie-Drome. Conscious or unconscious,
what is important about VanDerBeeks adoption of the Geoscopes aims is his interest
and commitment to understanding visual arts role from this new global perspective,
and its implications for modeling nondiscrete operations like artistic collaboration and
audience participation. These concerns were at the core of his intentions for the MovieDrome. His presentation at Vision 65 and a subsequent schematized version of his talk
included in Perspecta 11 (published in 1967) make these aims clear.
The image of the recently completed Movie-Drome published in this issue of Perspecta
11 is perhaps the most reproduced and thus well-known image of the Drome. The blackand-white photo shows a bearded VanDerBeek in the foreground staring intently into
the camera, which is focused on capturing the Dromes extreme exterior shape (figure
2.21). An assistant stands on the platform edge with his arms folded as construction
debris litters the ground, conveying the fact that the structure has just recently been
finished. While this image emphasizes the Dromes form, another rarely cited image
conveys a deeper sense of VanDerBeeks conceptualization of the project. It is the twodimensional model of the Movie-Drome VanDerBeek crafted expressly for this issue of
the Yale School of Architectures journal (figure 2.22). Perspecta 11 was devoted to the
ideas generated by Vision 65 and its editors selected what they considered exemplary
concepts presented at the conference for inclusion in the publication.
To this end, part of McLuhans lecture is reprinted along with Fullers summary
address as well as VanDerBeeks illustrated history of the moving image with his
model of the Movie-Drome playing a critical role. Relying on his favored technique
of photomontage, VanDerBeek pieced together a circular model of individual wedge
shapes radiating out from a central point. This spherical expanse functioned as a flattened screen of sorts. VanDerBeek collaged black-and-white stills from his own animated films alongside 35 mm slide images and photographs in a manner reflecting

Critical Limits


Figure 2.21
VanDerBeek (foreground) and an assistant in front of the recently completed Movie-Drome, 1965.

the simultaneous projection of images inside of the Movie-Drome. In this dense mesh
of images recurring motifs from his drawings and animations of the period are discernable. There is a photograph of a nude male with outstretched arms anchoring the
bottom center of the circle while the ornamental ceiling of a baroque structure is juxtaposed with the profile of a man wearing an elaborate headpiece. Abstract landscapes
are punctuated by an enlarged lipstick-enhanced smile and the image is rounded out
with fuzzy images of crowds.
VanDerBeeks Perspecta layout included a visual essay that outlined the presentation he gave in Carbondale. Starting with Muybridges movement studies and ending
with a schematic layout of the Drome, VanDerBeek traced the evolution of recording
movement from photography through film and concluded with the postulation of the
international communication structure of the Drome. The endgame of the visual essay
was to suggest that this new global subject was exactly the type addressed through the
By the time Vision 65 occurred, McLuhans provocative book, Understanding Media,
had been in circulation for less than a year. But its sensationalized reception by the


Chapter 2

Figure 2.22
VanDerBeeks 2-D model of the Movie-Drome published in Perspecta 11 (1967).

popular press and academia alike had already catapulted the English literature scholar
from academic obscurity in Toronto to a regular fixture in news magazines and on
popular television programs.103 McLuhan used the platform afforded at Vision 65 to
rehearse his conception of the global village and reiterated the effects he associated
with new media technology on human civilization. In his provocative talk entitled
The Invisible Environment: The Future of an Erosion, McLuhan pushed for the recognition of the reader as an active agent who must contend with the current invisible
environment of propaganda. He offered the example of the standard daily newspaper

Critical Limits


as a metaphor to demonstrate the process by which the reader becomes the publisher
within the current age of decentralization.104
The reader of the news enters the new world as a maker. There is no meaning in the news except
what [the reader] makesthere is no connection between any of the items except the instant
dimension of electric circuitry. News items are like the parts of a symbolist structure. The reader
is a co-creator.105

To explicate this claim, McLuhan singled out VanDerBeeks multimedia work and
noted, the newspaper is also very much like the delightful films of Stan VanDerBeek:
the world of multi-screen projections is the world of the newspaper where umpteen
news stories come at you without any connection and without connected themes.106
McLuhans voice can be seen in VanDerBeeks Culture: Intercom not only semantically in VanDerBeeks manic, techno-utopian writing, but also in terms of attempting
to continue the discussion. VanDerBeek augmented McLuhans reading of his multiscreen projections by stating:
The Movie-Drome flow could be compared to the collage form of the newspaper, or the threering circus (both of which [present] the audience with an abundance of facts and data). The
audience takes what it can or wants from the presentation and makes its own conclusionseach
member of the audience will build his own references from the image-flow, in the best sense of
the word the visual material is to be presented and each individual makes his own conclusions
or realizations.107

The notion that Movie-Drome was a medium to transmit VanDerBeeks nonverbal communiqus also fits McLuhans definition of media as a type of translation process. In
Understanding Media, McLuhan emphatically asserted that all media are active metaphors in their power to translate experience into new forms.108 Movie-Drome extended
McLuhans newspaper analogy to an electronic mode of communication. The comparison of VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome as a proto-personal computer and his newsreel of
dreams, feedback, image libraries as the software may be a more accurate analogy than
that of the newspaper offered by McLuhan at Vision 65. In any case, the clear result
was that the Movie-Drome, a manifesto, coupled with the structure built in Stony Point,
pointed to a new prototype for art production.

3 Visual Velocity: Movie-Drome and Immersive Subjectivity

Culture is moving into what I call a visual velocity. Sometimes I wake up and think to myself that
it looks like its going to be a 60 M.P.H. day.
Stan VanDerBeek, 1965

Visitors to the Movie-Drome entered the domed interior space through a trap door
underneath the center of the floor. Once inside, everyone spread out along the rough
flooring, lying side by side. There were no assigned seats, only vague directions to lie
facing upward. Without any clear sense of what was to take place, the Movie-Drome
experience would begin in a series of fits and starts. The noisy, ungainly motors of over
a dozen 16 mm film and 35 mm slide projectors would turn over, clicking and humming at various intervals. Suddenly, undulating beams of light and discordant voices
mixed with synthetic noise electrifying the air, illuminating the darkened space, and
immersing the viewers in a continuous audio and visual flow, an experience VanDerBeek referred to as a visual velocity. The groups of viewers who entered Movie-Dromes
space were bombarded with a seemingly endless stream of projected sounds and images
for hours at a time. These included figurative illustrations that took shape on an overhead projector as VanDerBeek sketched on sheets of acetate with markers as well as
montages of slide and film footage including stock newsreels, found films, and excerpts
from VanDerBeeks animated and collage-based films. Any semblance of order was disrupted by random edits and the superimposition of spotlights that distorted the registration of the filmic images. Overall, the multidirectional movement of the projectors
(affixed to a central turntable or wheeled carts) caused the aluminum walls to appear
to pulsate while the changing tone and pitch of the soundtracks created acoustic reverberations around the space making it impossible to correlate specific sounds with their
filmic sources.
The notion of a type of visual velocity remains an apt descriptor for the specific perceptual conditions produced inside the Movie-Drome. Designed specifically to
thwart conventional viewing standards dictated by fixed seating in rows or the use
of a single screen, the Movie-Dromes curved interior and flexible equipment mounts


Chapter 3

allowed VanDerBeek to bombard viewers with an all-encompassing sensorial experience. This type of moving image presentation was of course a reference to the MovieDrome operating in its most idealized state. The structures clumsy mechanics could in
no way generate the high fidelity of surround sound acoustics and the polyurethane
lining the interior of an aluminum grain silo was a poor substitute for the crystalline quality of theatrical film screens. While VanDerBeek may have aspired to higher
production values, the project remains compelling not for its technical advancements
but rather because of its reconsideration of the role of the audience. Activating a seemingly endless stream of images and sounds within the domed space, the Movie-Drome
engendered an immersive subject by prioritizing multisensory experience over concerns of mimesis or depiction exclusive to visual representation. From handmade 35
mm slides to drawing on acetate sheets on overhead projectors and all forms of filmic
presentation in between, VanDerBeeks moving image presentations relied on projecting thousands of images procured through open solicitations, as well as repurposing
footage from his own animated films and appropriating found material to create a type
of immersive image environment. While the act of immersioninvolvement in something that completely occupies ones attention, energy or concentrationis fundamental to almost all forms of media, there are subtle distinctions to be made. Distinct
from the growing widescreen vernacular of the same period, the immersive qualities of
the Movie-Drome hinged less on high-powered projectors or other sophisticated equipment and more on the dynamics of a simple communal experience. Heat generated
from bodies grouped in an enclosed space and a heightened sense of ones own physicality combined with a purposefully overwhelming visual velocity produced the
Movie-Dromes particular atmosphere.
The immersive conditions of the Movie-Drome, while not necessarily unique or
new by the 1960s, do contrast the more dominant concerns with a type of illusionism undergirding the deployment of virtuality and other new media forms that begin
in this era. The burgeoning area of virtual reality, which aimed to create an overarching immersive effect, has preoccupied the discourse on media art. Art historian Oliver
Graus comprehensive study on virtual art, for instance, suggests that within this context, meaning within images comprises two main factors: the representative function
and the constitution of presence.1 The image and simulation technique of virtual
reality, observed Grau, attempts to weld traditional media together in a synthetic
medium that is experienced polysensorily. This program of illusion relies on simulated stereophonic sound, tactile and haptic impressions, and thermo receptive and
even kinesthetic sensations, which all combine to convey to the observer the illusion of being in a complex structured space of a natural world, producing the most
intensive feeling of immersion possible.2 While at first glance, the Movie-Drome does
appear to meld image and simulation in an attempt to give the viewer an impression
of being elsewhere. However, immersion within Expanded Cinema has little to do with

Visual Velocity


technical enhancements designed to convince the viewer that he or she is actually

present in the location depicted in the projected images. Doing so only serves to reinforce a positivist history of media art that turns on the advancements in technological
image projection or image refinement as its essential qualities. The position taken here
is that immersion is distinct from absorption and is historically informed. As Maciunass Expanded Arts Diagram points out, medieval cathedrals, seventeenth-century
dioramas, eighteenth-century panoramas, and twentieth-century planetariums, not to
mention Fluxus events and Happenings, all have conditioned contemporary immersive viewing experiences by adjusting the way audiences were configured and not just
by introducing new technologies of projection or amplification.
Within the Movie-Dromes decidedly low-tech context, VanDerBeeks continuous
audiovisual flow served to heighten ones sense of subjectivity. Immersion within the
context of the Movie-Drome, therefore, is more akin to a liminal state where one is
neither fully lost in the experience nor completely in the here and now, that communications scholar Alison Griffiths has ascribed more improvised viewing spaces such
as the panorama, where viewers have the flexibility of moving and looking at their own
speed.3 The immersive experience of the Movie-Drome put the viewer in an inherently
intermediary position, engaged or preoccupied, but not transported or deceived by the
verisimilitude of the images. The reference to the history of the panorama is generative
in this case not only in terms of the similarities between the introduction of a limitless canvas and the Movie-Dromes endless stream of images, but as a cultural phenomenon with a dual bent. As media archaeologist Erkki Huhtamo has demonstrated in
his definitive volume, Illusions in Motion Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and
Related Spectacles, the art of the moving panorama may have afforded viewers a peek
beyond the horizon, but these visions were by no means unfettered, as this new art
form was conceived to create a market for mediated realities and (seemingly) emancipated gazes.4 In a similar manner, the lessons of the Movie-Drome are not just about
illuminating audience reception in the period of the 1960s, but also point to the contradictory viewing conditions of more contemporary moving image work in which a
sense of relative mobility or flexibility within a prescribed art installation falsely stands
in for agency.
How the term multimedia itself functions within these live performance-type
events is paramount to this reconsideration of immersion within Expanded Cinema.
Therefore, a nuanced examination of how VanDerBeeks collaborative projects evoke
a particular reading of multimedia as an integration rather than juxtaposition of various media forms is needed. To this end, Variations V (1965) staged at Lincoln Center
as well as in a Hamburg television studio for broadcast on German television (1966)
as well as a lesser-known experimental poetry event organized by the Poetry Center of
the 92nd Street Y, a year later on February 25, 1967 (discussed in chapter 5), become
subject to close inspection for the definitions of multimedia that become exemplified


Chapter 3

by the moving image programs orchestrated in the Movie-Drome. And when compared
to other select Expanded Cinema experiments, these projects illustrate broader shifts in
the media ecology of the 1960s.
Visual Velocity
The projected images used inside the Movie-Drome were composed of a variety of
source material that was appropriated, amended, and altered as needed by VanDerBeek
depending on the type and size of the audience. He often followed a loose program
that was casually drafted in the manner of a playlist rather than a tight score, or a
script that correlated specific images and sounds with set run times. The remaining
35 mm slides, overhead drawings, and other projected material are uncatalogued and
unarchived and were scattered between his former studio and homes in Cambridge,
Massachusetts, and Baltimore, Maryland, during the 1970s and up until his passing
in 1984. By matching slides with documentation from events held in the Movie-Drome
and related written documentation on the boxes that stored these materials, it becomes
clear that they were created for multiscreen projection experiments including events
orchestrated explicitly for the domed space of the Movie-Drome. VanDerBeeks rotating
stock of slides and films used in the Movie-Drome events were grouped and stored in
generalized categories such as art history slides, microscope slides, color slides,
and the like. His cache of images functioned as a rotating inventory of material used
to create his projected imagescapes, which often included portraits of political figures,
athletes, clippings of current events, photographs of media personalities, promotional
print ads relaying contemporary slogans and fashions, and hundreds of art historical slides documenting Greek, Roman, and Buddhist sculptures, monuments, and historical sites. Surveying the techniques and subjects of the slides, acetate drawings, and
other transparent media that VanDerBeek collected en masse reveal the broad spectrum
of advanced art practices that he was actively engaged. After leaving Black Mountain
College, VanDerBeek returned to New York City and supported himself with a string
of freelance jobs throughout the late 1950s and early 1960s. Many of these encounters
exerted a leveling influence on VanDerBeeks aesthetic strategies, which emphasized
collage and collaboration techniques drawn equally from his fine art background as
well as his commercial animation training.
Though many of his peers gravitated toward freelance jobs in advertising, fashion,
or publishing (natural fits for VanDerBeeks graphic aesthetic), he worked as an assistant at CBS television studios. Many of the stop-animation techniques and editing
skills that he used to stunning effect in two award-winning early films What Who
How and Mankinda (10 min., black-and-white, 1957) were gained while working on
the networks hit childrens television show Winky Dink and You. The proto-interactive
television program ran on Saturday mornings on CBS from 1953 to 1957. Children

Visual Velocity


could order a special clear vinyl mat that they could adhere to their television screens
at home, and using special crayons, they were encouraged to draw along with the host
of the program. The show opened with a short animated sequence that VanDerBeek
worked on, which provided him with his first and only technical film training and
introduced him to the seemingly infinite possibilities of a simple animation stand.
VanDerBeek often used the television studios editing equipment after hours to work
on his own animated films, which frequently combined his figurative drawings and
paintings with collages made from magazine pictorials, advertisements, and newspaper
articles. In an unpublished 1966 interview with critic Richard Kostelanetz, VanDerBeek
explained how after being fired from his position at CBS, he continued to sneak in after
hours to use the equipment. I had to convince the night watchman that I was still
doing homework for the job, he explained. That hooked me up and then I built my
own stuff after that.5 The titles of his self styled visibles from this period including
Wheeeeels No. 1 (16 mm, 8 min., black-and-white, sound, 1958) and Science Friction (16
mm, 10 min., color, sound, 1959) reflect his proclivity for puns and alliteration. This
life long fascination with animating both image and text would also inform a large
segment of his handmade 35 mm slides which were used in many moving image presentations that he combined with his 16 mm film projections. The slides were made
in the same manner as his paper collages. He rubbed dry-transfer black Letraset lettering over found black-and-white images and framed them in square slide mounts.
True to his filmic style, satirical imagery abounded in these projected text and image
collages. The word FALLING, for example, was overlaid onto a picture of a college
football team hoisting their coach on their shoulders and a grouping of Civil War soldiers obscured by the smoke of their rifles was intertwined with the words PERFECT
FIT THIS (figures 3.1 and 3.2). Other examples have a singular word embedded in an
image to create a more oblique message, such when VanDerBeek collaged a photograph
of a man dressed in nineteenth-century western gear about to hit another man bent
over with the word THAT written across his back (figure 3.3). Within this series of
slides is an image of the billowing sails of two yachts crisscrossing one another with the
word about cutting another diagonal in lowercase and a scene with a trumpet player
leading a funeral procession as the word except hovers over the middle of the image
(figures 3.4 and 3.5).
Some of the more formally interesting compositions include a portrait of the US
Capitol building in the distance almost obscured by the phrase We CAN; a couple
riding a tandem bike around a suburban neighborhood as the word LINES hovers
above in the sky; a rural game of baseball being played while the word CLOCK staggers down the side of a church; and the graphic image of a womans face obscured by
a dense pattern of text (figures 3.6, 3.7, 3.8, 3.9). While each slide in the series was
unique, the images were often manipulated or repeated. Such is the case of two slides
that incorporated the same image of a sullen-looking audience seated in rows of an


Chapter 3

Figure 3.1
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

outdoor theater. The first slide shows the rows of politely posed onlookers with the
word writing stenciled across the middle of the image. The other uses a reversed
image of the same audience while the word pointing divides the slide in half to create
a smaller frame around the central audience (figures 3.10 and 3.11).
Another subset of slides shows how VanDerBeek would layer two or three blackand-white images in addition to the dry-transfer lettering between the two plates of
glass producing a dense picture. He often simply superimposed two seemingly ordinary
images on top of each other to create a politically and formally charged composite

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.2
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

image. In figure 3.12, for example, he overlaid a close-up of Marilyn Monroes face
onto a profile image of Lyndon Johnson. His formal acuity is demonstrated by the
fact that through this now singular composite image, American culture becomes multilayered and several associations are able to be simultaneously sustained: the smooth
larger-than-life face of Hollywood glamour against the lined face that delivers the news
of increasing casualties in Vietnam; the notion that both Norma Jean and Lyndon
Johnson played high-profile roles, creating icons out of ordinary people; and of course
the ways in which Monroe and Johnson were linked through their individual personal
relationships with the Kennedy White House.


Chapter 3

Figure 3.3
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

The projection of movie stars and politicians into a heady mix of art history icons
and reproductions of masterpieces of Western civilization evince VanDerBeeks interest
in the Movie-Drome functioning less as a structure or theater, and more as an experience machine attempting to create a meaningful sensory experience out of a seemingly
endless supply or bombardment of visual imagery. By drawing on subjects from both
the arts and the sciences, VanDerBeeks collection of 35 mm slides directly mirrored the
shifting cultural landscape of the period and reflected what Sontag cogently identified
as a specifically unitary sensibility in her essay One Culture and the New Sensibility.

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.4
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

In parsing the extraordinary transformations that Sontag witnessed first hand as a New
Yorkbased cultural critic, she made the following detailed assessment in 1965 that
dovetailed with VanDerBeeks own sentiments about the need for artists to develop the
means for a type of shared cultural experience:
This new sensibility is rooted, as it must be, in our experience, experiences which are new in the
history of humanityin extreme social and physical mobility; in the crowdedness of the human
scene (both people and material commodities multiplying at a dizzying rate); in the availability
of new sensations such as speed (physical speed, as in airplane travel; speed of images, as in the


Chapter 3

Figure 3.5
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.
cinema); and in the pan-cultural perspective on the arts that is possible through the mass repro6
duction of art works.

And though she does not identify him by name, VanDerBeeks mix of academic
sources and pop culture references, clean graphic style, and a predilection for appropriating commercial reproduction techniques to create his 35 mm slides reflected this new
unified aim. More specifically, the subjects of his multiscreen projections fit Sontags
assessment that this new type of art making was defiantly pluralistic, dedicated both
to an excruciating seriousness and to fun and wit and nostalgia, while also remaining

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.6
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

extremely history conscious.7 By referring to this tendency occurring in the mid1960s as a kind of sensibility on the part of the artist, rather a condition of a medium
or movement, Sontags analysis eschewed the more typical move by critics to delimit
the concerns of an artist to the conditions or debates within a small field of art production. In this context, VanDerBeeks earnest belief in ones ability to create a pan-cultural experience may come across as simplistic or nave. Sontags description that the
voracity of its enthusiasms (and of the supercession of these enthusiasms) within this
new unitary sensibility was very high-speed and hectic may reinforce this reading.


Chapter 3

Figure 3.7
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

However, Sontags observations are a stark reminder that in the mid-1960s, artists such
as VanDerBeek were attempting to keep pace with the rapid cultural transformations
that impacted their own lived experiences.8
It is precisely this new singular sensibility that VanDerBeek sought to convey through
the movie-murals and feedback presentations that he orchestrated in the Movie-Drome
and at temporary screening events throughout the 1960s. These multiscreen projection
events relied on his ability to accumulate a variable set of rotating images that were
relatively cheap to produce, uniform, and therefore easy to edit or sequence, compact

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.8
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

in form, and mobile. In addition to being relatively durable objects that could store
information invisible to the naked eye, they functioned as files within an inherently
variable database of images. Used almost equally in the sciences and the arts, for both
personal and professional or commercial industry, his choice of using 35 mm slides perfectly reflected the new sensibility. However, VanDerBeek actually started using them
even earlier than the mid-1960s.
A possible early source of VanDerBeeks inspiration for using 35 mm slides as a means
of accessing and storing cultural experience can be traced to The Bulletin of the Museum


Chapter 3

Figure 3.9
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

of Modern Art, MoMAs in-house journal. One volume in particular, entitled Idea
and Symbol in the Library, published in the winter of 19531954, remained among
VanDerBeeks studio reference materials. Focusing on the potential use of recorded
images, photographs, slides, and filmstrips in museum collection development, a feature article, The Revision of Vision, was particularly resonant with VanDerBeeks
methods. The piece also presciently outlined several issues within the current debates
on digital art history including access to museum collections online, the management
of image libraries, the need to establish new standards for citation and documentation

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.10
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

of creative work and the complexity of ownership, permission, and rights.9 VanDerBeek would echo this articles suggestion that collecting images rather than objects
benefited more than arts academic study. In fact, in 1966, in his own article, Re:
Vision published in the American Scholar, he highlighted the importance of making a
wider selection of art and information more accessible to a broader public.10 Though
he mostly drew on the material he presented at Vision 65 for the article, it is hard not
to see the Bulletins influence on his thinking, down to the adaptation of its title. The
Bulletin article pointed to MoMAs institutional history to make the argument about the


Chapter 3

Figure 3.11
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

librarys ability to expand the scope of the museums collecting imperative. Quoting its
legendary photography curator Beaumont Newhall from a 1936 issue, the text asserted
that the works of art which the Museum proper cannot afford to purchase, or which
the Trustees do not wish to give the emphasis that acquisition necessarily implies, can
be documented without fear in the library.11 The authors made the succinct and powerful point that the process of exhibition is continuous; the process of preservation
by acquisition is discontinuous. By divorcing the question of originals, which exits on
the higher level of critical evaluation, from that of documentation, which exists on

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.12
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

the level of democratic representationyet contending with both simultaneouslythe

Museum may claim to mirror fairly the art of our time.12
VanDerBeeks preoccupation with popular culture and historical artifacts in his slide
collections did not mean that he ignored the debates happening within the field of
advanced art production. In fact, one of the largest subsets of slides in VanDerBeeks
library can be described as projected versions of the highly saturated colors and graphic
effects that were taking place on canvas under the descriptor of geometric abstraction
or op (optical) art. Vibrant, full-bleed color slides were also integrated into the projected


Chapter 3

Figure 3.13
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

collages. Small hand-cut pieces of colored gel material were sandwiched between the
two glass slides, which created a multilayered image-object even before being projected
(figures 3.13 and 3.14). In addition to MoMAs Bulletin, VanDerBeek would not have
been immune to the reach of the museums groundbreaking 1965 exhibition, The
Responsive Eye. Curated by William Seitz, the popular exhibition showcased over 120
paintings and sculptures (or constructions, as MoMA termed non-wall mounted works),
which engaged the viewer through retinal or optical effects including afterimages and
chromatic vibrations making static works appear animated. In addition to introducing
the work of an international selection of artists including Victor Vasarely, Bridget Riley,
Jess Soto, Yaacov Agam, Carlos Cruz-Diez, Julio Le Parc, and Franois Morellet, The
Responsive Eye also reinforced Sontags theme of artists turning toward discourses of
scientific research including psychology, Gestalt theory, and psychophysiology in their
formal experiments with light, color, and form.13
VanDerBeek also manually produced his own abstract color slides that were projected to create successive color contrasts, afterimages, and line interference. Many of
VanDerBeeks handmade slides included layering blue- and red-toned images of the
same geometric Op art pattern on top of one another, which had a disorienting effect

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.14
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

similar to those mastered by Bridget Riley in her screen prints and canvases from this
period as in her cover image for the exhibition catalogue. VanDerBeek used this separated color process to create a number of three-color images. For example, he photographed a series of his figurative drawings using color negative film and printed contact
sheets on acetate in three different hues: cyan, yellow, and blue. The individual figures
were cut and layered and then mounted in a slide. One of the most straightforward
methods VanDerBeek employed to interject bolts of pure color into the Movie-Drome
space was to mount color gels in glass slides. Squares of orange were intermixed with
slides that combined purples with greens, for example. The gel sheets would shrink and
crinkle with use and age, adding more texture to the shocks of color produced by these
handmade slides.
These Op art techniques used by VanDerBeek in his slides were also informed by his
experience as a designer for the famed New York jewelry retailer Tiffany and Company.
During the late 1950s, a freelance job designing a set of window displays along Fifth
Avenue provided the then-recent Cooper Union graduate with a venue to test lighting
and gel projection techniques. The abstract geometric collage works that VanDerBeek


Chapter 3

created as the background from which the stores illustrious diamonds would pop were
produced by mounting strips of polarized gels over clear pieces of acrylic laminate to
generate abstract prisms of color that would seemingly move or vibrate under the lights
in the display windows.
There were many identifiable faces among VanDerBeeks image inventory (Elizabeth
Taylor from Cleopatra, Ingmar Bergman, and Muhammad Ali) that were presented in
their indelible poses. Interspersed among the recognizable were hundreds of anonymous figures whose inclusion in VanDerBeeks inventory seemed related to their
actions, costumes, or settings that could be filed under one of VanDerBeeks genres or
recurring subject interests. The category of sports, for instance, linked a color snapshot
of a red-capped man behind a dugout drinking a Coke, a black-and-white image of a
more classic sports action shot of a ballplayer in midswing, and a bikini-clad woman
waterskiing (figures 3.15, 3.16, 3.17). In a similar manner, a striking black-and-white
image of two women in midstride, their long coattails sailing behind, and another slide
of a glamorous reclined female posed as though she were modeling luxury furs could
be filed under fashion ads (figures 3.18, 3.19). However, these images were not fixed
and their meanings were manipulated when reproduced in other projected collages.
For example, the muted image of a red-capped Coke drinker is enfolded within a more
bawdy scene when the photo is overlaid onto an found image of a female pin up shot
and a picture of an outdoor market stall laden with bunches of bananas (figure 3.20).
The projected images also had a significant focus on the figure (figure 3.21)closeups of faces, or the outstretched arms of a female dancerthe human form was a recurring theme in the projection material (figures 3.22, 3.23, 3.24). In addition to found
or repurposed material, VanDerBeek experimented with double exposures and reverse
printing of color negatives to create a series of unique slides that, when projected, created an afterimage effect (figure 3.25). The human form in motion studied in relation
to the projected image would preoccupy VanDerBeek for his entire career. Moreover,
the figure studies that appear in the 35 mm slides link back to VanDerBeeks experience
as a student learning to wield a camera in the mountains of western North Carolina.
In 1949, as part of the first photography class at Black Mountain College led by the
schools first full-time photography teacher, Hazel Larsen Archer, VanDerBeek contributed to the classs one and only student publication, Five Photographers. Produced in
a limited edition of twenty-five copies, the hand-bound book included individually
printed photographs and statements from each of the five students participating in
Archers photography course that year. VanDerBeeks brief and pointed text was titled
Towards a Definition of Photography. For an artist whose entire practice was motivated in no small part by the desire to push image-making outside established patterns
and procedures of traditional media, attempting to delimit photography seemed a bit
out of joint, even for a student assignment. Of interest then is how VanDerBeeks treatise suggested that the definition of and solution to photography are both bound

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.15
VanDerBeek, 35 mm slide for projector.

up in what he outlined as the problematics inherent in the medium, including the

use of the camera as an external eye that deals with space yet interprets and controls
it two dimensionally; the notion of the photograph functioning as a type of excerpt,
an isolated area recorded and removed from context; and the mechanical and technical aspects of photography prescribing its working area.14
Studying photography in Archers class led VanDerBeek to the conclusion that
photography was essentially an expression of movementmovement towards an
understanding.15 The black-and-white prints that he chose to include suggest two epic
leitmotifs, the human figure and the natural world, that not only appear in his photographic works, but also populate the range of drawings, writings, and collages that he
circulated in his animated and computer-generated films, his multiscreen projection


Chapter 3

Figure 3.16
VanDerBeek, unique slide for projector.

environments, and his videos over the next thirty-five years. Beyond the subtle play
of light and shadow that VanDerBeek learned to use, bringing a male figure into relief
against a darkened background in one photograph and highlighting the texture of
an apple trees bark in the other, the fragmentary compositions of both photographs
reveal that VanDerBeek did not endeavor either to capture a moment or render a complete portrait. Instead an accretive model of image-making emerges, a process by which
images take shape through accumulation, in what can be thought of as the residue of
interactions. This nonlinear working process is abundantly documented in the shifting
installations and commingling of his films, drawings, and collages.
The themes identified in the 35 mm slides are reinforced by his selection of his own
16 mm film material, emended to fit the fast-paced programs inside the Drome. Nikita
Khrushchevs head was held in a vise wrench, the Statue of Liberty and the Eiffel Tower
morphed into crudely rendered nuclear missiles, floating television sets were cracked in
half, and pixelated computer graphics slid in and out of sequence with no discernible
pattern.16 Political speeches, newscasts, promotional announcements, and prerecorded
music tracks collided with one another, testing the quadraphonic sound system as it
reverberated off the curved aluminum panels that served as the domes interior. The

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Figure 3.17
VanDerBeek, 35 mm slide for projector.

heat generated by the electronic components combined with the body temperature of
the twenty or so participants intensified the heavy atmosphere.
In many ways, the infusion of logos and advertising can be viewed as consistent
with the mid-century play on high, low, and mass forms of culture. However, when we
think of VanDerBeeks slides being deployed to create an immersive environmenta
visual velocitythen the inclusion of this type of mass material moves beyond the
debates of modernisms engagement with kitsch and material culture. I am inclined to
link VanDerBeeks rationale for incorporating print ads and the brands synonymous
with postwar American culture with Sontags discussion of why artists turned toward
popular media in the period: The affection which many younger artists and intellectuals feel for the popular arts is not a new philistinism (as has so often been charged) or
a species of anti-intellectualism or some kind of abdication from culture. In fact, it is
the opposite, an indication of the most voracious act of looking, or as Sontag suggested,
It reflects a new, more open way of looking at the world and the things in the world,
our world.17
This notion of observing the world around us is seen in another category of slides
composed of suburban or domestic scenes, such as a parent toweling off a child after a


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Figure 3.18
VanDerBeek, 35 mm slide for projector.

bath, or a beige-suited woman with her arm on her hip surrounded by young children,
and the more abstract aerial view of a subdivision made up of almost identical singlefamily track housing (figure 3.26). The housing units portrayed in this 1964 slide are
exactly the same types that proliferated in the postwar period and would later become
the subject of intense study by Dan Graham in his Homes for America projects from
1966 to 1967.18
The most sizable category of his visually compelling hand-made composited 35 mm
slides is dedicated to photographed scenes from the American occupation of Vietnam.
The images range in style and quality, indicating that VanDerBeek appropriated the
photographs that he used in his slide collages from a variety of print sources. These
included blurry snapshots as well as composed or professionally rendered photographs
issued by news agencies intended to accompany news coverage of the escalating conflict, growing death toll, and public protests both domestic and abroad. Since these
slides were used in VanDerBeeks multiscreen projections throughout the late 1960s
and early 1970s, we can assume he was amassing this material and using it in his own
works at the same time that these images circulated publicly. For example, as depictions of student demonstrations and the rough handling of injured and dead Vietcong
soldiers disseminated in the United States, the slides VanDerBeek projected were most
likely reshot from news articles that he clipped and used in other collages produced for

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Figure 3.19
VanDerBeek, 35 mm slide for projector.

publication. One example is a text piece called The History of Violence, which he labeled
as a media collage non-article.19 Likewise, another large group of images depicts the
violence that ensued between the police and the public during the struggle for civil
rights in various locations throughout the United States. In addition to showing blackand-white images of white officers standing among seated groups of African Americans,
VanDerBeek created a slide of the face of Bull Connor tinted blue with the words love
thy neighbor outlined (figure 3.27). ConnorBirmingham, Alabamas then-notorious
public safety commissionerturned the citys fire hoses and police dogs on protest
marchers, becoming a potent symbol of the brutality and bigotry of the civil rights
era. Other violent scenes such as car crashes would be interspersed with headshots of
the then-young actor Ronald Reagan, and VanDerBeeks own figurative drawings. This
seemingly random incorporation of news images into a mixed-media artwork would
become more prominent as Andy Warhol produced his silk-screened panels between
1963 and 1964, which was around the same time that VanDerBeek fashioned his slides.
Warhols Birmingham Race Riot silkscreen print (1964) and Mustard Race Riot (1963)
both show the violence enacted on civil rights marchers by the Alabama police with
water cannons and police dogs. Orange Car Crash Fourteen Times (1963) reproduced an
image detailing a fatal collision not unlike an image VanDerBeek projected inside the
Drome. The parallel between Warhol and VanDerBeeks choice in subjects demonstrates


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Figure 3.20
VanDerBeek, 35mm slide for projector.

Expanded Cinemas shared affinities with the broader shifts in contemporary art that
were invested in the seriality, reproducibility, and mediation of trauma and disaster
through print and television.
If we agree with the claim advanced by Sontags new sensibility, the incorporation
of new materials and techniques from the world of non-art, (industrial technology
and commercial processes like silkscreening and graphic design), are not just eroding
the valuation of unique, hand-made works of art through mass made objects, using
commercial fabrication techniques also reflect a challenge to the designation of discrete boundaries or conventions writ large. As Sontag argued, these include not only

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Figure 3.21
VanDerBeek, 35mm slide for projector.

the disciplinary lines drawn between fine arts and commercial arts, but also between
form and content, the frivolous and the serious.20 To be clear, Sontags position was
not one of advocacy. Her reaction to the new sensibility was equivocal at best and her
writing conveys a weariness with what she labeled as a natural bias to accept the new
gimmick and she disdained what she saw as a turn in the post-romantic era of the
artswhen painters such as Joseph Albers, Ellsworth Kelly, and Andy Warhol assign
portions of the work say, the painting in of the colors themselves, to a friend or the
local gardener.21 Sontag, it is important to note, was not calling for the renunciation
of all standards. Instead she was pointing to the particular vantage point of this sensibility, one that could recognize beauty in a machine, a mathematical solution as well
as a painting or film.22 The critical gesture of this new sensibility was not just eroding
convention or appropriating from both the arts and the sciences, but also insisting on a
type of accessibility in which images are not fixed, but remain malleable, variable, and
infinitely adaptable to newer media.


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Figure 3.22
VanDerBeek, 35mm slide for projector.

Frame by Frame: Animating Performance

The projected scenes of violence both abroad and at home juxtaposed with luxury
advertisements were similar to images that permeated both the popular press and
the visual art being exhibited in museums and galleries during the 1960s. The source
materials for these types of disjunctive images were assimilated not through popular
film, but through the increasingly broader reach of the proto-pop practices of painting
and sculpture mixed with the newer modalities of performance introduced by Allan
Kaprows Eighteen Happenings in Six Parts in the fall of 1959 and Robert Whitmans film/
theater events like American Moon (1960) at the Reuben Gallery. A case in point can
be found in Claes Oldenburgs proto-pop hand-painted plaster reliefs of diner foods
and dime store sundries that were included in Martha Jacksons gallery exhibition,
Environments, Situations, Spaces in the spring of 1961. Later that year Oldenburg
re-installed them in the storefront window of his low-rent, Lower East Side studio.
Dubbed The Store, the work foregrounded arts commodity status while generating a
sculptural installationa performative hybrid that shifted as people came in to purchase individual pieces.23

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Figure 3.23
VanDerBeek, 35mm slide for projector.

After The Store closed, Oldenburg used the narrow space as a backdrop to stage a
series of ten different happenings that he orchestrated under the moniker Ray Gun
Theater in the spring of 1962. Oldenburg asked VanDerBeek to participate by filming
these events, including Store Days I & II and Nekropolis I & II in February and March
followed by Injun I & II, Voyages I & II, and Worlds Fair I & II in April and May. These
absurdist performances mimed activities such as the preparation and serving of meals
and sacrificial rituals, as well as ancient rites of dressing and adorning dead bodies.
Staged against the rough-hewn backdrop of hand-painted scrims and foil-covered cardboard, these ten designated performances morphed out of a series of earlier events
that Oldenburg titled Ray Gun Specs (and/or Ray Gun Spex). In addition to Lucas
Samaras, Pat Muschinski [who would change her name to Pat Oldenburg after marrying Claes], and Oldenburg himself, VanDerBeek was on hand with a camera filming
certain Ray Gun Specs such as Snapshots from the City, arranged specifically for
the Judson Gallery on February 29, and March 1 and 2, 1960.


Figure 3.24
VanDerBeek, 35 mm slide for projector.

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Figure 3.25
VanDerBeek, 35 mm slide for projector.



Figure 3.26
VanDerBeek, 35 mm slide for projector.

Figure 3.27
VanDerBeek, 35 mm for projector.

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VanDerBeek edited the footage into a five-minute 16 mm black-and-white sound

film that showed Oldenburg with a papier-mch mask and a costume made of rags
moaning and convulsing on the floor as sirens blared in the background. Entitled Snapshots of the City, VanDerBeeks film juxtaposed tightly framed shots of Oldenburgs
exhausted frame and close-ups of his blackened hands with a discordant soundtrack
composed of city noises. Oldenburgs actions within VanDerBeeks film are relayed in
what I would characterize as his signature animated stylea frame-by-frame building
up of movement rather than the seamless capture of motion. Wild gesticulations were
condensed to a sequencing of still images, isolating the bodys movement in a type
of filmic abstraction, rather than a direct recording of the performance.24 In this way,
VanDerBeek pressured the seemingly dichotomous relationship between the performances live moment of origination and historical documentation. In the filmed
version of Snapshots of the City, VanDerBeek offers a third distillation, an abstraction of
the performance that was never intended to replicate the live experience nor adhere
to the sense of fidelity that often drove photographic and filmic representations of
performance-based events during this period.
Their mutual interest in each others work led to a more formalized collaboration
in the 16 mm short film Birth of the American Flag later that same year.25 Part experimental film, part loosely scripted happening, and completely compelling, the cast was
pulled directly from the artists who populated the Ray Gun Theater. A bearded, rakethin Lucas Samaras was given a set of tin foil fangs and easily fell into his role as a
vampire, while Pat Oldenburg and Carolee Schneemann played more symbolic parts,
including a baby and a river spirit, respectively. The happening was orchestrated at the
upstate New York house of writer Rudy Wurlitzer, who allowed the artists free rein to
its gardens and grounds. Throughout the black-and-white films fifteen-minute running time, VanDerBeek focused on creating distinct vignettes with little semblance of
narrative continuity. The film, however, culminates in a scene along the river in which
Schneemann, dressed in a bikini made from balloons, floats on the water while a naked
Claes Oldenburg floats face down, as does Samaras. On the waters edge, Pat Oldenburg
is seen crammed into a babys cradle, and Metropolitan Museum of Art curator and
Expanded Cinema panel moderator Henry Geldzahler, wearing his iconic round specs,
slowly pulls out a faded American flag from between the infants legs.
While Oldenburg continued to screen and exhibit his works primarily in art galleries and museums, VanDerBeek, like Schneemann, turned to more ad hoc or temporary venues, including experimental film festivals (throughout the US, Europe, and the
Middle East) and other event-based screening situations to circulate their work. Key to
VanDerBeeks practice was his interest in adapting the presentation of his 16 mm films
to fit nontheatrical settings so that his filmic works would not be completely beholden
to the fixity of the screen and could take on various formats. This also included the
physical circulation of the films as well. For example, VanDerBeek and Schneemanns


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short film collaboration with Robert Morris, called Site (1964), was included in the
artist publication Aspen (no. 5+6). Each copy of the magazines minimalism issue
included a 8 mm film spool.26 VanDerBeeks formidable presence in these types of collaborations throughout the 1960s underscores the fact that his interest in pressuring
the formal paradigms of film and moving images should be considered within the
broader spectrum of analytical discourse enacted by the New York neo-avant-garde.
Aesthetics of Anticipation
While this broadening critical reception of both popular culture imagery and the
repurposing of commercial techniques and materials provided a familiar context for
the mixed-media projections in the Movie-Drome, it was the illogical juxtaposition of
the images, the speed and frequency of the edits, and the layering of sources that
confounded the audiences expectations. A second level of defamiliarization occurred
when attention was directed toward the works own techniques of display and projection, distinguishing this experience from other contemporaneous cinematic or multimedia art presentations, including those associated with Happenings and Fluxus, and
more directly, those devised by EAT (Experiments in Art and Technology), which will
be discussed in chapter 5, the designers Ray and Charles Eames, and the concerts of
Andy Warhols Exploding Plastic Inevitable, among others.
Within the Movie-Drome, the ability to freely change viewing positions by rolling
over, or moving to an altogether different spot, combined with the demands of multiple audio and visual projection equipment stretched the conception of the standard
theater or exhibition setting. These aspects would have been novel even for an experimental art audience accustomed to the staccato pacing of underground films, the dramatized spontaneity of performance art and Happenings, and the spectacular effects
of commercial media technology, which was beginning to widen local film screens,
multiply the reach of television, and accelerate the rate of telecommunication. Within
this intimately scaled dome, the phenomenological experience of multiscreen image
projection itself became the work.
The first instance of Movie-Dromes distinctiveness was that ones view was not confined to a rectangular frame as in painting, the elongated window of a cinema screen,
or by the boundary set by the theaters stage. Instead, the spherical dome formed an
edgeless surface for projection while a seemingly infinite stream of light and sound
enveloped the group in a multisensory environment. The standards for viewing, conditioned by the demand for rapt attention in theaters and solitary contemplation in
art museums, quickly dissolved along with any semblance of conventional narrative
structure. The fact that the film images were moved around on carts while the strips
ran through the projector, coupled with the aluminum domes unruly acoustics made
it impossible to correlate particular sounds with particular images. Within the fixed

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economy of ones attention, the viewer had to actively decide what would register as
information and what would dissipate into visual and audio noise. Images floated in
a three-dimensional visual field, coalescing neither spatially nor temporally, thus dispersing rather than unifying a specific viewing subjectivity (figure 3.28). The random
dissemination of unique and found images, the activation of all surfacesmaterial and
bodilythe unique combination of predetermined and aleatory audiovisual effects,
and the relative mobility of the participants fused into a dynamic immersive experience within the Movie-Drome.
VanDerBeeks particular definition of film as a new art, an international language
is a key factor to understanding his conception of multimedia art as a means to project
a plurality of views. In an earlier article in which he coined the term underground
film, VanDerBeek pointed to the limitations of film as defined by the commercial film
industry and the possibility for artists to use film to make private art that can be made
public. He stated that artists visions are turning more to their interior, an infinite
exterior, abandoning the logic of conventional aesthetics, springing full blown into a
juxtaposed and simultaneous world that ignores the one-point perspective mind, and
the one-point perspective lens.27

Figure 3.28
Stan VanDerBeek inside the Movie-Drome c. 1965 photograph by R. Raderman.


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VanDerBeeks larger interest was in moving away from solitary viewing conditions
that relied on stable and discernable media sources as being the predominant and ideal
manner to engage visual art. His aim was to use durational media in order to generate more unconventional social encounters that highlighted arts sensorial aspects as
a means of unifying audiences from disparate cultural and demographic backgrounds
through shared media experiences. This desire to activate audiences through what
he referred to as the aesthetics of anticipationan operation he identified as being
integral to twentieth century contemporary art production sharply contrasted against
what he labeled the nineteenth centurys aesthetics of mediation.28 Mediation functions in this case as the type of transcendental viewing experience espoused by modern
abstract painting, for example. Aesthetics of anticipation became a type of social
media consciousness that he would later term social imagisticsa meta-word suggestive of the ways that artists are seeking a new social aesthetic, on a new social scale
of art and communication emphasizing that this scale is global.29
Moreover, VanDerBeeks interest in expanding visual art to include not just objects
but action, or making a stand. By drawing a distinction between nineteenth- and
twentieth-century viewing subjects along the lines of audience reception, VanDerBeek differentiated between art practices that evoke a sense of intuitive responsiveness
(anticipation) and those that rely on a division or interposition between an action
and a result (mediation). Aesthetics in these terms relates more to its etymological
source as being apprehensible by the senses rather than to its application as a form of
criticism through taste and categorical conditions for beauty. Moreover, aesthetics of
anticipation can be read as the activation of the modes of sensory perception through
a heightened sense of expectation on the part of the audience, and posits the idea that
art is a multichannel mode of communication between artist and audience, and among
individuals within a larger mass. In VanDerBeeks taxonomy of experience, meaning
was determined within the plurality of audience reception rather than at the point of
a singular apparatus of projection. This redefinition of art as a tool, or communication mechanism designed to interact with a wider public, was a decided shift from the
contemporaneous art world dialogue debating the alteration of the pictorial field, and
broke from the self-reflexive modernist discourse on formalism. VanDerBeek emphasized the act of communicationthe transfer of images and informationrather than
probing for the essence of a medium.
Real-Time Communication
Ultimately, what VanDerBeek did seek out was a model for a real-time, programmable
communications system. His larger and unrealized aspect of the project intended to
connect the audiences gathered in Stony Point beyond the localized space of MovieDrome through a telecommunications satellite system. The fact that he referred to

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the image content projected onto the interior of the Movie-Drome interchangeably as
image libraries, newsreels, and feedback in various accounts presages todays online
archive and Internet structures.30 The model built in Stony Point was a prototype for a
multitude of structures that VanDerBeek imagined could be erected all over the world
and connected via satellites orbiting the globe. His conceptual framework for viewing
and experiencing information over a network and through multiscreen projections
demanded a spatially and temporally specific subject not yet addressed by conventional
cinematic forms: an immersive subject that would become fundamental to audience
experience associated with more contemporary forms of media art, namely, large-scale
film and video installation art, as well as Web-based projects.
Immersive Subjectivity
In this regard, VanDerBeeks directed aim was to use this apparatus of image reception
as a means of creating a multisensory experience through the conditions particular
to Movie-Drome. Directing the audience to lie down at the outer edges of the circular-shaped space with their feet toward the center, the screens above and around the
audience participants filled almost the complete field of vision. Hundreds of images
and multiple sound sources collided in the din of the aluminum space producing an
all-encompassing effect in the domed theater. By exposing the individuals gathered
together to an overwhelming information experience through submerging their bodies
in incessant waves of lights, sounds, and images in an effort to penetrate and elicit an
emotional response, the Movie-Drome produced an immersive subjecta decidedly
social subject.
This mode of address can be read in terms of a phenomenological bodily experience. The subject was not only immersed visually in the flow of light and images but
also aurally through quadraphonic sound. These elements added to the heightened
sense of tactility brought on by being enclosed in an intimate space, where participants
would have to feel their way around through intermittent darkness, while conscious of
being surrounded by other bodies looking, napping, dancing, and absorbing the effects
together.31 Because the source of the sounds and lights was neither centralized nor
fixed, Movie-Drome and its open seating layout in which visitors could move around
and sit in any position avoided privileging a conventional reading of the body in terms
of a front or back. The divide between the stage and the audience was never static, as
both elements were in constant motion.
This particular form of immersive subjectivity differentiates the project from immersive environments that rely on illusionism associated with commercial widescreen cinema or planetarium vernacular contemporaneously emerging in the United States.32
From the fairground to art and science museums, institutions were using the novelty of large-format cinema to attract audiences and to add a new dimension to their


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offerings.33 The technical effects generated by specialized viewing spaces and widescreen technology such as Cineramas CinemaScope and planetariums were aimed at
making the viewer forget that he or she was sitting next to hundreds of other people
in a multiplex structure. The idea was to create an environment where the viewers
attention was directed toward the action taking place within the diegetic space of the
screenthe virtual world created by the images and narrativenot the architectural
space of the theater.34 Therefore, the ongoing work for directors and producers who
created these large-format films is always focused on perfecting the imagery or enhancing the quality of filmic representation. The ubiquitous desire to make the film seem
more real than real relegates these types of practices to what Jean Baudrillard labeled
the precession of simulacra, a hyperreal sequence of images for which there is no
In contrast, the environment of the Drome with its unruly acoustics and aluminum
screen could never be obscured by the images that bounced around its interior. While
the audience could become lost in an overwhelming audiovisual experience, it is difficult to imagine viewers actually believing that the scenes and figures pictured in the
space were somehow real or meant to be taken as real, nor does this seem to have been
VanDerBeeks intention. This due to two main factors: the random selection of material
projected in the Movie-Drome, and the speed and variety with which the images were
deployed. More specifically, VanDerBeek shifted the emphasis from reading each individual film as fixed or self-contained toward the interplay between images. Rather than
adjusting formal or spatial elements in a futile attempt to close the distance between
spectator and viewer, the Movie-Drome was a decided shift away from the concerns of
illusionism and the conventions of filmic depiction. VanDerBeek worked to change the
space of viewing so that the audience was no longer conceived as a grouping of individuals, but a collective relating to one another as they experienced the same audiovisual material.
Instead of using the delirious visual effects of film and media as tools for hallucinatory escapism, Movie-Drome attempted to rectify or address what VanDerBeek perceived to be the alienating impulse of media technology. VanDerBeek operated under
the belief that a universal language of images transmitted through the Movie-Drome
could unify disparate cultures in the face of what he deemed as the global crisis of the
period. This was a reference to his desire to probe for the emotional denominator of
the viewers consciousness by emotionalizing technology and linking individuals to
a collective and potentially global body.36
By attempting to eradicate the formal distinctions or intermediary elements between
art and life by directly immersing the audience, Movie-Drome functioned as both a site
as well as an apparatus that could tap into peoples emotions. VanDerBeek claimed
that by expanding the conceptions of cinema and film, the viewers other sense organs
would expand as well, speeding up our whole sensitivities, physically as well as

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socially.37 The belief was that by creating an intense social and multisensory experience, the audience would connect emotionally with one another as part of a larger
cultural, and even global, constituency. VanDerBeek reasoned that the imperative of
technological research and development had almost completely outdistanced the
emotional sociological comprehension of technology among the world community.
Therefore he thought it was imperative that each and every member of the world
community, regardless of age and cultural background join the twentieth century as
quickly as possiblethe risks are the life or death of this world.38
VanDerBeeks conception of the sociopolitical climate in the United States during
the mid-1960s as a period defined by concurrent and overlapping events (the Cold
War, nuclear age, Vietnam era, information age, civil rights movement, womens movement) triggered his extemporaneous, and at times manic, manner of speech in his
public presentations as well as in his published writings. Most notably, VanDerBeeks
manifesto-like writing style recalls Marshall McLuhans aphoristic approach in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, first published in 1964. At its most basic level,
VanDerBeeks ideas resonated with McLuhans description of a global village. Like
McLuhan, VanDerBeek believed that with the advent of electronic media, communication would be instantaneous and global in reach. Information could be stored and
retrieved without the obstacles of delay and distance, creating a real-time network that
addressed an international audience unbound by geographic borders.
Movie-Drome and the Media Ecology of the 1960s
In aggregate, Expanded Cinemas formal and conceptual challenge to traditional
screening and exhibition conventions developed in tandem with the broadening of
media outlets, forms, and formats throughout the 1960s. This was a moment when
an exponentially larger segment of politics, society, education, music, and visual art
were mediated through more affordable and portable electronic devices including color
televisions; compact lightweight film and video cameras; audiocassette recorders; and
cheaper audiovisual editing equipment all priced and marketed to a relatively new
consumer group of nonprofessionals for use at home or in the studio. One significant
result of this surge in consumer electronics was that large-scale media events could be
orchestrated outside of conventional performing arts centers or venues. Artists organized temporary, mobile (and even serial) concerts, protests, and art events without
the structural confines of seating and staging arrangements associated with traditional
institutions such as schools, museums, galleries, studios, and theaters, which had provided performance, rehearsal, and storage space as well as the cultural cues for audience
expectations. The lack of access to established exhibition venues due to limitations
in resources (financial or cultural) abated somewhat during the late 1960s, but more
frequently working at the margins greatly enhanced the unique ways that Expanded


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Cinema events took place without the administrative and technical infrastructure (from
lighting to ticketing and publicity) that established theaters and museums entailed.
Orchestrating screenings without a screen and fixed seating altered the audiences
configuration and sense of timing, and thus their expectations for Expanded Cinema
works, even if that meant not knowing exactly what to expect (as was the case with
the New York Film Festival audience bused up to Stony Point for the unveiling of the
Movie-Drome). While the proliferation of cheaper electronic equipment and the rise of
Expanded Cinema works in the United States may seem to be synonymous phenomena, they are not locked into a causal relationship. One way to register the introduction
of these increasingly sophisticated technological devices, such as video recorders and
lightweight cameras marketed to middle-class consumers, is to consider that they did
not radically alter the operation of communication, but merely inflected a slight variation by increasing the efficiency of mediation.39 And as critic Sheldon Renan noted in
his 1967 account of these types of multimedia events,
Most of the new devices used in Expanded Cinema have been around for ten or more years. But
now the artist has more money and more status, and therefore more access to these materials.40

In this manner, the question of access to media technology is not just on the level
of availability, but refers to a more complex social and economic backdrop against
which Expanded Cinema operated. The spread of local and public cable television and
the relative low cost of commercial printing made mass media outlets viable options
for artists seeking a greater level of bandwidth: opportunities to reach a demographic
beyond those who frequented art museums or galleries.
Toward the beginning of the 1970s, as visual artists engaged in projects designed
specifically for non-art venues and Expanded Cinema broadened to include works produced on video and digital formats, key shifts occurred in the development communication technologies and platforms. In addition to the rapid growth of a consumer
electronics industry, this was also the very moment when the consolidation of cable
television in the United States represented a viable challenge to the dominance of the
commercial practices of video and broadcast technology (what is customarily referred
to as network programming). In the early 1970s, cable televisions inevitable commercialization and depoliticizing was not a foregone conclusion. As art historian David
Joselit remarked in Feedback: Television Against Democracy, his careful apparatus-focused
analysis of how television operated at the nexus of politics and representation in the
United States, Television existed as a technology before it was clear how it might be
marketed as a product.41 The mooring of broadcast technology to a commodity-based
network structure to create the hegemonic system of commercial television that dominates todays airwaves experienced a brief disruption between 1968 and 1972, which
ignited the creative imagination of artists and activists alike. In an effort to bolster
support from the Federal Communications Commission in their run up against the

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major media corporations, regional cable-access operators opened up their networks to

community programming during this five-year window.42 Cables relative openness to
unconventional formats and content was heralded as nothing short of a communications revolution. This revolutionary rhetoric was actively chronicled in new publications such as Radical Software, a tabloid-sized newsletter published between 1970 and
1974. Produced by the Raindance Corporation, a group of artists and media activists
who named themselves in ironic homage to the RAND Corporation, the editorial voice
of Radical Software espoused the periods distinctly DIY ethos and featured newly available recording and editing equipment with the idea that artists could not only outfit
themselves with the necessary technical skills to become savvy media activists, but also
sharpen or hone the emerging public discourse on media, television, and communications.43 Likewise, Guerilla Television, written by Raindance Corporation member Michael
Shamberg in 1971, served as a type of condensed how-to book, what Shamberg called
a meta-manual, to engage a broader swath of middle-class Americans in the effort
to achieve true democracy by breaking the stranglehold of broadcast TV on the
American mind. Offering instructions on how to use low-cost portable video-tape,
cameras, video cassettes and cable television to design alternate television networks
that favor portability and decentralization, Guerrilla Television perfectly encapsulated
the prevailing activist spirit of this period and the desire by artists and organizations
to engage and convert the information tools and tactics of mainstream media in an
effort to generate social change.44
The media ecology circumnavigated in the pages of Radical Software serves as cultural backdrop against which VanDerBeeks Expanded Cinema works developed. This
transition occurred at a moment when broadcast television, cable, and even satellite
transmissions were considered viable outlets for visual artists to experiment, tamper,
and, often times, spectacularly fail with, all the while engaging in a generative model of
art production. It is clear, however, that VanDerBeeks intentions for the Movie-Drome
and his other expanded Cinema projects were not invested in the same mode of resistance represented by the Raindance Corporations efforts to fight media with media,
so to speak. What they did share, however, was a DIY ethos of repurposing existing
equipment to create new types of feedback mechanisms. The second issue of Radical
Software for example, featured descriptions of newly available recording and editing
equipment with the idea that artists could share information and adapt new types of
recording and editing skills as shown in the articles, Tips for Using Portable Half-Inch
Equipment and Microphones, A How To. Radical Software (no. 2) also featured an
extensive Cultural Databank section that functioned as a large-print Rolodex providing contact information for a variety of artists and media activists as well as brief
descriptions of key projects to encourage collaboration and grassroots dissemination
of this type of new electronic media work. VanDerBeeks inclusion in Radical Softwares Cultural Databank in general, and Radical Softwares coverage of his television


Chapter 3

and video simulcast works including Danceworks #2 and #3, Superimposition, Newsreel
of Dreams and most importantly, Violence Sonata, signaled the crossover of both cable
and print media in what was clearly becoming a more mediated moment for artists.45
While his work was featured in Radical Software, VanDerBeek never abandoned his
goals for recalibrating the conventions of existing modes of distribution, exhibition,
and display. This fact distinguishes VanDerBeeks activities not only from Radical Software, but also from the more overtly anti-institutional and artist-centered aims of the
various alternative spaces, groups, and organizations that proliferated throughout the
United States between the late 1970s and early 1990s, which were progenitors of video
art (such as Franklin Furnace and the Kitchen, among others).46 Instead of attempting
to set up a parallel or alternative system, VanDerBeek sought to engage the existing
structures of broadcast television and mass media as represented in the residencies
he occupied at institutions including NASA, CBS, and most notably, Bostons Public
Broadcasting Station, WGBH-TV. More than just reaching a broader audience in both
scale and demographics, VanDerBeeks experiments with television were equally concerned with introducing real-time feedback mechanisms. VanDerBeeks residency and
television work at WGBH occurred just slightly before the recognition of video as an
art form when the nascent formats structures were opening to artists and this type of
work began to resonate with critics, curators, and programmers.47
The broadcast and media experiments that occurred during this brief window
between 1970 and 1974 was the subject of a conference titled Open Circuits: An International Conference on the Future of Television at the Museum of Modern Art in
January 1974. Organized by Fred Barzyk, Douglas Davis, Gerald OGrady, and Willard
Van Dyke, the conference borrowed its name from Nam June Paiks early manifesto and
attracted key figures operating at the nexus of video, television, and conceptual art. The
inclusion of Hollis Frampton, Joan Jonas, Vito Acconci, Allan Kaprow, Richard Serra,
and John Baldessari, whose work has been taken up primarily within the discipline of
contemporary art history, alongside VanDerBeek, Emshwiller, Paik, Frank Gillette, Wulf
Herzogenrath, Shigeko Kubota, and Gerd Stern, who feature more in film and media
studies, demonstrates the overlapping and shared affinities between these fields. The
fact that art museum curators Barbara London, Harald Szeemann, and Jane Livingston
participated along with Vilm Flusser and Hans Magnus Enzensberger, whose critical
writings have been taken up more in the field of new media, reinforces the fact that the
fields of contemporary art and new media overlapped more than the current literature
Before going on to found and direct the Center for Media Study at State University
of New York Buffalo in 1972, Gerald OGrady help to develop a foundational residency
program at WGBH in Boston called Artists-in-Television and invited figures such as
VanDerBeek, Allan Kaprow, Aldo Tambellini, and Otto Piene, among others, to collaborate with the stations production staff to realize projects specifically designed for

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broadcast.48 A case in point was on January 12, 1970, when WGBH aired VanDerBeeks
Violence Sonata from 9:0010:30 p.m. on channels 2 and 44.49 Violence Sonata was
described by OGrady as a post-television, pre-theater experience combining television, live drama, and telephone feedback, all aimed at exploring ways in which the
new electronic media can be used to defuse and immunize violence.50 Recounting the
event for the Open Circuits conference, VanDerBeek stated,
The concept was to integrate the home audience in the Boston area with the live audience in the
TV studio for the community to participate in a stylized version of violence-information-dadadata presented theatrically in order to try and release the social tension outside in the streets
without violence.51

VanDerBeek stressed to the audience, At the time, every university in Boston had an
average of one bomb scare a day for about a year.52 Key to the conception of the project
was the ability for the at-home audience to register their response on the programming
through what VanDerBeek called a computerized telephone hook up vote-in system.
Designed to be viewed at home on two different television sets at once, each channel of Violence Sonata was composed of three screen acts (with subject titles man to
men, man to woman, and man) which had a total running time of approximately
ninety minutes. Channel 2 carried the primary material: footage of battles across the
centuries from Civil War cannons being fired to coverage of the street violence and
bombs that VanDerBeek alluded to in his talk at the Open Circuits conference. Edited
by VanDerBeek, channel 44 aired a collection of thematic comments that highlighted the relationships between power, gender, and race, which included broadcasting a live studio performance of an interracial couple lying together seminude in bed.
Between each of these three screen acts, yes or no questions were put to the home
viewers who were asked to telephone in their responses to three live studio panelists
moderating a discussion about the issue of violence on todays streetsmarked by tear
gas, police dogs, cattle prods, and army squads. The footage broadcast on channel 2
was composed of split-screen video of found footage, while channel 44 carried a mix
of more animated collages edited by VanDerBeek in a fast-paced manner. According to
VanDerBeeks own description of the feedback process, There was a telephone number
for each response (yes or no). Anyone who dialed one of the numbers got a busy signal
and hung up, but the votes were registered by a computer.53 VanDerBeek explained
that they were able to access the unused switching phone banks of a large insurance
company in Boston, closed for the weekend. A computer answered the calls and highspeed digital equipment calculated the results in seconds. It cost the viewer nothing to
make the call, and in a short period of time a large vote was obtained. More than simply generating a dialogue or tracking responses for his own WGBH project, VanDerBeek
suggested that such experiments with local (or national) feedback systems could be
used to keep the body social in touch with itself. By not only addressing, but also


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soliciting the opinions and questions between a live in studio audience as well as viewers tuned in to the discussion at home, Violence Sonata manifested the goals of dialogue
and exchange prompted by the Movie-Drome.
Reading Multimedia Art through the Logic of Remediation
VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome pointed to the notion of a programmable apparatusexecuting a variety of operations based on codes, instructions, or directions set by the
artistlinking it more to the basic traits associated with computer processing rather
than the cinematic apparatus, or any type of film-projection design. A signal example
of a programmable apparatus is Alan Turings Universal Machine of 1936, a conceptual computer that could simulate the work done by any other machine through programmingconverting anything into dataso that the Universal Machine could read
descriptive numbers, decode them into tables, and execute their commands.54 Likewise,
Movie-Drome reflected earlier types of conceptual apparatusesprojects that envisioned
a system or circuit of information such as Nikola Teslas 1901 plan for a World System
of planetary communication based on clusters of electric transformers that enabled the
art of telephotography, a process by which photographic images could be transmitted
over vast distances.55
The notion of a universal apparatus that could incorporate the traits of other media
is what motivated VanDerBeek to dispense with the isolated formal concerns of painting and sculpture and spurred his interest in multimedia. Beyond simply providing
a metaphor for plurality, the term multimedia suggests that meaning is produced
out of the more complicated relationship in which the discrete forms of film, video,
sound, and dance are mediated among and through one another. That is to say, media
is subject to a process of remediation. This also pressures the paradigm of fidelity that
subtends much of time-based work.56 Remediation can be thought of as the simultaneous synthesis of various functions and characteristics from different media. As each
medium becomes incorporated into another, there are no boundaries where one stops
and the other begins. Likewise, the tension or friction between various media in a state
of interaction exists in a dialectical state of remediation. While the logic of remediation may be more familiar or attuned to arguments that surround television and the
televisual in general, its application and possible reconsideration of Expanded Cinema
practices has yet to be fully considered.57 The representation of one medium through
another is an alternative definition to the common use of the term multimedia, which
is generally used to label the audiovisual performance-based works that emerged
between 1955 and 1965. A paradigmatic example of remediation can be found in the
analyses of the collaborative project, Variations V, part of a series of eight audiovisual
works titled Variations I through VII that John Cage scored between 1958 and 1978.58

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Created expressly for the Merce Cunningham Dance Company, Variations V was
orchestrated around Cages interest in having dancers bodies, rather than musicians,
initiate the sound elements in the work.59 Scored by Cage, Variations V was a collaboration between choreographer, Merce Cunningham, David Tudor (another composer and
resident of the Land), Nam June Paik and Stan VanDerBeek and incorporated aspects
of modern dance, multiscreen film projection, manipulated video imagery, and experimental musical performances using taped sound effects, synthesizers, and classical
instruments. Drawing on the expertise of synthesizer creator Robert Moog and EAT
founder, Billy Klver, Cage was able to develop a means of activating sound through
movement by developing a system of multidirectional photocells aimed at the stage
lights, which triggered various prerecorded sounds as the dancers interrupted the beams
of light with their movements. A second electronic system embedded within the piece
circulated through a series of about four-foot-tall antennas installed around the stage.
When a dancer came within approximately four feet of an antenna, another set of
prerecorded sounds would be activated. Altogether there were ten photocells wired to
activate tape recorders and shortwave radios that transmitted various sounds throughout the space. Simultaneously, VanDerBeek projected found film footage and his own
animated features into this mix. Performances of Variations V created a situation that,
in the words of Cage, offered the autonomous behavior of simultaneous events.60 Or,
if we take the perspective of dancer Carolyn Brown, Variations V was a three ring circus
with all rings vying for the attention of the audience. She noted that unlike most of
the electronic music gadgetry, the visual components of Variations V worked beautifully
and, indeed, stole the show.61 VanDerBeeks moving images were aimed onto stationary screens as well as projected against the bodies of the dancers. Moving in the athletic
style of Cunninghams choreography, the dancers forceful gestures and abbreviated
jumps were punctuated by moments of nearly suspended motion. Several nondance
activities were also orchestrated into the pieces movement including Cunningham
potting a rubber tree plant and then Brown repotting the same plant moments later.
Cunningham also rode on a bicycle maneuvering around the antennae and the other
dancers. Distorted video and television images were also layered onto this complex
scene, as were a multitude of amplified noises. The sounds consisted of mostly random
snippets from the radio or other electronic sources with occasional interludes of classical piano breaking the aural clutter. Prerecorded sounds such as water running down a
kitchen drain were triggered by the dancers proximity to the antennas and photocells.
In various instances of the performance, Cage, Tudor, and Gordon Mumma operated
a soundboard to mix and modify the volume, tone, and distribution of the sounds as
they were amplified within the performance space.62
The first instance of Variations V took place at the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln
Center as part of the French-American Festival in July 1965. In various accounts of this
important and often cited work, VanDerBeeks contribution was limited to providing


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the visual content by showing a film, rather than impacting the overall concept of
the performance.63 Likewise, Cunningham is often listed as contributing choreography,
and Cage and Tudor, the musical score and sound elements. Beverly Emmons is credited
for the lighting and Klver was responsible for engineering the antennae transmission
system and photocell triggers for the recorded sounds. The consequence is that these
descriptions of Variations V serve to single out each specifically discrete medium by
artist. In these types of readings, each artist is usually designated one medium that he
or she can contribute. What was intended as an integrated multimedia event is instead
read as the juxtaposition of separate media within a temporally coincident period. This
particular type of interpretation reinforces the specificity of each medium within the
group and works to preserve each mediums structural integrity rather than noting any
new qualities or functions generated by the integration of diverse media. Insisting on
a separation of mediums serves to position multimedia performance at the end of a
positivist development of mechanical image production. However strong the historical
impulse to streamline the narrative of multimedia art may be, it is not a fixed term.
Reflecting the instability of discussing this category of art production, multimedia
performance is referred to interchangeably as Intermedia, Mixed Media, Expanded
Cinema, Engineering, Environment, and participation.64 By thinking of multimedia in
terms of a remediation of various forms, the integration of media becomes the emphasis rather than their coincident and contained juxtaposition.
Within Variations V and other types of media events that intentionally distort theater conventions, each particular medium does not retain its own function or specificity. The fact that Cage did not score Variations V until after the initial performance at
Lincoln Center is a key factor in the overall conception of the work as an inherently
indeterminate form.65 That is to say rather than functioning as a prescriptive notation
indicative of future performances, as typical for traditional scores, or even other Cagean scores, the score for Variations V functioned as a practical and aesthetic document
for disciplined improvisation and collaboration.66 According to music historian William Fetterman, Variations Vs score is not a description of the actual performance, but
is evocative and formal in its use of language. Variations V is unrepeatable.67
When asked by Richard Kostelanetz who authored Variations V, Cage responded by
stating, The score is a posterioriwritten after the piece. Do you see the implications
of this? He explained:
[This reversal] changes our idea of what a score is. We always thought that it was a priori and that
the performance was the performance of a score. I switched it completely around so that the score
is a report on a performance. These are remarks that would enable one to perform Variations V.68

Cage further explained how writing the score involved a typical Cagean process of
tossing coins to figure out that five words would be in each remark or set of instructions that would enable someone to perform Variations V. It then became what you

Visual Velocity


might call a poetic problemto think of something in five words that would be useful
to another person if he were going to perform Variations V, said Cage. Then I wrote
them down. I did each of the thirty-five things like that and thats the score.69 In his
response to Kostelanetz, Cage also brought up the notion of the work being fixed in an
unexpected manner. While Variations V is scored (even after the fact), the filmic, dance,
and sound elements are indeterminate and would change with each production. However, the work was fixed, as he noted: In space, in time, youll never be able to repeat
it.70 As Cage observed, Variations V reinforces the autonomous behavior of media
unique to each distinct interaction and more importantly interaction between media.
In doing so, Cage deemphasized the notion that a score fixes a set of visual or aural
elements. This variable characterization also shifts the reading of multimedia from a
coincident application of coherent forms in a one-to-one relationship into something
more akin to an amorphous visual and sonic soundscape that pressures the audience to
adjust its senses to the broader environment and its expectations, or criteria by which
to evaluate the experience.71
Variations V obviously draws from the specific praxis of film, theater, music and
dance. However, the forms and techniques that are incorporated into the work do not
remain completely intact when integrated into a singular event. The formal qualities of
film, sound, and dance are distorted, expanded, exaggerated, and become more visible
in relation to other media (as McLuhan duly noted in his Vision 65 speech). Beyond
simply providing a metaphor for plurality, multimedia suggests that meaning is produced out of the more complicated relationship between each medium. In this sense,
the discrete forms of film, video, sound, and dance become remediated among and
through one another. Here the logic of remediation does not simply mean repurposing
film techniques (e.g., serial form, editing, montage) to simulate painting so that a film
looks like a particular painting style, or substituting the conventions of the body as it
relates to dance into sculptural forms. Instead the properties or traits of each medium
are simultaneously incorporated into another as a means of expanding the range of
representation to include motion and spatial concerns.
In examining the few available documentary photographs of Variations V, it is
apparent that by projecting VanDerBeeks filmic images onto split screens, the dancers moving bodieseven into the space of the audiencethe filmic images altogether
engender different effects than if they were projected in a more conventional format.
Consider the Lincoln Center performance. The dancers bodies disrupt the flow of
light from the projectors, further diminishing the ability to read the image as a single,
continuous, or uninterrupted sequence. And arguably, the reverse process happens:
the beams of light produce shadows, distort the spatial framework of the stage, alter
the perspective of the dancers, and complicate the registration of their movementsa
point keenly stressed by Variations Vs use of photocell triggers.


Chapter 3

These physio-spatial relationships also can be seen in another performance of

Variations V with Carolyn Brown and Peter Saul dancing in a performance designed
specifically for broadcast on German television in 1966.72 Staged by Arne Arnborn at
Norddeutscher Rundfunk in Hamburg, an additional layer of imagery was added in the
form of television manipulations orchestrated by Nam June Paik. In addition to the
film images projected in the studio on stage with the dancers, supplementary footage
was transferred to video and overlaid onto the live recording streaming from the television studio. Visible only to the viewers tuning in at home, this version of Variations V
offered close-up views of the filmic images registering on the surface area of the dancers bodies. Highlighting the variable nature of the project, documentation from a third
iteration of Variations V modified for the University of Cincinnatis performance center
in 1967 demonstrates how the projection of VanDerBeeks films against the dancers
bodies becomes secondary to the registration of the images within the seated space of
the audience (figure 3.29). In this version performed in conjunction with a symposium
called Cinema Now, which included discussions between VanDerBeek, Cage, Stan
Brakhage, and Jonas Mekas, the faces and bodies of the audience become incorporated
into the performance (figure 3.30).
The projection of images onto bodies in motion as highlighted in Variations V was
a recurring theme in VanDerBeeks multiscreen projection work in and outside of the
Movie-Drome. In the spring of 1967, during a month-long residency at the Cinema
Department of the University of Southern California, VanDerBeek created a program
that he called Feedback that employed multiple screen projection, closed circuit television, FM transmitters, and two dancers. VanDerBeek and the USC students created the
actual film and video footage projected during Feedback during his residency at the
university a few weeks prior to the performance on April 10. Black-and-white photographs convey the fact that, like Variations V, the beams of light and image flow were
intercepted and deflected by the dancers bodies (figures 3.31 and 3.32). However, in
this instance, in addition to large-scale screens and blank walls, dancers also held up
two-by-three foot pieces of construction paper as they moved through a series of dance
actions across the performance area. The effect of these miniature mobile screens further distorted the registration of the images, and at times the shadows cast by the
geometric form of the handheld screens became absorbed into the broader abstract
background image.
Read through a logic of remediation, multimedia performance events like Feedback
and Variations V generate different types of viewing experiences which, to use VanDerBeeks terms, activate the subject from a passive state of meditation to a heightened
sense of anticipation. VanDerBeek would take the remediated multisensory experience as exemplified in Variations V to a new level inside the Movie-Drome. However,
the effect was not due to different projection material. As figure 3.33 demonstrates,
VanDerBeek used many of the same projection materials from Variations V inside the

Visual Velocity


Figure 3.29
Variations V performed at the University of Cincinnati in conjunction with the conference Cinema Now, 1967.

Figure 3.30
Variations V performed at the University of Cincinnati in conjunction with the conference Cinema Now, 1967.


Chapter 3

Figure 3.31
Feedback, a collaborative multimedia project VanDerBeek orchestrated while in residency at USCs
Department of Cinema using images created by students, 1967.

Figure 3.32
Feedback, a collaborative multimedia project VanDerBeek orchestrated while in residency at USCs
Department of Cinema using images created by students, 1967.

Visual Velocity


Drome. Viewed side by side, the imagery used in the German television version of Variations V compared with documentation of projected images within the Drome show the
same film footage featuring an enlarged car tire. Inside the Drome VanDerBeek did not
have the mixing capabilities available at the Hamburg studio, and instead relied on
a more analog form of mixing. What was produced with clunky, low-tech projection
equipment within the interior space of the Drome was a sensorial spectacle of sounds,
lights, images, bodies, and noise whose meaning hinged on the viewers experience and
not on objective forms.73 In these terms, Movie-Drome can be read as the remediation of
cinema, live performance events, and exhibition design techniques for spatial display
that speaks to an immersive subject not addressed in other conventional formats.
Focusing on alternative modes of audience reception made evident by Movie-Drome
pressures todays definition of new media art practices to not just rely on the simple
differences between analog and digital forms, but to include subjective experience. If
the ways in which experience becomes processed is historically relative and culturally
determined, then the modes through which experience becomes filtered or constructed

Figure 3.33
Comparison between image of Movie-Drome interior, c. 1965 (left) and Variations V, 1966 (right)
showing the same projected imagery (circular tire from a VanDerBeek film) being used in both


Chapter 3

are by definition contingent.74 These filters change not only by year or location, but
also through the technologies that constitute subjectivity. Within the realm of media
artas film, video, sound, and projection technology alters perspective, reception, or
distancesubjectivity also changes. Alterations in viewing habits and aesthetic experience can be traced through the history of exhibition design and theatrical stage presentation, which demonstrates shifting concerns around the distinction between artwork/
performance and audience.

4 Paradigms of Display: Movie-Drome as Information Arrangement

The Movie-Drome articulated a particularly contemporary type of subjectivity by creating the conditions that allowed for a visual velocity, an immersive experience that
addresses the audience as a collective body. Distinct from the singular modernist viewing subject of avant-garde film and abstract painting, and the atomized audience associated with broadcast or cable television, VanDerBeeks emphasis on the Movie-Drome
functioning as a type of research center allowing viewers to send and receive information through a network pointed to the different types of networked masses to come.
As a mechanism for communication, or in VanDerBeeks own words an experience
machine, the Movie-Drome also registered a reconceptualization of the treatment of
images as a type of information processing.
A compelling framework for analyzing the particular display strategies orchestrated
by VanDerBeek in the Movie-Drome can be found in Michel Foucaults terms for defining technological space. In his essay Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, first
published in 1967, Foucault registered space not as material form, but as an arrangement of stored information characterized by the circulation of discrete elements to
random outlets.1 Transposed onto the history of Expanded Cinema, the arrangement
of stored information can be read as the various strategies that were employed at different moments throughout history to contend with the changing demands for staging
visual and performing art. In particular, VanDerBeeks moving image presentations,
which he termed an electric assemblage, relied on a process of levelingequalizing
disparate media formats. Distinct formats such as 35 mm slides, 16 mm film, overhead
projections, individual animation cells, and films transferred to digital video were all
treated as malleable images, the scale and ratio of which were adaptable to the spatial
configurations of a given setting. This sense of treating images as an arrangement of
information can also be applied to shifts in museum exhibition design standards from
arranging artworks atop plinths to include the use of billboard-scaled super graphics
directly applied to walls and exteriors, as well as the use of temporary structures and
pavilions built for worlds fairs, international expositions, and art fairs. Moreover, the
element of scalabilitythe idea that one space could be reconfigured to accommodate


Chapter 4

a variety of activities or uses, and that the size of the audience could slide between intimate theatrical gatherings to arena-sized presentationsbecame a key element in some
of the most notable Expanded Cinema events of the 1960s and 1970s.
The specific conditions for viewing and moving through these various types of
spatial configurations that structure Expanded Cinema events and the Movie-Drome
in particular are articulated in three paradigmatic precedents: the eighteenth-century
European salon style of arranging paintings, El Lissitzkys Cabinet of Abstract Art from
1926, and Frederick Kieslers 1924 Spatial Theater (Raumbhne). While each of these
well-known works existed within a distinct cultural milieu as discourse objects, they
function as comparative models of spectatorship informing the practices that develop
within Expanded Cinema. And like the Movie-Drome itself, the Cabinet of Abstract Art
and the Spatial Theater endured both as relatively simple structures as well as prototypes
that modeled more complex conceptual and perceptual operations. In addition, the
formal affinities between these selected caseswith their own distinct cultural and
social contextsare linked through a tangible connection to VanDerBeeks own working process, in the form of a reference book. Among the few titles that VanDerBeek
moved with him each time he relocated his home and studio was a well-worn copy of
unconventional volume called The Architecture of Fantasy: Utopian Building and Planning
in Modern Times. Translated from the German and published by Praeger Press in 1962,
the copiously illustrated and annotated book presented what can only be thought of
as the anti-survey of twentieth century modern architecture.2 Not only did its authors
concentrate on utopian, unrealized, abandoned, and failed projects, they prioritized
architectural phenomena that did not correspond to the more established universally recognized themes and trends of modern architecture. While the book highlights
contributions by El Lissitzky and Kiesler as well as documenting the work of Bauhaus
designers including Herbert Bayer, my suggestion is that the books influence on
VanDerBeek is more diffuse than direct or literal. However, the authors premise that
through the examination of seemingly eccentric and isolated conceptual experiments,
generative interrelationships become more visible remains convincing.
Spatial Paradigms of Curatorial Display
In the traditional eighteenth-century European salon format, paintings are hung side
by side, covering each square inch of wall space until the paintings almost completely
obscure the very structure that supported them. Taking on a room-scale mosaic form,
each individual painting acts as a tile covering the entire wall surface without overlapping or obscuring another artwork. The overall effect requires viewers to contend
with a geometric puzzle: eighteenth-century and contemporary viewers alike had to
visually trace the rectangular frames fitted onto the square walls that supported the
house or museum, which itself is a series of integrated geometric forms navigated by

Paradigms of Display


the viewers. This particular arrangement method draws attention to the fact that each
images autonomous meaning is retained by the boundary demarcated by its frame.
And the format requires the viewer to physically adjust his or her position and body
to clearly read an individual picture while navigating through the crowd. The result is
that there is no central point from which the viewer can take in the entire voluminous
scene at once, forcing the viewer to choose where to focus attention.
In a contrast of scale and curatorial ideology, El Lissitzkys Cabinet of Abstract Art
(1926), situated within the Hannover Museum, measured only five by four meters and
included a flexible system for displaying paintings in what Alfred Barr, Jr., referred to
as the most famous room of twentieth-century art in the world. Lissitzky textured the
interior walls with evenly spaced, thin metal slats, which ran the entire length of the
wall plane. Each metal slat was enameled: white on one side, black on the other, and
protruded slightly from the gray-colored back wall. Lissitzky varied the sequence by
alternating the grouping of slats from light to dark, generating an optical effect that
destabilized the viewers sense of space. According to Joan Ockmans account of the
project, Lissitzkys Abstract Cabinet was an attempt to reproduce not just the conditions of seeing, but the full sensorium of aesthetic experience of a particular period.3
On three of the walls, the metal slats were interrupted to allow for a system or grid of
sliding panels on which the individual paintings were mounted. As the viewer moved
through the space from left to right or vice versa, the tonal changes in the shadows
made the wall appear to vibrate or change color. Likewise, standing directly in front of
the work, the background would have conveyed a different hue from when the viewer
first approached. The space was activated by the viewers movement through the room
and by adjusting the height of the panels with the mounted paintings that could be
slid up or down by the viewer.
While these two models of reception relied on the physical movements of the viewer
through a specific spatial arrangement, they differed in terms of who directs or regulates the flow of information and the viewer. In the salon-style hanging, the museum
and the institutional framework determine associations between the paintings, and
the floor plan or layout of the gallery establishes the viewing parameters. Running
counter to then conventional museum practice, Lissitzkys Cabinet of Abstract Art was
developed around the consideration that perception changes with the location of the
viewer within and among the artwork. However, reevaluating the comparison with an
emphasis on the social aspects of the audience, the interpersonal dynamics are foregrounded. Individuals mingling in small clusters throughout the salon space created
a more highly charged social atmosphere than the meditative quiet of the Cabinet of
Abstract Art. The number of viewers allowed in at any given time was strictly controlled
in order to preserve the optimal viewing conditions. In these terms, the Cabinet was
still geared toward addressing an individual viewing subject.


Chapter 4

A third paradigm of reception is found in Kieslers Spatial Theater built for the Vienna
Music and Theater Festival in 1924.4 Kiesler offered a model of display that radically
altered the spatial concerns of event presentation not through the rearrangement of
two-dimensional objects or dcor, but by reconstructing the form and function of
the built space itself. Kiesler created a stage system based on three-dimensional circular platforms and spiraling ramps. Intended to reverse the topological relationship
between actors and the audience, Kieslers circular stage moved from the vanishing
point beyond the seated audience to a central point surrounded by the audience.5 The
stages construction was governed by Kieslers principles of tensionism characterized
by the abolition of the static axis, freedom from the ground, and a system of
tension in open space.6 The result was a freestanding wooden structure comprising
interconnected ramps and platforms held up by stilts and trestles built on a gradual
incline. The Spatial Theaters wooden framework was consciously exposed to suggest
the infinite movement of the city with its open horizontal and vertical grids.7
In Kieslers terms, it was a continuous-tension shell, or a circular plan with elliptical sections through which spiraling ramps connected at various levels within the
seating areas so that the players and audience could intertwine anywhere in space.8
The inclined ramps allowed the actors to freely move between the seating areas and
the central stage, with no curtain to demarcate the separation between the public and
private realms. Writing in 1929, Kiesler explained his rationale for the Spatial Theater
as developing out of a basic choice: either change the design (search for new forms and
uses of color) or develop a totally new plan of spatial arrangement. Kiesler remarked,
concerning the two options:
The first is never more than a passing fashion and adds nothing of constructive value to the progress
of art. The second is enduring in quality and fundamentally constructive in value because it creates
a better machine, more perfect in operation and more effective in displaying the cinematic art.

These three spatial models illustrate the distinct techniques of information arrangement and display simultaneously employed by VanDerBeek. The Movie-Drome experience relied on holding all three in a process of remediation: the mosaic effect of the
salon-style juxtaposition of unique art images; the destabilizing effect and sensorial
experience of Lissitzkys Cabinet of Abstract Art; and the move beyond design alterations to create a seamless three-dimensional space to facilitate interaction as suggested
by Kieslers Spatial Theater. However, while these models were influential examples of
visual display and performative staging, they were all fairly unconventional strategies
and did not become institutionalized within their own time periods as the cultural
convention for bodies moving through public spaces. El Lissitzkys Cabinet and Kieslers
Spatial Theater were unique innovations that influenced future designs but never
became standard display models for museums or theaters. In addition, the eighteenthcentury salon style emerged prior to the articulation of any universal convention for
museum display, which developed in the nineteenth century.10

Paradigms of Display


While VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome incorporates fragments from all three precedents,

it is a comparison with the design strategies of former Bauhaus artist Herbert Bayer that
further elucidates Movie-Dromes particular intervention into display and exhibition
techniques. Bayers 1930 Diagram of Field of Vision became a dominant convention
for the display of visual spectacles, clearly laying forth a set of techniques for the management of bodies and attention (figure 4.1).11 Bayers model is best exemplified by his
exhibition design for Road to Victory, a photographic survey of wartime photographs
collected by Edward Steichen and mounted by the Museum of Modern Art in New York
in 1942.
Bayers installation design innovations went against standard museum practice by
treating photographs not as revered individual works of fine art, but as malleable material to print, copy, serialize, and enlarge for dramatic effect. Working under Steichens
curatorial direction, Bayer cropped, edited, juxtaposed, and mounted the photographs
in a manner that would best support the overarching curatorial narrativein this case,
patriotic and nationalistic propaganda in support of the United States war efforts. The
overall effect was that of a three-dimensional illustrated magazine layouta space of
distraction that controlled attention to regulate the flow of information.

Figure 4.1
Herbert Bayers 1930 Diagram of Field of Vision. Herbert Bayer: 2014 Artists Rights Society
(ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn


Chapter 4

While Movie-Drome and Herbert Bayers conception of a new or extended vision

both focus on interpolating the viewing experience of the subject, Bayers model had
a pointedly didactic aim. In the essay Judgment Seat of Photography, Christopher
Phillips quotes Bayer as asserting that the modern exhibition should not retain its
distance from the spectator, it should be brought close to him, penetrate and leave an
impression on him, should explain and demonstrate, and even persuade and lead him
to a planned and direct reaction.12 VanDerBeek avoided such an overtly manipulative
approach to audience reception through the seamless spatial arrangement of MovieDromes interior in which all-encompassing screens and various projection techniques
immersed viewers without insisting on a programmatic reading of the work. While
VanDerBeek set out the formal criteria for the construction of the domethe scale,
size, location, and materialit was always his intention that the focus on selected
images and the duration would be left up to the viewer.
A Renunciation of Intention
By eschewing authorial intentionality, VanDerBeek shifted the emphasis of the MovieDrome away from the reading of each individual film as a fixed or self-contained object
toward the interplay between different films and slides.
In other words, within the variable space of Movie-Drome, a plurality of meaning
derived not from differing interpretations of a single filmic image, but rather in relation to a more complex active process akin to what Roland Barthes described in his
1971 pivotal essay, From Work to Text, as the stereographic plurality of signifiers.
Stereographic plurality does not refer to the co-existence of meanings, but rather a type
of dissemination. What [the reader] perceives is a multiple, irreducible, coming from a
disconnected, heterogeneous variety of substances and perspectives: lights, colors, vegetation, heat, air, slender explosions of noises, gestures, clothes of the inhabitants near
or far away, asserted Barthes who added that all of these incidents are half-identifiable:
they come from codes, which are known, but their combination is unique.13
Closer to VanDerBeeks own theoretical leaning was the writing of his teacher, Gate
Hill Co-op neighbor, collaborator and long-time interlocutor, John Cage, who explicated VanDerBeeks practice as a renunciation of intention.
Cage and VanDerBeek, along with Stan Brakhage and Jonas Mekas participated in a
series of public lectures and screenings of their films organized around Cages yearlong
residency at the University of Cincinnati in 1967. VanDerBeek was able to mount an
ambitious version of his Feedback moving image presentation using multiple screens
and working with modern dancers in a simulation of the types of programs he orchestrated in the Movie-Drome. Called Cinema Now, the series of symposia culminated
in the publication of the participants edited exchanges in a book a year later. Like the
symposium on Expanded Cinema from the 1966 New York Film Festival, the transcripts

Paradigms of Display


from Cinema Now demonstrate the organizers efforts to preserve the reflections
and predictions of these filmmakers, because too little has been doneunder the
false assumption that their film will remain as a permanent recordand what is permanent except remembered relationships?, as Michael Porte noted in the books preface outlining the exigency of the project.14 Cage highlighted the act of comparinga
tendency so common to visual and performing arts that it is usually not recognized
as a method or technique of analysisas he walked the audience through what he
called the nature of silence leading to a renunciation of intention. Cage put forth
three models: his own celebrated composition, 433, which has no sounds of [his]
own making in it; Rauschenbergs white paintings which have no images on them;
and Nam June Paiks Zen for Film, an hour long film which has no images on it.15
Cage detailed how the readings of all three works were subject to their environment:
The Rauschenberg paintings, in my opinion, as Ive expressed it, become airports for
particles of dust...433 becomes in performance the sounds of the environmentand
in the Paik filmwhat you see is the dust that has collected on the film.16 In his estimation, the nature of the environment remained in these works, making them less
free, which linked them to what he called the essential meaning of silence as the
giving up of intention. He pointed to what he identified as VanDerBeeks multiplication of images to clarify this point when he stated:
I think that the closest to the renunciation of intention would, in my experience, be through the
films of Stan VanDerBeek, a renunciation of intention, which is effected through the multiplication of images. In this multiplicity, intention becomes lost and becomes silent, as it were, in the
eyes of the observer. Since he could not be looking at all five or six images at once but only one
particular one, the observer would have a certain freedom.17

Advancing Cages observations, within the variable space of the Movie-Drome the
renunciation of intention is not derived from a sense of ambiguity or indeterminacy
of the image content (man-made or environmental). The focus is on relinquishing the
authorial impulse for the type of active viewership that McLuhan had also linked to
VanDerBeeks multiscreen works in his speech at Vision 65.
Expanded Cinemas Constituent Models
VanDerBeek repeatedly articulated his desire to construct a mode of communication
that could be used simultaneously by groups of people regardless of geographic locale.18
Basically, by insisting that art can function as an interface between and among live
audiences, Movie-Drome added another dimension to defining multimedia projects of
the same period. In emphasizing the communication structure in Expanded Cinema,
Movie-Drome was distinct from other more iconic examples of installations and events
that have come to define the practice in the postWorld War II period including the


Chapter 4

Eames multiscreen film Glimpses of the USA, the EAT Pavilion at Expo 70, and the live
performance events orchestrated by Andy Warhol and the Velvet Underground under
the name of Exploding Plastic Inevitable.
The Fuller-designed geodesic dome for the 1959 Worlds Fair in Moscow encased
seven thirty-two foot screens. Charles and Ray Eames film, Glimpses of the USA, which
was projected over the heads of the gathered crowds onto these elliptical-shaped floating screens, can be reexamined in terms of addressing a televisual audience. Commissioned to represent the United States contribution to the international event, Ray
and Charles Eames conceived and addressed two temporally distinct audiences: the
initial audience comprised of Muscovites who lined up to walk through Fullers iconic
dome structure, and a secondary audience, living back in the United States, expressly
addressed by the documentary photographs that circulated in American news magazines and the televised broadcast of the event. Intrinsic to its purpose, the Worlds Fair
exhibition was staged in an international context in front of a global audience. In this
respect, projects were subject to political and economic concerns of the sponsoring
governments and corporations that sought certain guaranteed returns. The underlying pressure to produce a celebratory image of the United States that would be played
directly in the faces of the USSR precluded the use of any unscripted elements. Rather
than reflecting a sense of spontaneity or chance encounters associated with multimedia in general, and VanDerBeeks notion of aesthetics of anticipation in particular,
every conceivable reaction to the film was premeditated.
Although the Eames formally captivating films are often referred to as experimental,
there were very few untested elements in these works and even less within the footage
of everyday American life that comprised Glimpses. Not only was each sequence of
this multiscreen film project finely tuned to optimize the formal qualities of each distinct image, the Eameses also worked to create a narrative account that would structure
an understanding of modern American life for a foreign audience. Albeit abstracted in
form, they condensed a dizzying array of details into a visual narrative with a clearly
denoted beginning, middle, and end. Each scene was constructed through specific editing techniques and sequencing employed by the two designers to produce the desired
emotional response from the audience at the right time.19
Like Bayers programmatic model of extended vision, the seven screens of Glimpses of
the USA become the control room as established by Beatriz Colominas analysis of how
the multiscreen installation addressed a passive audience with the Eameses triggering the
cues.20 The audience stood, gazing up at the multiple screens illuminated with abstracted
and highly edited images that reflected the bewildering affluence of the United States:
sprawling highway systems and overpasses, a plethora of newly constructed single family homes with two-car garages, and gleaming kitchens filled with shiny appliances.
While the overall affect was a spectacular display of fast-paced cuts sutured into
sequences of vibrant, glossy color, each film was contained within the set parameters of

Paradigms of Display


its designated screen. The projected stream of images did not blend or become distorted
by one another. Important to note is the accompanying soundtrack, a commissioned
musical score, which would have provided audio consistency to cohere the disparate
visual material into a unified piece.21 The result is an electronic version of Bayers exhibition design strategies for the Museum of Modern Art: a propaganda machine that
uses the juxtaposition of fragmentary and decontextualized images as a universal communication tool. The shift from Bayers three-dimensional exhibition design for promoting the United States military effort in World War II to the spectacular display of
postwar consumerism represented in Glimpses can be read, in what Guy Debord would
later term, as a shift from a concentrated to a diffuse spectacle.22 That is to say,
Glimpses points to the move from direct government propaganda to a more subconsciously received message promoting the abundance of commodities that flourishes
under American-style capitalism. In contrast to Glimpses, with its clearly delineated
expectations for the audiences response, Movie-Drome adopted a more ambiguous
stance reflecting Kieslers principals of tensionism. Rather than adhering to a rigid
grid of screens, which stabilized the images, the chaotic mix of images suspended in
open space in Movie-Drome conveys a sense of uncertainty.
The meager number of printed accounts and documentary images related to MovieDrome suggests that VanDerBeek did not necessarily conceive of the two temporally
distinct audiences that the Eameses addressed and chose not to record the live events.
The photographs do not stand in or represent these events as part of the work to a
secondary art audience outside those invited to come to Stony Point. The few available photographs are static shots taken by local reporters before or after, but not during events inside the Drome. This decision by VanDerBeek seems particularly at odds
with the overarching tendencies in the art of the period, which had a deep interest in
documentation. Eliciting a secondary audience through books, photographs and other
records became central to Happenings, Process Art, Land Art, and other contemporaneous conceptual practices that relied on photography and documentation to substantiate the works existence or to present the work to a museum or gallery audience after
the fact, or in the case of Gerry Schums Land Art TV, to broadcast it into the gallery.
The notion of a primary and secondary audience becomes less contingent on chronology with the advent of more mediated art practices that used remote access, such as
Rafael Lozano-Hemmers relational architecture works from the late 1990s.
Even among the few published descriptions of Movie-Drome, there is a surprising
lack of specificity regarding the formal parameters of the staging of the event. Aside
from the geographic location, there are very few references to duration, ideal audience
size, and program content, among other elements. The few published photographs did
not circulate as part of VanDerBeeks body of work and cannot function ex post facto to
help a secondary audience gain a sense of the experience since the photographs fail to
convey moving images and sound. They do not serve the same archival purpose for the


Chapter 4

events. On the contrary, imagining a future audience was a key component to the projects developed by the collaborative group EAT, who incorporated books and catalogues
as part of their practice.23
The EAT project Pavilion constructed in Osaka, Japan, as part of the 1970 Worlds
Fair EXPO 70, is illustrative of how Expanded Cinema projects become substantiated
by the wider reach of exhibition catalogues and related publishing formats. Pavilion
shared many affinities with the Movie-Drome including its conception as a multifunctional programmable space adaptable to its content, and its aim of creating an allencompassing, immersive experience for a mobilized audience of visitors. And like the
Movie-Drome, the EAT designed pavilion functioned as a live performance venue in
which a roster of events was programmed to take place during the course of the exposition. However, for all its dynamics, the Pavilion remained for the most part a sculptural
object, as the audience experienced Pavilion as sculpture: walking around and taking it
in from a distance.
In addition, EATs commercially distributed book, also entitled Pavilion, came to
stand in for the actual eventits dome structure as well as the individual artists projects performed and were enacted in it. In this regard, the book simultaneously documents and historicizes the project.24 The cover image, the iconic dome with its gleaming
white-paneled exterior and Fujiko Nakayas ethereal foggy mist rising off the surface,
ushered in the most pervasive symbol for Expanded Cinema production during the
late 1960s: the conjunction of high-art aesthetics with high-end technology. More specifically, the book Pavilion solidified the adoption of the research and development
model of art production for media art. However, even in comparison to Movie-Dromes
decidedly low-tech stance, I would argue that the EAT Pavilion, for all its sophisticated
sound and image projection achievement, becomes merely a visual representation of
technology rather than an operation of it. That is to say, the project gets reduced to its
extreme exterior: an iconic image. The dome becomes an emptied symbol representing
the promise of a technologically enhanced future, and allows EAT to claim authorship
of a previously anonymous form, which is the dome.
Another significant point of comparison within the field of Expanded Cinema is the
diverse array of psychedelic rock concerts that mixed large-scale projections with live
music performances to generate an immersive experience. Among the most notable
were the Los Angeles-based group Single Wing Turquoise Bird, which regularly performed at venues such as the Shrine Exposition Hall throughout 1967 and 1968.25
One of the most vivid descriptions of Single Wing Turquoise Bird was given by Gene
Youngblood who described their improvised light shows as a combination of Jackson
Pollock and 2001, of Hieronymus Bosch and Victor Vasarely, of Dal and Buckminster
Fuller.26 Single Wing Turquoise Birds particular style was marked by a deft handling
of multiple projection sources. Events often included the projection of abstract images
generated from paintings done by Sam Francis combined with liquids poured on the

Paradigms of Display


screens of overhead projectors while playing the loud rock music of bands such as the
Grateful Dead, Steve Miller Band, The Yardbirds, and other legendary rock acts. At their
core, these types of multimedia extravaganzas that mixed live music with light projections were probably based on the light shows orchestrated at San Franciscos Morrison
Planetarium located in Golden Gate Park between 1957 and 1960. Known as the Vortex
Concerts, this series of pioneering lights shows was orchestrated by composer Henry
Jacobs, who commissioned new electronic music scores from a range of musicians.
San Francisco-based experimental filmmaker Jordan Belson was also tapped to create
pulsating abstract films that were projected onto the planetariums domed interior. A
contemporary iteration of early twentieth-century visual music, the Vortex Concerts
also included film projections by other noted West Coast experimental filmmakers
including Hy Hirsch and James Whitney.27
As influential as these two West Coast phenomena were, it was Andy Warhols foray
into multimedia performance that became a national, if not international, phenomenon. Andy Warhols Exploding Plastic Inevitable was the name given to live music
concerts featuring the Lou Reed, Nico, and the rock group the Velvet Underground,
orchestrated by the artist throughout the 1960s. The EPI model for traveling multimedia
performances followed the self-generative star system of the commercial music industry: Warhol functioned as a quasi-producer, and his reputation as a filmmaker, artist,
and his particular brand of celebrity attracted the talent.28 The anonymous dancers and
singers he cast to be part of EPI were instantly transformed into proper names through
Warhols camera and the flashbulbs of the New York tabloid press. The mystique of
Warhols name helped EPI secure venues and guaranteed press coverage and crowds
at each announced performance in whatever city they appeared. The live events took
place in established nightclubs and included the projection of Warhols films, various
slides, and strobe effects, but more significantly relied on the spectacle generated by the
celebrities associated with the group.29 While the raucous performances often included
stage diving and projecting lights onto the audience, the division between the celebrity
personalities on stage and the anonymous pulsating crowd below was never blurred.30
From early twentieth-century avant-garde theater set design to experimental film
and music events, almost all forms of multimedia concern themselves with the division
between the spectator and performer. While the history of visual and performing arts
can be traced through the efforts to refine or decrease the distance between the two
spheres, this boundary is never completely eroded. Rather than adjusting formal or
spatial elements exclusively in an attempt to close the distance between the spectator
and the viewer, Movie-Drome decidedly changed the structure of viewing itself in order
to alter the conditions and habits of perception. Recognizing that Expanded Cinema
operated within a wider circuit of meaning production, Movie-Drome made the mechanisms that determine the limits of bodies, subjectivities, and discourse more visible.


Chapter 4

In the domed sphere of Movie-Drome, the arc of address was a complete 360-degree
circle. In erasing the directional and spatial boundaries of media by eschewing conventions of standard running times, set programs, and stage and audience, VanDerBeek
sought a mode of address in which light and sound could be absorbed based on the
audiences discretion. While the groups of people who gathered in the Movie-Drome
were subject to the habits of dispersion and collection that condition any social gathering, the project insisted on addressing a collective audience: an intimate group as well
as a body that shared similar political sentiments and recognized its own subjectivity.
The collective subject of Movie-Drome is unfixed and can be thought of in terms of Samuel Webers notion of the mass as movement, which is an alternative to the formed
mobilized masses of the political movements, or collectivist spectacles of the mobilized
mass of the military.31 More importantly, the networked audience model suggested by
the Movie-Drome pointed to the different types of networked masses to come.
What differentiates Movie-Drome from conventional definitions of 1960s Expanded
Cinema performance events is VanDerBeeks proposal to create a networked audience
experience. A networked project means participants are linked to one another not
only through a face-to-face experience but also through telecommunication technologyboth a social and a technological network. Ideally, within a network, it becomes
impossible to distinguish or isolate the conditions that determine individual subjectivity from that of the group experience. Rather than operating as a discrete entity in a
mode of meditation, the subject is seen as a node within an interactive social network
sustained by the technologies of both production and reception.
In particular, VanDerBeeks interest in framing the Movie-Drome as a functioning
research center with two-way communication capabilities is suggestive of the types
of artist-driven projects that emerged in the mid-1990s in which artists created social
spaces both on and offline by inviting people to gather, research, or form a critical mass
that registered both in a physical presence (media lounges or workshops) or online
through organized virtual sit-ins or polls. This type of hybrid listener/viewer/user is
addressed through more discursive art practices represented by the UK collective Mongrel, for example, as well as American artist Natalie Jeremijenko and the Bureau of
Inverse Technology (BIT).32 While both groups utilize different tactics, they rely on a
collaborative interface practice aimed at addressing systemic issues through a structure
of participation that uses a technical network to create a social one. Although the
Bureau and Mongrel differ in modes of address, they are grouped here because both
eschew the blunt transfer of the Aristotelian model of cause and effect into what so
often passes as interactivity. Instead, the Bureau and Mongrel present a counter model
by insisting on participation. That is to say, beyond the simple clicking and dragging of
images on a screen, the two artists collectives (even in BITs fictionalized voice) ask the
participants in their projects to consider the actual value of information. Artist groups
like BIT or Mongrel address the audience as co-conspirators and they experiment with

Paradigms of Display


an unknown net public by soliciting anonymous volunteers to enact collaborative

workshop or DIY-formatted projects in their own locales. The artist becomes the proxy
for the everyday person, and the audience is conceived as participatory, and addressed
as Agents and Mongrels. This is both a rhetorical strategy as well as an operational
one as the artists seek to maneuver around traditional conventions of exhibition by
complicating the reliance on single authorship and often opting for anonymity. Both
the BIT and Mongrel projects highlight the position of the artist as a source of knowledge among other roles that we imbue with unchecked authority, such as engineers,
scientists, experts, politicians, professionals, consultants, etc. Information and data
are regarded as a crucial part of culture and not distinct from it. BIT and Mongrels
practices are rooted in earlier historical models of collective action and institutional
critique, and demonstrate the shift from using the computer simply as a metaphor for
art toward using it as a tool for digital networks to actively engage with questions of
audience perception and strategies of participation.
In further experiments with combining image projection techniques, VanDerBeeks work prioritized audience participation even more as the subject of the work.
This becomes most evident in Cine Naps, a four-hour-long event staged first at the
Fels Planetarium in Philadelphia in 1971 and then again at the University of South
Floridas planetarium in 1973, which clearly take as their model the Vortex Concerts
orchestrated in San Francisco more than a decade earlier.33 VanDerBeek introduced the
concept of Cine Naps, a term he created (and copyrighted) to refer to his collective
experience experiments conducted in what he called a multimedia Dream Theater.34
In these Cine Nap events, the astronomical program normally projected in the planetarium was replaced by a multimedia selection of images and sounds that included
VanDerBeeks computer-generated films, animations, quadraphonic sound sequences,
and colored lights using the planetariums sophisticated projection system.35 From the
outset, the audience was encouraged to sleep during the event. Afterwards, audience
members received a handout with a local phone number as they exited the venue. They
were asked to call in over the next few days to recount their dreams using a special
telephone line set up by VanDerBeek that recorded their messages. VanDerBeeks stated
interest was to see if the multimedia experience had stimulated any common dream
content among the participants.36
Through Cine Naps VanDerBeek changed the paradigm of conventional multimedia
presentations. By creating a specific mode of audience feedback through an established
point of interaction and storage via a phone line and recording device, he transferred
the works emphasis from the artist-produced content (the projected images both created and found by VanDerBeek) to the response elicited in the audience. More significantly, he subverted the focus on a singular viewing subject by prioritizing the
collective response of the audience as a whole.37


Chapter 4

During the same two-year period during which VanDerBeek developed Cine Naps,
he was also expanding his computer-based work, which provided many of the graphic
images used in these events. In his words, he continu[ed] to explor[e] what possibilities could produce the most imaginative relationship between computer and artist, and
that could also result in artistic expression reaching masses of people.38 The result
is that VanDerBeeks theories of artistic practice become conflated with and begin to
mimic computer operations. And for VanDerBeek, the computer (both its hardware
and software) offered the possibility of limitless combinations of images fueling a preoccupation with developing a continuously changing flow of images, a visual velocity for the Movie-Drome.

5 Words within Words: The Poetics of Computer-Generated Film

Contrary to expectations, it is the prolonged sound of a forlorn cello rather than any
visual element that first registers at the start of VanDerBeeks 1966 computer-generated film Poemfield No. 2. As the cello continues to drone along on the films spare
soundtrack, the edges of the blackened screen soften with warm shades of pink and
purple. The screen abruptly transforms into a flashing warning sign delivering a visual
onslaught of alternating shots of highly saturated blue and red lights. Shortly thereafter, the single typed word LIFE hovers in the frame and just as quickly, the black typeface that gave shape to the word is subsumed by a dense mesh-like pattern that fills the
screen (figure 5.1). Spatial orientation is purposefully lacking, giving the viewer pause
as to where to direct focus. After a few uncomfortable seconds into the six-minute film,

Figure 5.1
Stan VanDerBeek, still from Poemfield No. 2 (1966), 6 min., 16 mm, color, sound.


Chapter 5

one adjusts to the staccato pacing of the text/image sequences such as when the word
LIFE is joined with LIKE to form LIFE LIKE (figure 5.2). The edges of the typeface
begin to blur as the two words compete with the surrounding geometric pattern to
establish a figureground relationship that never quite materializes or, at least never
becomes fully stabilized. The cellos pacing continues to crescendo with rapid deep
strokes across the strings, cueing the viewers expectations for the forthcoming quickcutting abstract visuals, which move in step with the stark musical score provided by
jazz percussionist and composer Paul Motian. Crashing cymbals accent intensifying
color sequences that deliver intense bolts of magenta and cyan. By layering tonal variations of the same shade, the alternating flashes of light read more as monochromatic
color field paintings, rather than displaying the uniformity of television or video color
bar test patterns. Suddenly, the film awkwardly announces itself as the words POEMFIELD No. 2 quiver and shift along the width of the screen (figure 5.3).
Activating a seemingly endless series of permutations, blocks of color pulsate in time
to illuminate VanDerBeeks poem:

While the medium of Poemfield No. 2 is 16 mm film, its operations are not bound
up with the self-reflexive machinations of the cinematic apparatus, neither in terms
of calling attention to the institution of cinema nor the psychological dynamics at
play within spectatorship. Poemfield No. 2s formal experiments with poetry and film

Words within Words

Figure 5.2
Stan VanDerBeek, still from Poemfield No. 2 (1966), 6 min., 16 mm, color, sound.

Figure 5.3
Stan VanDerBeek, still from Poemfield No. 2 (1966), 6 min., 16 mm, color, sound.



Chapter 5

are in dialogue with an altogether different and earlier set of concerns, what Gyrgy
Kepes famously described in 1944 as visual communication. In Kepess treatise, The
Vision of Language, the Hungarian-born designer outlined how visual communication
accommodated a constantly changing world precisely because dynamic interrelationships and interpenetration are intrinsic idioms of the contemporary vehicles of visual
communication: photography, motion pictures, and television.1 Accordingly, the
technological codes deployed by VanDerBeek in Poemfield No. 2 should not be read
as elaborations on the semiology of cinema, but are more attuned to the data organization process that Kepes described as the plastic experience that viewers undergo
when presented with a series of visual images. In Kepess estimation, independent
of what one sees, every experiencing of visual image is a forming; a dynamic process
of integration, a plastic experience.2 By melding the syntax of concrete poetry with
the programming mechanics of early computing, VanDerBeeks Poemfields conveyed
Kepess notion of image processing and in doing so, generated a new type of animated
film that presented poetry in the interstice between cinema and computing.
Loading an IBM 7094 with a set of subroutines on punch cards in early 1966, VanDerBeek began making a series of films called Poemfields using the BEFLIX moviemaking
system. An abbreviation for Bell Flicks, BEFLIX was the computer graphic programming language, or mosaic-picture system devised in 1964 by physicist Ken Knowlton
while working in the Computer Techniques Research Department of Bell Telephone
Laboratories in Murray Hill, New Jersey.3 VanDerBeek collaborated with Knowlton at
the Bell Labs facility in the spring of 1966 to produce these short, idiosyncratic 16
mm films (figure 5.4). This was shortly before another Bell Labs engineer, Billy Klver
ambitiously teamed up with Fred Waldhauer and artists Robert Whitman and Robert
Rauschenberg to form Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT), an artist-run organization that paired engineers with visual artists. In October 1966, EAT produced the
signal event 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering, which was cannily described by critic
Barbara Rose as a kind of trial run for future art-and-technology projects.4 It was not
until 1967, however, that EAT began to take shape as a more formalized working group
for artists engaged with producing works that relied on media and communications
technology. Subsequently, EAT organized lectures and demonstrations by a wide range
of artists, filmmakers, engineers, and musicians at the groups loft on 9 East Sixteenth
Street.5 While it was a mutual friend at Bell Labs, and not EAT who made the introduction, VanDerBeek and Knowltons artist-programmer collaboration was, in the words
of Knowlton, very much the kind of two-person association that EAT was intending
to create.6 Consequently, VanDerBeek and Knowlton were invited to present their
experiments using BEFLIX, including screening six of the Poemfields works at one of
EATs presentation evenings in March 1968.
During VanDerBeeks talk he described his introduction to graphic display systems
as stumbling onto the information that IBM had a thing called a light pen unit.7

Words within Words


Figure 5.4
Stan VanDerBeek and Ken Knowlton working on the Poemfield series at Bell Telephone Laboratories in Murray Hill, NJ, c. 1966.

VanDerBeek emphasized the fact that now the computer could effectively produce an
image which was what propelled his interest in graphic display systems, and led him
to Knowlton at Bell Labs.8 Rather than representing a radical departure from his pen
and ink works, VanDerBeeks computer animations stemmed from his drafting prowess. He stressed how drawing with an IBM light pen was innately similar to drawing
with a pen during his EAT presentation.
Using the IBM light pen one is literally drawing on the computer monitor, which produced quite
a good linear drawing style that has tremendous possibilities. With this light pen console you
hold what is in effect a ballpoint pen in your hand and as you press it against the glass establishing a light source and you can direct the light source anywhere you want leaving a line behind
as you trail it along. You can take the pen off anytime you like then you get this image. By preprogramming the device you can expand, shrink, or rotate in any east west north or south direction, and then a film can be made which can be stored and recalled rather quickly.9


Chapter 5

An image of VanDerBeek manipulating a stored image of a figure is seen in figure

5.5. And while the light pen allowed for a great degree of facility and the ability to
manipulate the scale and application of his line drawing, it was not the artists natural
choice for sketching ideas. Figure 5.6 shows VanDerBeek choosing to use traditional
pen and paper to sketch out a series of drawings before committing them into the computer with the light pen. One drawback was that the light pen did not accommodate
variation in the tonal qualities of the line. The gradations of intense color found in the
Poemfields reflect the particular tonal quality afforded by 16 mm film and the BEFLIX
system. As VanDerBeek described to the EAT audience, BEFLIX produces a tone quality which compared to other units around, is really more painterly in the tradition of
tone and clusters of light.10 VanDerBeeks treatment of both the figures and the texts
that appear in all of his animated films of this periodproduced by hand or using BEFLIXresults in the imagery often coming across as being in a state of flux. They read
as images set to motion, rather than as a seamless motion picture. VanDerBeeks films
have a particularly ungainly speed, an analog pacing that has very little to do with the
actual frames per second that run through the projector. Any sense of motion derives
from the fluid style of his drawing and collage techniques, which emphasizes the construction of an image from several disparate parts.

Figure 5.5
VanDerBeek using an IBM light pen to draw figures c. 1966.

Words within Words


Figure 5.6
VanDerBeek sketching using pen and paper in preparation for input with the IBM light pen.

Computer Programmings Fallacy of Efficiency

At the outset, using computers and programs seemed to offer the prospect of accelerating and even automating certain repetitive procedures, thereby greatly economizing the time and resources necessary to produce animated films. However, the sharp
learning curve and the clumsy process of using a newly developed program proved to
be large obstacles to overcome as evidenced by VanDerBeeks experience confronting
what he labeled the problems, complexities, and frustrations of computer language and
computer logic. To make computer films, VanDerBeek mused, is like learning how
to draw by pushing a pencil around with your nose.11 While complete programming
fluency eluded him, by 1969, VanDerBeek had become proficient enough in BEFLIX to
produce six Poemfields using the facilities at Bell Labs. The final two films in the series
were made the following year while he was one of the first artists-in-residence at MITs
Center for Advanced Visual Studies founded by Kepes in 1967.12
The Poemfields series may have been VanDerBeeks first foray into using computer
programming to create an animated film, but they relied on his experiments with
hand-drawn animation. He often spliced computer-generated images into his short


Chapter 5

films that also incorporated his stark line drawings, hand-collaged elements, and stopanimation sequences. Computer animation and hand-built collages that were then
filmed using stop motion techniques were both labor intensive processes that relied
on VanDerBeeks facility with editing images and crafting them within a single frame.
Take for example an early collaged work made in 1958 in which VanDerBeek manipulated found footage to generate a powerful statement both graphically and conceptually. Figure 5.7 from his film A La Mode (1959) shows a fashion model posing in such
a manner that her arms and neck are merely an armature to hold the pearl necklaces
on display. In a move suggestive of his interest in surrealist strategies, VanDerBeek collaged a photograph of an elegantly appointed living room to stand in for the womans
face signaling the metaphor of interior emptiness that he attempted to underscore in
his satirical send-up of the fashion and advertising industry that interchanges bodies
and objects. In collages that were later used to create the 1964 film Science Friction, he
combined several techniques to animate his social satire about the cultural and social
conditions of a nebulous Cold War, mining the ensuing themes of nuclear proliferation, the confluence of cultural and scientific power with military might, patriotisms
new alignment with consumer spending, and the mediation of culture through mass
media (figure 5.8).
Moreover, these early collage-based animated films such as A La Mode (1959, 16
mm, black-and-white, sound, 10 min), Breathdeath (1963), and See Saw Seams (1965)
not only helped garner his reputation as a key figure in the New American Cinema,
the sufficiently elastic term used to describe the diverse array of experimental art
films that emerged in New York during the late 1950s and early 1960s, but they also
informed the aesthetic of his computer animation efforts.13 Nevertheless, the Poemfields
are stylistically distinct from his other 16 mm films made during the same time period.
The quick pacing and electric coloration of Poemfield No. 2, for example, stands apart
from the slow transitions that occur in the somber and more muted film See Saw Seams,
produced when VanDerBeek started making the Poemfield series. In this nine-minute
film, VanDerBeek animated his spare line drawings so that the process of morphing
itself is foregrounded (figure 5.9). In one remarkable scene, the outline of a rolling landscape transforms into birds and fowl. In another part of the film, VanDerBeeks thinly
rendered figures slowly morph into bridges and other man-made structures as in one
sequence when the upper lid of an eye changes into the arch of a stone.
Animating Words into Images
As a whole the Poemfields were provisional in nature. Produced then modified, or
edited, at different dates, they appear as five-to-ten minute formal treatises on the
dynamics of words. Even though each Poemfield film was given a sequentially numbered title (they are all numbered 1 through 8), the films did not develop through a

Words within Words


Figure 5.7
VanDerBeek, collage created in 1957 and included in A La Mode, 1959, 6:18 min., black-and-white,

linear or even chronological progression.14 The Poemfields should be read as individual

threads of a broader project reflective of VanDerBeeks habit of laboring over several
films (up to six or seven) simultaneously. Loath to throw out any processed film, he
often spliced strips from one film into another and repeated sequences that he found
particularly compelling across films. This new found ability for an artist to easily repurpose lengths of film or rerun a particular sequence of animations was a key factor


Chapter 5

Figure 5.8
VanDerBeek, still from Science Friction,1959, 9:46 min., color, sound.

introduced to filmmaking by BEFLIX, and computer programming more generally. The

result was a reduction in the number of intermediaries between the artist and what
Knowlton aptly called the filmmaking mechanism. The speed, ease, and economy
of computer animation, suggested Knowlton, permits the movie-maker to take several tries at a sceneproducing a whole family of film clipsfrom which he chooses
the most appealing result, a luxury never before possible.15 Knowltons observations
are substantiated by the acquisition inspection report for some of VanDerBeeks films
that were donated to MoMAs Film Department.16 The lengthy reports confirm the
fact that there are several versions of each Poemfield and the canisters that contain the
films were often marked by VanDerBeek with qualifiers such as standby material,
short version, blue version, etc.17 Not only does this make it difficult to ascertain
a definitive print for each title, but VanDerBeeks working methods also purposefully
deemphasized the significance of a final version, opting instead to continually reuse
and appropriate his own material.

Words within Words


While the Poemfield series was conceived explicitly for display in the spherical space
of the Movie-Drome, the works also anchored a larger subset of film-based works that
VanDerBeek referred to as his Computer Animation Art Series, which included the
short 16 mm films Collidoscope (1966, 6 min., color, sound) and Man and His World
(1967, 1 min., color, sound) written in BEFLIX and produced explicitly for display
inside the Fuller-designed geodesic dome at Expo 67. The film Man and His World was
commissioned for the US Pavilion, which presented an array of films designed specifically for multiscreen projection. The short film made with Knowlton was a visual
play upon the theme of the 1967 Worlds Fair in Montreal. According to Knowlton,
Man and His World was presented in several languages by programming a special set
of macro-instructions, which in turn were written in terms of BEFLIX operations.18
While continuing his computer animation work through his residency at the Center for Advanced Visual Arts at MIT, VanDerBeek received a Rockefeller Experimental
Artist in Television grant which allowed him access to the film and editing facilities
at WGBH TV. There he completed the other films in the Computer Animation Series
including Ad Infinitum (ca. 1968, 10 min., color), described by VanDerBeek as a highway of electronic computer generated images created to be viewed on three screens


Figure 5.9
Stan VanDerBeek, still from See Saw Seams, 1965, 9:06 min., black-and-white, sound.

Chapter 5

Words within Words


as well as Symmetricks (1972, 6:12 min., black-and-white, sound), and Who Ho Rays,
(1966-1972, 8 min., color, sound). Further reflecting the diverse contexts in which his
animated films were simultaneously shown, his computer animated films were also
featured in the signal exhibition The Projected Image, at Bostons Institute of Contemporary Art in 1967 which was one of the earliest presentations of multi-screen film
projections as site-specific art installations.19
While they vary in tone and pattern, each Poemfield film was produced by programming an IBM 7094 to animate a sequence of graphic letters that formed the words of
VanDerBeeks poem. The BEFLIX program then caused the words to dissolve within
the surface texture of smaller letterforms as exemplified by the word LIFE being subsumed by the red geometric background pattern in Poemfield No. 2. The instructions
were next transferred to a Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder (a cathode tube
system similar to a television picture tube), which output the graphic images onto 35
mm film. The strips of celluloid were then manually spliced together and transferred
to 16 mm for projection. Filmmaking in these terms was a slow, labor-intensive process
that involved repeated attempts at getting the program to run correctly. Describing
the protracted procedure for Art in America readers in 1970, VanDerBeek bluntly summarized, After much trial and errorduring which time the computer often informs
you that you have not written your instructions properlyyou have a black-and-white
movie.20 Outlining the entire method in laymans terms, VanDerBeek distilled the
complex process into a series of basic actions:
The microfilm recorder consists essentially of a display tube and a camera. It understands only
simple instructions such as those for advancing the film, displaying a spot or alphabetic character
at specified coordinates or drawing a straight line from one point to another.21 Though this
repertoire is simple, the machine can compose complicated picturesor series of picturesfrom a
large number of basic elements: it can draw ten thousand to one hundred thousand points, lines,
or characters per second.

While the resulting images were always output in black-and-white, strips of film were
then subject to further editing, sequencing, or colorization as typical for any other
film stock.23 According to Knowltons account of the process, Stan took it from
there, editing, getting stuff colorized and adding sound, sometimes inter-splicing or
The techniques used to achieve the vibrant coloration found in the Poemfields was
of keen interest to the members of the EAT audience who posed several questions on
the topic during the Q & A portion of VanDerBeeks presentation. The Stromberg-Carlson 4020, VanDerBeek explained, had the nature of a photographic enlarger in a dark
room: Its a camera that can re-photograph a motion picture, a device offering a way
to re-manipulate your images.25 He explained, Starting with black-and-white film on
one end of an optical printer and projecting it on color based film and sticking color


Chapter 5

filters in the way, you superimpose a color layer over your black-and-white material.
VanDerBeek stressed the potential for this coloration process when he emphasized
that you can also get very subtle and add two or three colors simultaneously by the
amount of preparation you want to get into. The amount of color you can add or subtract is literally unlimited.26 In addition to using this optical printing method for the
Poemfields, VanDerBeek also experimented with adding color electronically while the
films were broadcast on television.27
Abstract Notation System
While the array and tonal quality of color presented in Poemfields is still dazzling to
contemporary audiences, the ragged bitmap forms that comprise the poems words
not only appear technically archaic, but also seem formally primitive when compared
with the seamlessness of todays high-resolution digital standards.28 Despite VanDerBeeks reputation as a technically inventive filmmaker, the radicalism of Poemfields No.
2 derived not from its pioneering use of computer programming in visual art, of which
it clearly was a key example, but from its reconsideration of the model of production for experimental film. Instead of capturing images using a camera, the computer
became, in VanDerBeeks terms, an abstract notation system for making movies and
conceived film not as a singular work of art, but as raw data for image storage and
retrieval systems.29 This reconsideration of the medium of film opens a door for a
kind of mental attitude of movie-making, opined VanDerBeek. The artist is no longer
restricted to the exact execution of the form, so long as he is clear in his mind as to
what he wants, eventually he can realize his movie or work on some computer, somewhere.30 The graphical text-based images generated by subroutines and punch cards
in VanDerBeeks Poemfields introduced a variable notation system for making films that
employed powerful paradigms intrinsic to media art such as seriality and modularity, and offer a means of examining how artists negotiated the discrepancies between
the field of visual art and the wider discourse on media and technology of the period.
Unlike many of his contemporaries such as filmmakers Jordan Belson, John and
James Whitney, and Stan Brakhage, VanDerBeek was not a film purist. In VanDerBeeks
taxonomy, film represented a means of encompassing and incorporating multiple
media sources.31 More importantly, because of the malleability inherent in producing
films through computer programming, computer-generated films like Poemfields challenged the mimetic function intrinsic to film. In a 1967 interview with Willard Van
Dyke (then the Director of MoMAs Department of Film), VanDerBeek rationalized the
extension of his practice to include computer programming as a means of contending
with what he regarded as the new sense of dynamics of art: motion and space.32
VanDerBeek envisioned a time when moving beyond optical representation would
mean shifting away from celluloid completely toward computer programming, a move

Words within Words


that the Poemfields foreshadowed. After screening Poemfield No. 2 for the EAT group,
VanDerBeek remarked, The computer beautifully produces the material I am showing
you tonight and these films are perfectly suited to take the next step which would be
to combine the computer with a video tape recording device and ignore the present in
between stage of putting it on film. VanDerBeek followed this with a proclamation:
Film is really a relatively absurd process as things stand. It was an idea quite appropriate for the 1900s but its not really appropriate now.33
Words within Words
Though the introduction of new graphic display systems and computer programming
offered a seemingly infinite number of options, it was paradoxically through the formal
limitations inherent in creating visuals from written instructions that led VanDerBeek
to begin the Poemfield series in the first place. The 252 184 point grid of the graphic
display system determined the texture and pattern used in the films and its innate ability to generate words within words inspired the Poemfield series itself.34
While the manipulation of the characters on a standard alphanumeric keyboard
became a starting point for the films, the action of typing out sets of instructions to run
the program was also significant. In most of the Poemfields the forms of the words were
composed of a subset of letters printed at different intensities so that geometric patterns form in the background. For example, in Poemfield No. 1, the word MEANING
seemingly hovers within a screen of vertical lines formed by the letters B and W
along with the symbol + that join to convey the term black and white (see figure
5.10). While VanDerBeek experimented with using the limitations set by the alphanumeric keyboard combined with the act of programming a set of instructions into
the IBM 7094 to set the formal conditions of the films, he was not invested in using a
program like FORTRAN to actually generate the content of the poems.35 This is a key
point of distinction between Poemfields, which were more in dialogue with the notion
of dynamic imagery articulated by Kepess visual communication, rather than with
any type of linguistic or authorial intervention.
Instead, VanDerBeek chose to program the blocks of letters that comprised the text,
which he wrote in a traditional manner, and then input into BEFLIX. The poems were
then set to motion as a 16 mm film run through a projector. The retention of 16 mm
film as the final medium for Poemfields adds another valence to VanDerBeeks interest
in alphanumeric form. In an unpublished 1966 interview with art critic Richard Kostelanetz, VanDerBeek noted that a key aspect of working in film was that the medium
remained an alphabet for all other media.36 Within the Poemfields series the limited
formal trope of the alphanumeric functioned as literal building blocks to create not
only text and image, but also more importantly, text as image.


Figure 5.10
Stan VanDerBeek, still and detail from Poemfield No. 1.

Chapter 5

Words within Words


VanDerBeek treated the words as stark geometric forms subjecting them to an

extreme economy of representation. The shape of the typeface used in Poemfield No. 2,
for example, was not determined by a font or default style inherent to BEFLIX. Each
letter was built up from aligning smaller geometric units in a contiguous formation,
resulting in an image that conveyed the outline of a solid form, but actually comprised
individual fragments. Emphasis was placed on the formal process of word as image
formation rather than any linguistic application. This overall concern with process was
integral to each stage of the project as each Poemfield moved from punch card to film
form. Capturing text on film was not merely a question of resolution enhancement
or image refinement. The black-and-white text output by the Stromberg-Carlson 4020
microfilm recorder was augmented with a vibrant palette of red, green, and blue light
specific to the individual layers of emulsion essential to color-negative 16 mm film.
Through color and structure each frame in Poemfield No. 2 became a pictorial entity
distinct from the poems allegorical function.
The formal limitations set by the alphanumeric keyboard were also productive in
generating the geometric grid patterns that give the Poemfields their distinct look. Key
to the visual flow of all the films is how the geometric patterns competed with the text
of the poem to establish a figure-ground relationship. In Poemfield No. 2 for example,
the tension between figure and ground erupts into spasmodic assaults first on the eye,
then on the minds ability to corral or contain the visual aftereffects of the mesh-patterned background against which the text figures. The result is a visual shaking or stuttering effect in which the uniform lines seem to pulsate. This vibration is not caused
by anything physical or material, but is the byproduct of a perceptual phenomenon
similar to Joseph Alberss Graphic Tectonics, a series of eight lithographs of geometric
compositions made between 1940 and 1941 and printed in 1942.37 Albers had produced the lithographs at Black Mountain College, which recruited him as a founding
faculty member after the National Socialist Party forced the closing of the Bauhaus
and its faculty in Dessau, then in Berlin in 1933.38 The stark geometric patterns that
emerged in the Graphic Tectonic compositions exemplify Alberss extreme reduction
of form through the use of a single element: the line. Take for example, the sequence
of concentric rectangles that form Prefatio or the horizontally oriented stacked grid in
Interim and they both manage to convey complex structures out of a single continuous
black line. Describing the process of drawing the Graphic Tectonics, Albers highlighted
the surprising fact that these constructions have no modulations (gradual increase
and decrease of plastic activity) within the individual lines.39 In 1961, Franois Bucher
described the result of not only such a limited form, but the unrelenting uniformity of
the line, which became paramount in the series:
Through this extreme and conscious limitation which initially seems to evoke the obvious, or the
decorative. Albers plunges us into the shocking recognition that the combination of the simplest,


Chapter 5

most basic tool of visual formulationthe straight linecontains the most illogical possibilities
and is infinitely rich in visual performance.40

The visual performance Bucher refers to can be located in the perceptual effects
that occur in the ostensibly shifting volume and space of the lines themselves. However, modulation in Graphic Tectonics is only illusory produced by the proximity of
equally thick lines. This effect, according to Albers, is achieved through their lightdark relationships.41
VanDerBeek undoubtedly would have been familiar with Alberss particular means
of using a limited structure and singular form to generate perceptual visual performances from his studies at Black Mountain College. And while he claimed that he
was not touched by Albers and often used the term Bauhaus baloney, in an effort
to distinguish his practice from what he considered the more passive concerns of
nineteenth century European modernism, the reliance on a continuous line and the
focus on color as a means of creating perceptual tension in the Poemfield series made
VanDerBeek formally indebted to Albers, intentionally or not.42 In addition, the subjects of many of VanDerBeeks poems in the Poemfields series share Alberss preoccupation with meaning and sensory experience as evidenced by comparing the text from
Poemfield No. 1:
Do not
Finger pointing
Takes a word to complete
Some how
Fill the space between
That silence

with an undated Albers poem published in 1961:

Words within Words


There is no world
Without a stage
And no one lives
For not appearing
Seeing of ears
Invites to speak
Knowing of eyes
Invites to show
Notice also
Silence sounds
Listen to
The voice of color
Semblance proves
It can be truth
As every form
Has sense and meaning43

VanDerBeeks interest in textual patterning and animated word play can be connected
to the broader circulation of differing types of concrete poetry in the early 1960s.44 He
used animated patterned poetry throughout the Poemfield series as a critical means to
contend with contemporary cultural and social issues, a notion advanced by both Dick
Higgins in the United States and Bolivian-born Eugen Gomringer in Europe. Gomringers construal of the term play as not merely being playful, or simply empty entertainment for typographers can be seen in the balance between tone and content that
VanDerBeek sought in the Poemfields. Concrete Poetry has nothing to do with comic
strips, maintained Gomringer, who championed the notion that concrete poetry was
capable of making as a momentous statement about human existence in our times
and about our mental attitudes, as other forms of poetry did in previous periods.45
All three contextual references for the Poemfield series: the founding philosophy of
melding art and life integral to Black Mountain College; the rising awareness of concrete poetry as a critical tool; and the formal austerity demonstrated by Alberss Graphic
Tectonics, were juxtaposed in the fourth issue of the eclectic and fairly obscure UK art
journal Form published in April 1967, which VanDerBeek kept in his studio amid his
notes for Poemfields.46 The juxtaposition of Albers Graphic Tectonics and these ideas
on the cover of Form no. 4 gives an indication of how the topics were formally and
conceptually intertwined in the pages of the issue (figure 5.11).
Collage Experience: Take and Reshape
More importantly, VanDerBeeks proclivity for concrete poetry subtended his entire
practice as a visual artist.47 The Poemfield series afforded him an opportunity to experiment with both film and poetry as serial forms while also directly drawing on the


Chapter 5

Figure 5.11
Cover of Form, April 1967, featuring Josef Alberss Graphic Tectonic lithograph entitled Sanctuary (1942). Courtesy of Philip Steadman, Emeritus Professor of Urban and Built Form Studies and
Research Fellow at University College London, and publisher of Form.

literary expertise of two of his lifelong intellectual interlocutors: M. C. Richards and

John Cage. Both poets taught at Black Mountain College in western North Carolina
while VanDerBeek was a student and frequented his studio after moving to Manhattan
in the mid-1950s. Around 1960 their shared interests took a more formalized relationship. VanDerBeek, Richards, and Cage, along with composer and musician David Tudor

Words within Words


and their respective families, left the rising cost of Manhattan for the rural setting of
Rockland County and joined an artists cooperative called Gate Hill Co-op established
in 1954 by Black Mountain alumni and former students.48
Both Cage and Richardss distinct and divergent writing inspired VanDerBeeks
own forays into poetry and more specifically his interest in developing an imagebased poetry language as evidenced by the Poemfields series. Describing his time at
Black Mountain as a super dominant experience, VanDerBeek singled out the colleges renowned event Theater Piece # 1.49 Orchestrated in the summer of 1952, Theater
Piece # 1 involved Cage, Richards, and Charles Olson all reading their poems from
atop ladders while Rauschenberg shuffled some of his abstract paintings (his White
Paintings were hung from the ceiling) and played scratched records on a gramophone.
Composer David Tudor added a piano composition and Merce Cunningham danced
in what would become his signature antiballet gesture, movements that conveyed the
spare and determined manner of human form. Though there is little in the way of
a confirmed account, the work is often cited as the first happening by historians.
The effects of seeing Theater Piece #1 sparked more personal associations for VanDerBeek and reinforced his commitment to collage as an active metaphor for subjectivity.
Recalling the event during his 1973 taped interview with Emshwiller at Anthology Film
Archives, VanDerBeek remarked how Theater Piece #1 very concretely directed him to
think about the possibilities of collage and simultaneity: The fact that everything sort
of happened at once was very inspirational. It triggered off a lot of ideas about how you
can made things grow and collage together. It was like a collage experience where you
stick the glue and take and reshape.50
His expressive description of collage as a continuously evolving process alluded to
more than just formal technique. Evocative of the philosophical writings of M.C. Richards, collage in these terms could be read as a metaphor for a type of subject formation.
Combined with his relatively early encounter with mortality, Richardss writings ushered in what he would describe as an awakening which could have also been a direct
reference to a poem Richards penned in the late 1950s for VanDerBeek titled upon
Glory remembered
trails dawn down canyons.
Man suitably nude
wears glorys gown.
Give him speech and illusion
of a kind
and hands for work
and the circlings done.51


Chapter 5

Moreover, Richardss role as a teacher and translator for this group of men welded
tremendous influence.52 In fact, it was primarily because of Richards herself, fluent in
French and deeply attuned to the writings of Antonin Artaud, Erik Satie, and Jean Cocteau, which she translated into English for the Black Mountain community, that the
aesthetic strategies associated with absurdist theater began to permeate the practices of
this group of artists. A case in point was her translation of Saties Ruse of Medusa, which
was famously performed at the College in 1948 with Buckminster Fuller and Elaine de
Kooning playing the lead roles while Cunningham danced wearing a monkey costume
and Cage played the piano. Again, the notion of translation within this context must
be thought of as more than simply converting French into English, but included the
subtler task of explicating the ideas and transposing them to the context of the Black
Mountain community.
While the creative manifestation of VanDerBeeks exchanges with M. C. Richards
remained confined to his twenty-plus year correspondence with her, he collaborated
with Cage on several public multimedia projects. These included Variations V (1965)
staged at Lincoln Center as well as in a Hamburg television studio for broadcast on
German television (1966) as detailed in chapter 3. A lesser known experimental poetry
event organized by the Poetry Center of the 92nd Street Y, a year later on February 25,
1967, at 8:30 in the evening was also a key collaboration. Participants (including Cage,
Merce Cunningham, Robert Creeley, Billy Klver, filmmaker Len Lye, painter Jack
Tworkov, theater director David Vaughn, and VanDerBeek) all dressed in formal attire
and sat around a finely appointed banquet table reading their poems and engaging in
an unscripted conversation in a type of multimedia performance that mimicked a salon
gathering. The dinnerware and utensils were outfitted with contact microphones (like
Klver used to spectacular effect in Nine Evenings) to pick up ambient noise while actually being used by the artists to eat the meal served to them on stage in front of an audience. VanDerBeeks abstract drawings and figurative sketches done with black paint on
acetate were cast out onto the artists and spilled out over the stage from an overhead
projector operated by his wife, the artist, Johanna Bourne VanDerBeek, who was stationed in the orchestra pit below and did not partake in the luxurious five course meal
that was served by waiters to the group of men on stage. They continued to eat and
converse about the state of their respective fields as the microphones cut in and out of
operation confusing and at times infuriating the audience.53 Entitled Contemporary
voices in the Arts, the one-day event was billed as an illustrated discussion. In its
idealized state, the intermingling of dinner conversation, an electrified soundscape,
poetry reading, and moving images at the 92nd Street Y highlighted VanDerBeeks
interest in real-time collaborationa process that reflected his intuitive understanding of the relationship between word and image, or in this case, spoken word and
projected image. In particular, the events arrangement and setting, not to mention
the involvement of VanDerBeek, Cage, and Cunningham, all allude to the particular

Words within Words


manner in which theater was presented at Black Mountain College. While rehearsed,
performances occurred only once, for the entire school in the modest dining hall at
8:30 pm right after dinner.54 Besides reflecting the presentation habits established at
Black Mountain College, the illustrated discussion in many ways also mirrored the
experimental living environment that the three men had lived in since VanDerBeek
and his family moved to Gate Hill Co-op. Established and financed by Black Mountain
College alumni Paul and Vera Williams in 1954, Gate Hill Co-op (called The Land by
its members) was also home to Black Mountain associates, M.C. Richards, David Tudor,
Cage, Cunningham, and Karen Karnes and David Weinrib, who were both potters. The
Land became the postBlack Mountain staging ground for this group of experimental
artists who continued to work in an interdisciplinary manner and drew equally from
the forms and processes of fine art as well as the field of craft. Still in existence, The
Land was a vital outpost for VanDerBeek and provided the ideal context to build the
prototype for the Movie-Drome.
Bit by Bit, Frame by Frame
VanDerBeek enlisted Cages participation on Poemfield No. 7 and the two artists collaborated on writing the poem that would be programmed in BEFLIX and put out as a
16 mm film. In contrast to the six earlier Poemfields that made allusions to sensory perception and invoked formal word play or visual patterning, Poemfield No. 7 conveyed
VanDerBeeks reaction against the alienating impulse of computer and telecommunications technology within the complex milieu of the Vietnam War. Rather than adopting
a position of indeterminacy, Cage and VanDerBeek plaintively stated their response
through Poemfields No. 7, which succinctly reads as follows:
Way to
The Way
No More


Figure 5.12
Stan VanDerBeek, print, c. 1966.

Chapter 5

Words within Words


Beyond the futile utterance of saying No More War in 1967, Poemfield No. 7 registered
a particular attempt to consider film, and computer animated film more specifically,
as a means of contending with not only the formal relationship between text and
image, but also with the concomitant cultural conditions of working with computer
The notion of finding a way to peace was not rhetorical, but rather, an exhortation for a type of empathy that is at the root of communication: Animation (the act
of single frames of information put into some continuity) is an archetype reference for
images and a communication method for the ordering of form.55 Writing about the
Poemfields in Film Comment, VanDerBeek opined, Information as it is stored bit by bit
in the computer, frame by frame in film, neuron by neuron in the brain is an exquisite
model for the integration of visual systems into everyones life. In broader terms, in
Poemfield No. 7, computer programming was not just a tool for sequencing or animating conventional lines of poetry, but suggested that film could be a mode of image
transmission or a means of direct communication with an audience.
The Poemfields were made specifically for the multiple projection environment of the
Movie-Drome. The two projects were conceptually linked in a color print in which
VanDerBeek intermixed segments of text and stills from the Poemfields with black-andwhite photos of the Movie-Drome. The entire 11 14 print is composed of a series of
various-sized grids (figure 5.12). Mosaic-like forms from the Poemfields are visible in
the strips of 16 mm reproduced along the posters edges and the strips sprocket holes
create another subset of black grids. The central image is devoted to a 4 4 row of stills
from Poemfield No. 2 and the posters grayscale printing accentuates the bitmap forms
that make of up the poems text. Two of the corners are anchored with images of the
Movie-Drome while the other two show VanDerBeeks face refracted as if photographed
through a prism. Like the Movie Drome, the print has no prescribed viewing position.
The viewer picks a starting point and then turns the paper around to read blocks of text
(the mind is a computer, not railroad tracks) that link human vision with graphic
display systems.
Also like the Movie-Drome, the Poemfield films themselves were a consummate workin-progress and VanDerBeek experimented with a variety of screening possibilities.
Responding to a request to exhibit Poemfields, VanDerBeek explained how he purposely
left many of the works unfinished, choosing instead to play tapes with them, slides
and other animated computer films in progress.56 While the Poemfields were initially
shown in the Movie-Drome, they were selected to anchor the Cross Talk Intermedia festival held in Tokyo in February 1969. The invitation pushed VanDerBeek to adapt his
presentation to a much larger international venue.


Chapter 5

Cross Talk Intermedia

Organized by Tokyo-based composer and critic Kuniharu Akiyama with composers Joji
Yuasa and Roger Reynolds, Cross Talk emphasized international collaboration between
Japanese and American artists in an event designed to present experimental film and
computer-generated music. In addition Cross Talk offered a chance to premiere Poemfields as a live, multiscreen performance event outside of the Movie-Drome as the program notes for the February 7 events of Cross Talk indicate. Cross Talk also featured
new multimedia works by American composers Gordon Mumma and Robert Ashley
(who belonged to the Sonic Arts Union along with Alvin Lucier and David Behrman)
including Mummas Beam (1969), which incorporated violin, viola, bow-arm coordinate-sleeves, a cybersonic control system, and 4 channel display.57 The festivals
social aims were echoed in John Cages essay published in the program. Entitled Art
and Technology, Cage made the analogy that computers are bringing about a situation that is like the invention of harmony, putting into words the collaborative process inherent in computer-generated music.
Subroutines are like chords. No one would think of keeping a chord to himself. Youd give it to
anyone who wanted it. Youd welcome alterations of it. Subroutines are altered by a single punch.
Were getting music made by man himself: not just one man.58

A year before the better-known multimedia displays orchestrated inside the EATdesigned Pavilion for Expo 70 in Osaka, Cross Talk was intended, in the words of festival organizer Roger Reynolds, to spread information. Most of all, Reynolds declared,
Cross Talk hoped to stimulate direct confrontation and exchange between Japanese
and American innovators and between the avant-garde and the public. Therefore he
surmised, Those who came expecting the usual predigested fare must have been disappointed. The listener-viewer had to exert himself to a degree not required at traditional concerts where all the materialsthe rules of the gameare taken for granted.59
Drawing over ten thousand visitors through the course of three days of free programming sponsored by the American cultural center and corporations like Pepsi, Sony,
and TEAC, Cross Talk was designed to inspire further art and technology experiments
between the two countries, a reason why the Rockefeller Foundation underwrote the
travel costs for the American artists.60
In the curved dome of the Yoyogi National stadium, VanDerBeek projected eight
of his Poemfield films against portable screens. While some were set up around the
perimeter for the stadium floor, some smaller screens were also held up and awkwardly
shuffled around the gymnasium by assistants (figure 5.13). Volunteers wielding projectors on rolling carts attempted to follow the screens around the gym. The roving beams
of light further abstracted the films visuals. Designed by Kenzo Tange for the 1964
Olympics, the floor of the gymnasiumalmost two hundred feet in diameterwas

Words within Words


Figure 5.13
Poemfields at Cross Talk Intermedia Festival in Tokyo, Japan, 1969.

covered in plywood allowing the film equipment to be freely rolled around. According to VanDerBeeks follow-up report to Rockefeller foundation, the formal strategies
employed in Tokyo for simultaneously projecting multiple Poemfield films on moving
screens derived from his earlier experiments in multiscreen projection inside the MovieDrome. In addition to challenging standards for film programming with moving slides
and multiple film projectors, the Cross Talk iteration of Poemfields relied on the type
of open seating that the stadium provided for the audience to move around and allow
for spontaneous reactions to the action. According to Yuasas account, What we saw
here was not just a transformation in art, but also a transformation of the spectator.61
Yuasa clarified by adding, What I mean is that a new type of spectator is coming into
beingdistinct from music appreciators and art world insiders. A new generation of
people raised in the age of mass communication who now want a direct connection
with art.62
Exemplifying Poemfields centrality to Cross Talk, the cover of the March 1969 issue
of the Japanese journal Graphic Design reproduced a selection of stills and included


Chapter 5

a feature written by Tono Yoshiaki in which the critic parsed the difference between
projecting Poemfields in the Movie-Drome and at Cross Talk. Yoshiaki surmised that
probably because of technical limitations, eight flat panels were used instead of replicating the dome-screen and the panels were moved around by porters.63 He also
made the observation that as the screens moved around it was humorous to watch
what appeared to be a race between the images and the porters carrying the screens.64
In addition to what must have been a chaotic scene, coverage of Cross Talk alluded to
many technical difficulties and equipment failures. It is not clear how the festivals corporate and government sponsors reacted to the awkward moments inherent in staging
these types of unscripted events; not to mention the underlying pressure to show off
the technical capabilities of the equipment or produce celebratory images of US and
Japanese relations.
With its direct ties to corporate interests, including its function as a testing opportunity for Bell Labs BEFLIX and for subtler political overtures, VanDerBeeks Poemfields
helped give shape to the complex nature of media artworks that pivoted between the
categories typically demarcated as commercial and fine arts. The habitual positing
of an absolute opposition between artistic production and the culture industry, for
example, underpins much of the art historical scholarship on the American neo-avantgarde in which the only alternative to subversion is selling out.65 Likewise, this either/
or absolutism underlies the habit of casting artists films in opposition to mainstream
narrative cinema.66 However deeply entrenched VanDerBeek was in the experimental
film underground or embedded within the New York neo-avant-garde in Stony Point,
Poemfields occupied an intermediary position between the spheres fine art and commercial media technology. With its reliance on accessing large-scale IBM computers
and proprietary software programs from Bell Labs, VanDerBeek was hardly lacking
institutional support for the production of Poemfields; nor did his experimental display
modes in the Movie-Drome or at the Cross Talk Intermedia Festival completely subvert
the intended commercial application of such technologies.
In an unpublished essay entitled 5 Difficulties: A Dialogue about Computer Art
based on his experiences working on the Poemfields, VanDerBeek identified the complexities of constantly navigating the divide between art and technology in the late
1960s, which presaged many of todays conditions for contemporary media art production. He gave voice to issues such as the difficulty of accessing expensive proprietary
software and equipment; the challenge of learning computer programming skills; the
frustrations that accompany the lengthy waiting time for rendering image files; and
the built-in obsolescence of computer programs which made it necessary to constantly
migrate Poemfields onto newer formats. In addition to the these concerns, VanDerBeek
raised what he labeled the conceptual difficulty of working with computers by asking
two fundamental questions that I believe continue to resonate loudly within the current moment: What is the computer supposed to do that cannot be done in some

Words within Words


other way (painting, traditional animation, etc.,) and can we consider the graphic display unit a media?67 More introspectively, VanDerBeek posited, If the role of the artist
is to give thought form, is he also helping to identify the changing surface of reality? Is
this a self-conscious act or an unconscious response to the conditions of computing?68
Rather than taking up an either/or position, the aesthetic and technical issues raised
by VanDerBeeks Poemfields generated a critical interstice between art and technology
seemingly to continue asking, as VanDerBeek did in this essay, Is it art and technology,
art by technology, or art for technology?

Diagrams to Networks: Expanded Cinema and Contemporary Art

Every interesting aesthetic tendency now is a species of radicalism. This doesnt mean all contemporary artists believe that art progresses. A radical position isnt necessarily a forward looking
Susan Sontag, Styles of Radical Will (1966)1

This book concludes by looping back to the site of the event that launched the MovieDrome into popular and critical circulation. In addition to ushering in the scholarly
and public debate on Expanded Cinema and unveiling VanDerBeeks structure in Stony
Point, the 1966 Fourth New York Film Festival conference was also the very same event
where Annette Michelson first delivered her pivotal essay Film and the Radical Aspiration.2 In what would be taken up as a key text for the burgeoning field of film studies,
she parsed the state of American film and its narrow prospect for remaining an independent or avant-garde art form worthy of its connection to early twentieth-century
modernisms revolutionary aims. However, re-examined against the background of
Expanded Cinemas critical reception at the festival, Michelsons dismal prognosis in
fact offers several lessons for the introduction of mixed and multiple media in the
1960s within the context of contemporary art history. In particular, it gives us a view
onto how Expanded Cinemas own imbrication with the culture industry and technology may in fact offer a more complex level of critique beyond the reductive binary of
subversion versus selling out.
In characteristically precise terms, Michelson outlined the ethical implications tied
to the formal transformation of film within the United States in her talk. It may be
that American film is unique in its access to a multiplicity of vital efforts unprecedented since the immediately-post-revolutionary situation in Russia. One thinks of its
already established, though still embryonic, contacts with a new music, dance, theater,
painting and sculpture. And all these are in turn, of course, heightened, and perhaps
somewhat endangered, by a forced confrontation with technology in its most paroxysmic [sic] and pervasive form.3 Michelson put forth the point that the questioning
of the values of formal autonomy has led to an attempted dissolution of distinctions


or barriers between media.4 She wryly surmised that this was because the social and
economic hierarchies were impervious to the radical aspiration of filmmakers and artists.5 Although the backdrop to Michelsons talk was the United States engagement
in a war in Southeast Asia, her sharp analysis is striking within the current moment; a
period also marked by US government actions of invasion and conflict overseas: In a
country whose power and affluence are maintained by the dialectic of a war economy,
in a country whose dream of revolution has been sublimated in reformism and frustrated by an equivocal prosperity, cinematic radicalism is condemned to a politics and
strategy of social and aesthetic subversion.6 The problem Michelson noted was that
the idea of subversion, a type of art that interrogates or questions capitalisms imperatives, falls into a pattern of identifying and then displacing normative conventions of
advanced art practice. This cycle of cooption or frustration that the Paris-based critic
outlined as being symptomatic of art production in the United States during the mid1960s was of course rendered as a disappointment in comparison to the demands for
democratic access to education and cultural institutions demanded by filmmakers and
artists across Western Europe.
Singling out Expanded Cinemas validation at the 1966 New York Film Festival as
being constituent of a syndrome of that radicalisms crisis, both formal and social,
Michelsons analysis remains one of the most pointed attempts to link the waning of
films formal autonomy with advanced arts diminishing criticality. She pinned this
level of decline to the rise of American Expanded Cinema practices, which veered too
closely to the spectacle culture that was the trade of the commercial film industry. The
full Marxist examination of a spectacular society would of course be famously outlined
the following year by Guy Debord when in 1967, he published La socit du spectacle,
an enduring description of urban modernity gone full tilt in which streams of images
not only operated as a form of distraction and illusion, but also came to define public
Throughout the subsequent four decades after both Michelsons and Debords influential ideas were uttered, the category of the cultural has become fused with the market
and is no longer defined by the earlier, traditional, or even the experimental forms
championed by Michelson. By the late 1990s the technical capabilities of image projection within the field of contemporary art have reached monumental proportions and
the production value of architecturally scaled projection has achieved parity with commercial film industry and advertising standards. Art works that employ moving images,
regardless of their source, have become enfolded into a constantly shifting mediascape
that treats images as inherently variable, reproducible and in the most benign cases, as
mutable works equally at home in the space of the gallery or on a webpage.
For this reason, an anachronistic look at Expanded Cinema practices of the 1960s
and Michelsons analysis provides an important context from which to reconsider new
media arts relationship to the broader culture industry. Corporate and government

Diagrams to Networks


sponsorships of major Expanded Cinema festivals and international events coupled

with the reliance on the consumer electronic goods produced by multinational corporations clearly are only a few of the many instances that tie Expanded Cinema to
the conditions of advanced global capital. A close study of Expanded Cinema practices
helps the effort to outline a more complex relationship between art and technology in
the postwar period, which can no longer simply be a perforation between commercial
and fine art. The habitual positing of an absolute opposition between avant-garde art
practice and those aligned with the culture industry in its reliance on media technology, that Michelson initiated in 1966, for example, continues to underpin the discourse on contemporary art. The 1960s labels of radical versus sell out have only
been updated in terminology, to critical versus marketable. One result is that the
inherently overlapping discourses on contemporary art and new media, both emergent fields tethered to the new and the now, rarely occupy the same artists practices.
As a visual artist who coined the term underground film while also receiving support from the Rockefeller Foundation, NASA, CBS, and SONY, in equal measure to
academic sources, VanDerBeek epitomized the inadequacy of these types of categorical
delineations. Moreover, this cautioning is aimed at moderating the tendency to equate
Expanded Cinemas expansion of media and audience reception as a means of destabilizing the very frameworks from which it draws its own structure and support. Of equal
import is the overarching fact that Expanded Cinema did not represent an autonomous
form of art-making. As VanDerBeeks eclectic practice made clear, Expanded Cinema
remained an ambiguous cultural form that included single-channel works as well as
performance, installation, and other mixed media alongside its adaption of documentary and narrative filmmaking techniques. More significantly, it pointed to the idea of
plurality within a single artists own body of work and highlighted the broader media
ecology where art circulates, a critical notion in the reconsideration of how durational
media operate in the fields of contemporary art and new media.
Reflexively examining the role of media, the plurality of contemporary art practices,
which use moving images (film, video, slides, animations) to formally interrogate the
mechanisms of mediated representation, advances the recognition of arts own conditions of production and circulation. At the moment, signal examples can be found in
the careful and nuanced multiscreen installations of Rene Green, Stan Douglas, Runa
Islam, and Ann Lislegaard, among others in which the scale of projection relates to
the events on screen (domestic spaces, temporary structures, home movies or slides,
for example). More frequently, however, this is not the case as evidenced by a range
of outdoor projections that remain arbitrary and/or take on the scale of their architectural backdrops. Two recent projection projects by Doug Aitken are notable examples.
In Sleepwalkers (2007), portraits of five anonymous archetypes were projected onto
MoMAs Yoshio Taniguchidesigned exteriors at night. In 2012, Aitken orchestrated
SONG 1, which united another set of anonymous archetypes through music filmed


specifically to illuminate and conform to the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Gardens distinctive 360-degree facade. In a similar effort to raise the portrait of the individual to the level of corporate messaging, Rafael Lozano-Hemmers ongoing series
Body Movies (initiated in 2001) uses remote controlled projectors to cast portraits of
locals within the monumental shadows produced by pedestrians who trigger the light
sources mounted in public gathering places. However, in equal measure, the move by
contemporary artists to shift the exhibition of time-based art works out of the gallery
and into the designated sphere of the film theater with set screening times is also reflective of Expanded Cinemas earlier investment in spatial relocation and the reclamation
of public space. A concentration on the role of scale in the size of projected image and
in the reach of audience pressures the way in which the exhibition of time-based media
has been discussed in the reductive terms of the black box versus the white cube.7
Moreover, a recognition of the shifting configurations of an audience broadens the
scope of the conversation on durational media, which tends to be mired in discussions
about the divide between digital and analog forms.
The lesson from Expanded Cinema is that even though the digital is usually positioned as adversarial and acknowledged as inevitable, it has not fully supplanted or
eradicated the analog. While the death of analog film is already lamented, Tacita
Deans stunning project FILM (2011), a 35 mm silent film projected over 42 feet high
in the Tate Moderns Turbine Hall, functioned as a type of memento mori, an acknowledgment of the fact that analog film was no longer being processed within the UK.8
Deans film installation silently showcased the extraordinary range of decidedly nondigital formal effects achieved through masterful uses of glass matte painting and double exposure among other techniques making Deans argument about the loss of film
acute. More than just lamenting the demise of film in a digital era or attempting to
exalt work made exclusively in film, Deans project FILM points to the temporal distinctions at stake within the production of art beyond those inherent in the medium
itself: The major differences between film and digital were in the making. Digital relies
on post-production. No longer do you rely on the moment, you lose a certain vitality
of the moment.9 And of equal impact, Deans project suggests that the skills of editing
and shooting film are also subject to obsolescence, prompting the artist to propose that
the medium of film be recognized as a world cultural heritage in an effort to preserve
its continued production. Rather than obsolescence, I would argue that digital ubiquity in the broader culture has contributed to a resurgence in outmoded and relatively
obsolete formats, such as small gauge film and hand processing techniques as expertly
deployed by a range of artists investigating the material and conceptual properties of
film including but not limited to Rosa Barba, Matthew Buckingham, Matt Saunders,
Erin Shirreff, Paul Sietsema, and Kerry Tribe, whose thoughtful works continue to be
exhibited and circulated with increasing regularity in galleries and museums. Within
the field of contemporary art, the preponderance of film projections and time-based

Diagrams to Networks


media installations may in fact cause this decade to be recast as a renaissance for analog
But, back in 1966, standing with VanDerBeek, Ken Dewey, and groups of young
children scaling the exterior platform of the Movie-Drome in the rural setting of Stony
Point, Michelson remarked that she was interested to hear that the relative accessibility
of compact film equipment allowed even ten-year-olds to make 8 mm films:
Mostly science fiction, I am told, takes place in their own backyards. This, perhaps, is the single
most interesting fact about cinema in our time. Given this new accessibility of the medium, anything can happen.11 Here, in the generation of little Americans making science fiction films in
their backyards, I do believe lies the excitement of cinemas future, its ultimate radical potential.12

In dismissing the political radicalism of Expanded Cinema within the context of

film and film history, she underscored its more latent impact on contemporary art.
She concluded her talk by parenthetically evoking Andr Breton when she stated, The
work of art is valid if and only if it is aquiver with a sense of the future.13 MovieDromes suggestion of a networked subject sending and receiving information over satellites may have seemed like science fiction, but clearly the advent of video, television
(closed-circuit, broadcast, cable), and later the Internet would provide artists with new
means of interfacing with a more relatively diverse, if not global public.
Toward the close of her talk at the Fourth New York Film Festival, Michelson inadvertently offered a more nuanced approach from which to consider the seemingly
dichotomous relationship between cinema as an art form and the spectacle culture of
Expanded Cinema. To speak of film and the radical aspiration, noted Michelson, is necessarily to evoke instances of what she called convergence and dissociation,14 saying,
All discussion of the nature and possibilities of advanced film-making today, of film
aesthetics and of future possibilities take this divergence of radicalisms into account.15
It must also take into account that the question is as Michelson clarified, not whether
we are dealing with an art (and some, apparently, still ask that question), but whether
the emergence of this medium has not transformed the nature of all art.16 Underlining
the conditions by which the history of Expanded Cinema takes shape within art history and the study of new media, the notion of convergence and dissociation also
serves to mitigate how medias imbrication with technology and advanced capital is
understood. Rather than foregrounding the apparatus or the means of image projection, Expanded Cinema was first and foremost concerned with making a connection.
VanDerBeeks conceptual Movie-Drome with its variable film installations, projections
and multisited events was orchestrated as means of creating an interface both on-line
and off which could function as a means, or place for exchange, and reshaped the
divide between new media and contemporary art in the current moment when participatory and interactive have become ubiquitous qualifiers to describe almost all forms
of art production.


And what of the future? Interestingly although VanDerBeek did have extensive
experience in video production and commercial broadcast televisionhis interest in
directing a constant stream of images is never referred to in terms of television, nor did
it invoke the transgressive discourse of video art that would develop more fully in the
1970s.17 Conceived in the late 1950s and cobbled together in earnest in the early parts
of 1965, VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome operated outside the revolutionary rhetoric that
would be disseminated by Radical Software during its publishing from between 1970
and 1974. Though VanDerBeek contributed to the publication, his Culture: Intercom
ethos was distinct from that espoused by Radical Software which featured newly available recording and editing equipment with the idea that artists could not only outfit
themselves with the necessary technical skills to become savvy media activists, but also
sharpen or hone the emerging public discourse on media, television, and communications. The manifesto tone and aphoristic calls to action conveyed by VanDerBeek within
Culture: Intercom read more as an idiosyncratic artists statement and less like the call
to change public policy by creating alternative networks as advocated in the pages
of Guerilla Television, written by Raindance Corporation member Michael Shamberg
in 1971.18 In addition, VanDerBeek never abandoned traditional modes of museological exhibition and display that informed the circulation of art. This fact distinguishes
the Movie-Drome from more overtly anti-institutional and artist-centered aims of the
various alternative spaces, groups, and organizations that proliferated throughout the
United States between the late 1970s and early 1980s that curator Julie Ault collected
under the rubric of alternative arts movements (such as Franklin Furnace and the
Kitchen, among others) that sought to foreground experimental arts within a framework that eschewed the treatment of art as merely objects.
In many ways, the cultural and political backdrop to VanDerBeeks Movie-Drome was
less about advances in broadcast, both technologically and politically, but the rise of a
new global-scaled network ushered in by the introduction of satellite technology. An
arguable point of origin for globalization (in all its contested and myriad forms) could
be located in the first successful satellite broadcast transmission, as sociologist Anthony
Giddens suggested:
From this time onwards, instantaneous electronic communication across the globe is not only
possible, but almost immediately begins to enter the lives of millions. Not only can everyone now
see the same images at the same time, instantaneous global communication penetrates the tissue
of everyday experience and starts to restructure it.19

The satellite and fiber-optic cable telecommunications system that VanDerBeek outlined in his Culture: Intercom manifesto which he intended to use in order to connect
audiences in an effort to share art and perform cultural transmissions was the same
type of system simultaneously being developed by the United States military to safeguard the governments ability to control its military under a possible nuclear attack.

Diagrams to Networks


In 1969, after years of development, the ARPANET (now DARPA, the Defense Research
Projects Agency), was implemented as the first large-scale decentralized network system that allowed users to transfer files, communicate, and store information through
a network.20 While VanDerBeek may never have envisioned Movie-Drome functioning
as a means of remote social control, it pointed to the very possibility. The Internet, as
we have come to herald and simultaneously disdain, evolved through years of complex corporate, government, academic, and military initiatives. This fact has profound
implications for the theorization of many new media art practices as radical or subversive in the early 1990s. This decidedly anti-utopian aspect fundamental to the development of the Internet complicates the dominant perception that networks represent an
opening up of communication with an accelerated rate of connection offering anyone
with a computer and a little bit of bandwidth the ability to generate public discourse.
The enticing promise of freedom associated with the advent of instant communication
regardless of geographic locale dominated and continues to drown out the inherent
questions of control, access, surveillance, and disparity (socio-economic and racial),
which are all also native to the Internet.
If the centralized model of broadcast television helped to establish many of videos
enduring aesthetic concerns (even in reaction against), Expanded Cinemas emphasis
on telecommunications and feedback opened up a new paradigm for visual art. MovieDromes insistence on a real-time audience model emphasized the instantaneous, the
immediate, and a desire for presence that continues to prevail in contemporary art. As
the increasing availability to telecommunications technology dampens the novelty of
real-time interaction, the lingering and residual effects of the Movie-Drome will be the
fact that access to media technology is rendered meaningless if we have nothing radical
to say to one another.


1. George Maciunas, Expanded Arts Diagram, Film Culture, no. 43 (Winter 1966): 1.
2. Maciunas, 7.
3. Stan VanDerBeek quoted in taped interview with Ed Emshwiller on December 15, 1973. The
recordings took place over two days in December 1973 and then again on August 19, 1974.
Andrew Lampert, archivist at Anthology Film Archives, brought the existence of these tapes to
my attention. The tapes are part of the Anthology Film Archives collection nos. 122, 123, 124,
152, 153, 154.
4. As an indication of the international reception of VanDerBeeks work, XSCREEN co-founder
Birgit Hein highlighted VanDerBeeks 1961 AG Gallery exhibition in her signal book Film im
Underground, which included a critical and groundbreaking analysis of American Expanded
Cinema practices. See Brigit Hein, Film im Underground (Frankfurt: Verlag Ullstein, 1971), 99.
5.Within the current literature, VanDerBeek is often cited as the source for coining the term
Expanded Cinema in the early 1960s. Along with Carolee Schneemann, VanDerBeek regularly
used this term in grant applications, artists statements and publications before the term entered
into wider and more international use after 1965. Culture: Intercom and Expanded Cinema: A
Proposal and Manifesto, which outlines his theories of expanded cinema, was self-published in
1965 and circulated as a mimeographed pamphlet. It was published the following year in Film
Culture 40 (Spring 1966): 1518 and the Tulane Drama Review 11, no. 1 (Autumn 1966): 3848.
Film scholars such as Michael Zryd and A. L. Rees, curators Stuart Comer, Bill Arning, Joo Ribas,
and other artists, including Peter Weibel, have all pointed to VanDerBeek, as the source for this
term. For example, in his program notes for the conference on Expanded Cinema organized by
Tate Modern (Expanded Cinema: Activating the Space of Reception, 1719 April 2009), curator
Stuart Comer cited VanDerBeek as having coined the term Expanded Cinema. Subsequently, the
resulting anthology from the conference papers, Expanded Cinema: Art, Performance and Film
(London: Tate Publishing, 2011) includes many references to VanDerBeek as the originator and
propagator of the term. In particular see the anthologys introductory essay by A. L. Rees,
Expanded Cinema and Narrative: A Troubled History. See also Michael Zryd, Stan VanDer-


Beek: From Classroom to Artist in Residence to the World, Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture: Intercom, exhibition catalogue, MIT List Visual Art Center and Contemporary Art Museum Houston
(2011), 108. Likewise, Peter Weibel singles out VanDerBeek as coining the term in his brief overview of Expanded Cinema included in the introduction to the catalogue on Jeffrey Shaws work.
Peter Weibel, Jeffrey Shaw: A Users Manual, in Jeffrey ShawA Users Manual from Expanded
Cinema to Virtual Reality, edited by Manuela Abel (Karlsruhe and Graz: Cantz Verlag, 1997). More
definitively, VanDerBeek coined the term underground film in his article The Cinema Delimina: Films from the Underground, Film Quarterly 14, no. 4 (1961): 513.
6. For a broader elaboration on the manifestation of other discourses within expanded cinema
see Expanded Cinema: Art Performance and Film (London: Tate Publishing, 2011). Initiated by the
pioneering research of Dr. Jackie Hatfield who maintained that abstract and formalist experimental film had overshadowed expanded cinema, a conference and subsequent publication was carried through after her death and edited by David Curtis, A. L. Rees, Duncan White, and Steven
Ball. The book centers on Dr. Hatfields important research on what she identified as the troubled relationship between narrative and Expanded Cinema. As A. L. Rees writes in the books
introduction, Hatfields question made us look again at some (until recently) neglected work,
notably by VanDerBeek and Schneemann, two formative figures whose multi-dimensional
media art has at least as many claims to modernity and postmodernity as that of their more
abstract peers. Rees, 20. See also Jackie Hatfield, Expanded Cinema and its Relationship to the
Avant-Garde, in Millennium Film Journal 39 (Winter 2003): 5065.
7.Unlike for example, the techno-utopian and technocratic visions prompted by Harold Wilsons 1963 Labor Party conference speech in which he called on the UK to forge a new nation
from the white heat of the technological revolution. This specific rallying point was identified
and analyzed in the volume White Heat Cold Logic: British Computer Art 19601980, ed. Paul
Brown, Charlie Gere, Nicholas Lambert, and Catherine Mason (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008).
8. As Roy Ascott makes clear in his contribution to White Heat Cold Logic, there was not a singular
response to Wilsons dictum by UK-based artists. However, I agree with Charlie Geres suggestion
that the particular economic and social conditions of mid-sixties Britain gave artists a central
role in enabling cultural understanding and acceptance of new technologies. See Charlie Geres
Introduction, in White Heat Cold Logic British Computer Art 19601980, 1. See also Roy Ascotts
Creative Cybernetics: The Emergence of An Art Based on Interaction, Process and System, in
White Heat Cold Logic: British Computer Art 19601980, 9. While American artists themselves may
have eschewed a national identification, as Malcolm Le Grice reveals, it does not mean that their
nationalities were not reflected up to make a political statement. In his recounting of organizing
one of the UKs first screenings of the computer-generated animations by Americans Stan
VanDerBeek, John and James Whitney, and Lillian Schwartz between 1971 and 1972, in a series
pointedly titled How to Screw the CIA, Le Grice worked with the American Embassy in conjunction with the US Information Agency, an arm of the US government devoted to increasing
American influence through arts and culture. Even though those involved at the embassy were
genuinely enthusiastic about the work, noted Le Grice, as Americas actions in Vietnam became
increasingly unacceptable, I broke the association in a letter of protest. See Malcolm LeGrice,
Never the Same Again, in White Heat Cold Logic: British Computer Art 19601980, 225.


9. For a detailed argument about how the primacy of the social sphere in the development of
electrical and electronic communication structures see Brian Wintson, Media Technology and Society: A History from the Telegraph to the Internet (London: Routledge, 1998).
10. Important examples include Howard Wise Gallerys 1965 exhibition, Computer-Generated Pictures by Bla Julesz and A. Michael Noll, and the signal exhibition, Cybernetic Serendipity, curated by
Jasia Reichardt in 1968 at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, which introduced a
variety of computer-generated drawings and plotter-device images that would converge in the
discourse around computer art. Howard Wise Gallery Records, 19431969. Archives of American
Art, Smithsonian Institution. Box 6 contains records for the exhibition Computer-Generated Pictures by Bla Julesz and Michael Noll (New York, April 624, 1965). Cybernetic Serendipity ran from
August 2 to October 20, 1968, and also included VanDerBeeks animated film, Man and His World
produced using BEFLIX for the 1967 Worlds Fair. See Cybernetic Serendipity the Computer and the
Arts (London: Studio International, 1968). Reichardts pivotal exhibition included work by digital
art pioneers Nam June Paik, Friederich Nake, Leslie Mezei, Georg Nees, A. Michael Noll, John
Whitney, and Charles Csuri. See also White Heat Cold Logic British Computer Art 19601980 and
Margit Rosen, ed., A Little-Known Story about a Movement, a Magazine, and the Computers Arrival in
Art: New Tendencies and Bit International, 19611973 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2011). Rosen
grounded these emerging practices within the context of the discourse that they appeared, that
of Bit International and the first European and Eastern European public exhibitions that launched
computer art into public consciousness. In particular she details the role of mainframe computings intersection with the experimental arts in her essay, The Art of Programming: The New
Tendencies and the Arrival of the Computer as a Means of Artistic Research.
11. Not incidentally, Norbert Wiener was also a founding member of Black Mountain Colleges
Board of Advisors, which also included Albert Einstein, Franz Kline, and Carl O. Sauer. The
unique pedagogical and social experiment fostered by Black Mountain College (particularly
during the summer of 1949 when John Cage formed a close friendship with Buckminster Fuller,
who taught the schools summer institute) was instrumental in establishing the neo-avant-garde
in the United States in the postwar period. For a detailed history of the schools founding, see
Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain College (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987). See also
Vincent Katz, ed. Black Mountain College Experiment in Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013).
12. Art and technology continues to be an unsatisfying term to account for the confluence of
disparate art practices that would be further subdivided into categories and areas for academic
study, exhibition and publishing, such as computer animation, interactive media and telematic
art. The field of telematic art, which uses telecommunication networks as a primary medium, as
just one example, refers to a diverse range of artists including Robert Adrian, Roy Ascott, Douglas
Davis, Sherry and Kit Galloway, and Nam June Paik, among others. On the subject of telematic
art see the pivotal writings of Roy Ascott including Telematic Embrace: Visionary Theories of Art,
Technology, and Consciousness, ed. Edward Shanken (Berkeley: University of California Press,
13. The admittedly artificial designation of an art audience is an attempt to distinguish my area
of focus from the established theories of active and passive audience participation and engage-


ment within both film studies and more recently, the field of communication and media studies.
For an overview of the various permutations of audience within communication and media studies see Nico Carpentier, Media and Participation: A Site of Ideological and Democratic Struggle (Bristol,
UK: Intellect, 2011).
14. The sociological influence of email, text, Skype, and social media is expanded upon in the
research of Sherry Turkle, as exemplified in her 2011 book, Alone Together: Why We Expect More
from Technology and Less from Each Other (New York: Basic Books, 2011).
15. Scholarship on the Movie-Drome in particular, has been shaped by the relative limited number
of existent documentary images of the project. Case in point is that a black-and-white image
usually credited as an interior view of the Movie-Drome at Gate Hill Co-op in Stony Point, NY, was
actually taken when the project was installed in a geodesic dome tent temporarily mounted in
New Yorks Central Park as part a multiday conference called Design-In in 1967. One result is
that the Movie-Drome concept becomes defined by the structure built in Stony Point and other
mobile iterations of the project are not acknowledged.
16.Specifically, my turn of phrase follows their suggestion to conceive media change as an
accretive, gradual process, challenging the idea that new technologies displace older systems of
with decisive suddenness. David Thorburn and Henry Jenkins, Introduction, Rethinking Media
Change: The Aesthetics of Transition (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 2. Brian Winston also suggests that the term revolution is not correct in describing how electronic and electrical communication networks evolved noting that it is possible to see in the historical record not just a slower
pace of change than is usually suggested but also such regularities in the pattern of innovation.
Winston, 2.
17. Susan Buck-Morss, in response to October questionnaire: In what ways have artists, academics, and cultural institutions responded to the US-led invasion and occupation of Iraq? See October 123 (Winter 2008): 27. Solidarity among strangers also offers a counter model of the habits
of viewing that Sherrie Turkles research has illuminated as being alone together.
18.Stan VanDerBeek, Culture: Intercom and Expanded Cinema: A Proposal and Manifesto,
Film Culture, no. 40 (Spring 1966): 16.
19. On VALIE EXPORTs impact on media and feminism see Pamela Lees nuanced analysis in
Bare Lives in which Lee reads Foucaults concept of the biopolitical within VALIE EXPORTs
work triangulating the relationship between the body screened and the screening body. In the
same volume, Maxa Zollers interview with Malcolm Le Grice outlines many of the philosophical
distinctions within Expanded Cinema. Lee, Bare Lives and Zoller, Interview with Malcom Le
Grice, XScreen: Film and Actions in the 1960s and 1970s, ed. Mattias Michalka (Vienna: Museum
Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, 2004).
20.VanDerBeeks work as a filmmaker is highlighted in the following important studies on
experimental film: David James, Allegories of Cinema: American Film in the Sixties (Princeton, NJ:
Princeton University Press, 1989); Wheeler Winston Dixon, The Exploding Eye: A Re-Visionary History of 1960s American Experimental Cinema (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997);
John G. Hanhardt, ed., A History of the American Avant-Garde Cinema (New York: The American


Federation of Arts, 1976); Sheldon Renan, An Introduction to the American Underground Film (New
York: E.P. Dutton, 1967); Parker Tyler, Underground Film: A Critical History (New York: Da Capo
Press, 1995 [original publication 1969]); and Gregory Battcock, The New American Cinema (New
York: Dutton, 1967). Notably, VanDerBeeks work also figures largely in key books by UK artists
Malcolm Le Grice and David Curtis. See Malcolm Le Grice, Abstract Film and Beyond (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 1977) and David Curtis, Experimental Cinema: A Fifth-Year Evolution (New York:
Universe 1971).
21.This is also the reason this study does not address the fields of telematic art, with which
VanDerBeek and the Movie-Drome obviously share many affinities. VanDerBeek never used the
term telematics and his education at Black Mountain College aesthetically and historically links
him to neo-avant-garde practices within visual art on a broader scale.
22. In the words of exhibition co-curator, Bill Arning, Despite his significant presence and influence during his lifetime, VanDerBeeks work failed to posthumously maintain the attention of
those museum curators and art historians whose job it is to shed light on the sources of our contemporary postwar visual arts culture. See Bill Arning, Stan VanDerBeeks Currency, Stan
VanDerBeek, The Culture Intercom, exh. cat. (MIT List Visual Art Center and Contemporary Art
Museum Houston, 2011), 64. The 2011 MIT List Center exhibition drew heavily from materials
and conceptual affinities created in a 2008 exhibition organized by Sara VanDerBeek and
Johannes VanDerBeek at their now shuttered New York City gallery space, Guild & Greyshkul as
well as a presentation organized by Mara McCarthy at the experimental gallery space, The Box in
Los Angeles from March 14 to April 28, 2009. Photographic documentation from both exhibitions can be seen at:
Guild & Greyshkul was founded and run by Sara and Johannes VanDerBeek, two of Stans children along with their partner Anya Kielar. The three artists and Cooper Union alums opened the
gallery in 2003 on Wooster Street in SoHo as an artist-run venue to exhibit and engage the work
of their artist peers. From September 13 to October 18, 2008, the gallery mounted an ambitious
program of VanDerBeeks collage works as well as staging the multiscreen installation, Found
Forms using digital reproductions of VanDerBeeks slides and transparency projections that were
initially used in Cross-Talk Intermedia in Tokyo in 1969. Their exhibition also included a continuous film program of VanDerBeeks better-known 16 mm films from the late 1950s and 1960s
as well as a version of the fax mural Panels of the Walls of the World originally transmitted
from MITs Center for Advanced Visual Studies in 1970. Also included were computer graphic
silkscreens on paper of Mandell/AS from 1973 to 24 24 inch bitmapped Mandela patterns and
a two-channel presentation of VanDerBeeks Violence Sonata, created specifically for WGBH-TV
in Boston and aired on channel 2 and channel 44 in 1970. Guild & Greyshkul conserved and
presented a selection of drawings from the early 1950s as well as many key examples of VanDerBeeks collage work done as stand-alone pieces as well as collages animated in his films.
23.In characteristically paradoxical fashion, VanDerBeeks inclusion in the 2013 Venice Biennale can be read as both symptomatic and counter to the current machinations of the contemporary art market. Unlike, many of his contemporaries from the period, VanDerBeeks estate is not
represented by a commercial art gallery, yet his work continues to be curated into major biennales and international exhibitions.


24. As another example of the international reception of VanDerBeeks work, Culture: Intercom
and Expanded Cinema was translated into the German and included in the volume Avantgardistischer Film 19511971, edited by Gottfried Schlemmer (Muenchen: Carl Hanser Verlag, 1973),
25. The Oxford English Dictionary cites Marshall McLuhans Gutenberg Galaxy (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1962) as the source for defining the term interface in relation to interaction.
26. Alison Griffiths, Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View (New
York: Columbia University Press, 2008), 2.
27. Oliver Grau, Virtual Art: From Illusion to Immersion, trans. Gloria Custance. (Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 2003), 13.
28. Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, in Architecture Culture 1943
1968, ed. Joan Ockman (New York: Columbia Books of Architecture/Rizzoli, 1993), 41926. The
essay was delivered at the Centre dtudes architecturales, Paris, March 1967. It was then published in part in LArchitettura 150 (April 1968): 82223.
29. VanDerBeek quoted in Adrienne Mancia, and Willard Van Dyke, Four Artists as Film-Makers, Art in America (January 1967): 70.
30. Marion Weiss, Stan VanDerBeek to Students: Take a High Risk! Journal of the University Film
and Video Association no. 34 (Spring 1982): 1920. VanDerBeek died of cancer in September 1984
at the age of 57. The case for identifying VanDerBeek as a visual artist rather than a filmmaker
was most certainly underscored in death. Per his wishes VanDerBeek was buried in Green River
Cemetery in East Hampton among the painters, critics, and poets that shaped American postwar
art including Stuart Davis, Elaine de Kooning, Clement Greenberg, Lee Krasner, Jackson Pollock,
Frank OHara, Ibram Lassow, and Ad Reinhardt.

Chapter 1
1.Ken Dewey, Henry Geldzahler, et al., Expanded Cinema: A Symposium, N.Y. Film Festival
1966, Film Culture 43 (Winter 1966): 1. The symposium panel on Expanded Cinema took place
on September 20, 1966, and was transcribed by Amy Taubin and Gordon Ball and printed in Film
Cultures special issue titled Expanded Arts. Reports, transcripts and reviews of other N.Y. Film
Festival panels appear in Film Culture 42 (Fall 1966).
2. Regarding the coinage of the term Expanded Cinema, see note 7 in the introduction of this
3. Fran Heller, Masters and Mavericks, Newsweek, October 3 1966, 1017.
4. This description derives from Newsweek reporter Fran Hellers unpublished research notes that
she sent to VanDerBeek to fact check her 1966 New York Film Festival review, which ran in


Newsweek magazine. Hellers research notes are in VanDerBeeks uncatalogued papers in the
VanDerBeek Estate.
6.John Gruen, The New Bohemia: Combine Generation (New York: Grosset and Dunlap, 1966).
While Gruens book was not actually published until 1966, the concept developed from an earlier
article that appeared in the November 29, 1964 issue of New York magazine entitled The New
Bohemia, in which he introduced the term Combine Generation as a descriptor for the experimental art, music and dance practices emanating from New Yorks East Village in the early
7. For a more detailed discussion on how Expanded Cinemas hybrid tendency and free-form
variants are resistant to the disciplinary boundaries of existing fields of academic study see Liz
Kotz, Disciplining Expanded Cinema, XScreen: Film and Actions in the 1960s and 1970s, ed. Mattias Michalka (Vienna: Museum Moderner Kunst Stiftung Ludwig Wien, 2004), 4455. See also
Andrew Uroskies study of Expanded Cinema as an emerging consciousness of the paradoxical
site specificity of cinematic practice. Andrew Uroskie, Between the Black Box and the White Cube
Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014), 1011.
8. For a detailed discussion of the development of artists cinema since the 1990s and the ensuing
questions of definition and differentiation between various types of film installation within the
field of contemporary art, see Maeve Connolly, The Place of Artists Cinema Space, Site and Screen
(Bristol: Intellect, 2009). For a close formal reading of several paradigmatic screen-based installations from the 1960s and 1970s and their impact on more contemporary film and media installation art practices, see Kate Mondloch, Screens: Viewing Media Installation Art (Minneapolis:
University of Minnesota Press, 2010).
9. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 1.
10. According to Michael Kirby, Since 1958 Milton Cohen has been developing what he calls
Space Theatre, with the help of other members of the ONCE Group: Harold Borkin, George
Manupelli, Robert Ashley, and Gordon Mumma. The heart of the Space Theatre is a system of
rotating, adjustable mirrors, and prisms that can project light, slides, or motion picture images in
any directioneither onto a dome or onto screens surrounding and above the spectators. The
earliest presentations combined fluid, shifting abstract color patterns with music; later the palette was broadened to include hardedge forms, recognizable images, and even human performers. See Michael Kirby, The Uses of Film in the New Theater, The Art of Time: Essays on the
Avant Garde (New York: Dutton, 1969), 119.
11. Regime of vision refers to the stabilized point of view inaugurated in the Renaissance through
the science of perspectival space, which slowly dissolved during the late eighteenth century with
the rise of the baroque and later through Impressionisms introduction of the passage of time and
seriality as well as cubisms fragmented vision. For a full historical survey see Linda Williams, ed.,
Viewing Positions: Ways of Seeing Film (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1997).


12. If we are to agree that vision is a historical construct, then we have to acknowledge that the
major theorizations of power and vision affecting Expanded Cinema reach back to transformations in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As identified by Jonathan Crary in Techniques of the Observer, the new kind of observer that emerged in the 1820s and 1830s points to the
preconditions for the sweeping reconfiguration of the relationship between an observing subject
and modes of representation produced through the diffusion of newer media including photography, film and video. And most relevant to Expanded Cinema, this change was contingent not
only on the emergence of newer media, but also the mixing of these forms. More specifically, the
history of art has to be traced through the history of perception, which relies not on scientific
advancements in optics, but rather on shifts of representational practices in art. For Crary, this
type of history is not about isolating models of perception (if thats even possible) but focusing
on the no less problematic phenomenon of the observing subject, who is both a historical product and the site of practices, techniques, and procedures of subjectification. Jonathan Crary,
Techniques of the Observer (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1990).
13. Rudolf Arnheim, Film as Art (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957), 8.
14. See Arnheim, Film as Art, 34. Anne Friedberg presents a deft summary of Arnheims argument
in her nuanced examination of the tensions between what she labels as cinemas materiality and
immateriality, mobility and immobility. Anne Friedberg, The Virtual Window: From Alberti to
Microsoft (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2006), 154.
15. Arnheims talk, Art Today and the Film, was delivered at the symposium Cinema and Contemporary Arts as part of the Third New York Film Festival in September 1965. The text was published in Film Culture 42 (Fall 1966): 4345. Filmmaker Fred Wellington noted the challenges of
Arnheims work in the editorial overview of the issue. Wellington wrote, Theorizing in such a
situation is usually an unappreciated, pioneering effort. The knowledge required is immense and
this knowledge must be synthesized into a system, however tentative and qualified the system
may be. Now, if this is done with conviction, a departure point will have been established that
will more than make up for the inadequacies any system, by its nature entails (Wellington, 19).
16. Fran Heller, Masters and Mavericks, Newsweek (October 3, 1966), 106.
17. To date there has been little critical attention given the eclectic output by USCO, an artists
collective active between 1963 and 1966 with ties to disparate facets of American culture including counterculture icons Timothy Leary and Allen Ginsberg and Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
Zabet Patersons presentation, Visionary Machines: USCO, Techno-Utopia and Technocracy at the
symposium Regards sur lExpanded Cinema: art, film, vido organized by Annie Claustres,
Larisa Dryansky and Riccardo Venturi at the Institut national dhistoire de lart in Paris on June
28, 2013, outlined the split between the members of USCO.
18. Stan VanDerBeek quoted in taped interview with Ed Emshwiller, December 15, 1973. Collection of Anthology Film Archives. Tape no. 123.
19.Within the cultural climate of the mid-1960s, art was a viable means of civic engagement
distinct from the specific issues of public space, urban development, and artistic intervention
that emerged in the late 1970s and early 1980s under the genre of public art.


20.Compared to current standards for personal computing it is easy to overlook the fact that
artists working with film and video during the 1960s had to rely on processing and editing equipment that was too expensive, cumbersome, and scarce to make individual ownership possible.
Therefore a relationship to a university, government agency, or commercial entity often became
a prerequisite to make work in the field. Moreover, this sense of a divide between artists whose
practice was sustained by sales to museums and collectors and those who did not produce work
that could circulate within this commercial framework was felt more acutely within the field of
media art. In his analysis of Nam June Paiks work, for example, curator John G. Hanhardt made
the point that during the 1960s and 1970s artists who worked in film and video taught in art
schools in order to earn a living, and many still do. They created a pedagogical spacean open
environment of inquiry in different media and installation artin which the acceptance of video
as an artists tool was recognized and encouraged. John G. Hanhardt, The Worlds of Nam June
Paik (New York: Guggenheim Museum Publications, 2000), 76.
21. Artist and curator Don Foresta brought the information of VanDerBeeks exhibition program
at the American Cultural Center in Paris to my attention during the Regards sur lExpanded
Cinema: art, film, vido symposium in Paris on June 27, 2013 and in our subsequent interview
on July 31, 2013. Then a Foreign Service Officer, Foresta was the director of the Center from 1971
to 1976. He focused the centers activities on introducing American experimental film, video art,
and photography because these topics were, in his estimation, not well known and certainly not
popular in France. In addition to inviting a host of artists such as VanDerBeek and Ed Emshwiller to show their work in Paris, Foresta had the United States government order 300 copies of
Gene Youngbloods book Expanded Cinema to distribute through the center. I want to also
acknowledge Gerald OGrady for making the introduction to the Paris-based Foresta.
22. Stan VanDerBeek, 1963 Program for Film Makers (New York: The Ford Foundation, 1963).
In this report VanDerBeek summarized his artistic production between 1961 and 1963 as well as
presenting a biographical overview during this period. The report is in the uncatalogued papers
of the VanDerBeek Estate.
23. The critics and filmmakers who had loaded onto the tour bus included VanDerBeeks former
neighbors and cohorts in Manhattan. In his report back to the Ford Foundation, VanDerBeek
underscored the economic realities that drove his decision to abandon the city for the exurban
locale of Gate Hill Cooperative. He wrote, At about the same time as the announcement of my
Ford Foundation Film Grant last spring, the Department of Real Estate of the City of New York
moved very much into our lives; in a very rapid procedure they condemned the building we were
living in and took legal possession of it. I had bought this lively old house on Cherry Street in
1960 for the unlikely sum of $6,000 (most probably the cheapest house in Manhattan) from
money begged and borrowed from relatives and had remodeled it myself into a very pleasant
home and studio. I think the problem of studio and living space for the artist in New York is a
real testy problem that seems to be getting worse each year, my prognosis looked so black that I
decided to leave the city as the only solution. Last spring we joined an artists cooperative in
Stony Point, New York, a community of about 12 families (John Cage lives there), they offered to
finance the building of our house.


24. See for example Branden Josephs detailed discussion of the perceptual modalities of avantgarde production as described by Walter Benjamin being integrally related to contemporary
metropolitan conditions in the formation of John Cages aesthetic and his use of estrangement
in particular. Branden W. Joseph, A Therapeutic Value for City Dweller: The Development of
John Cages Early Avant-Garde Aesthetic Position, in John Cage: Music, Philosophy, and Intention,
19331950, ed. David W. Patterson (New York: Routledge, 2002), 13575, esp. 14244. See also
Ben Highmores nuanced analysis of Georg Simmels early twentieth-century avant-garde sociology based on social interaction in the metropolis, which Highmore uses to advance his concept
of the aesthetics of everyday life. Ben Highmore, Everyday Life and Cultural Theory An Introduction
(New York: Routledge, 2002), 3740.
25. Caroline A. Jones, Machine in the Studio: Constructing the Postwar American Artist (Chicago:
University of Chicago Press, 1996), 1.
26. A copy of VanDerBeeks dated open letter is part of the uncatalogued papers of the VanDerBeek Estate.
27. Robert Christgau, When VanDerBeek a Movie-Drome Decreed, New York World Journal Tribune (March 5, 1967), 2022. In this feature-length profile on VanDerBeek for the now defunct
New York City daily paper, Christgau chronicled VanDerBeeks preparation for the 1966 New
York Film Festival visit as well as reported on the works reception by visitors.
31. Heller, unpublished Newsweek research notes.
35. As part of the Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT) lecture series in the spring of 1968,
VanDerBeek was invited to speak about his recent film and animation work. In his introduction,
VanDerBeek made the following statement, My background is traditional. I was a painter and
went to Black Mountain and Cooper Union and learned the figure and landscape and so onand
then branched into filmmaking, specifically a type of filmmaking that deals with animation. So
that the process has similarities...its a frame-by-frame process of animation...stroke by stroke in
painting, they are both related to time. Stan VanDerBeek, sound tape reel (2 hr., 18 min.),
Experiments in Art and Technology. Records, 1966-1993, Getty Research Institute, Research
Library, Accession no. 940003.
36. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 1.


38. Distinct from other contemporaneous Expanded Cinema events, Whitman scored the various live-action elements that comprise American Moon so that it could be restaged in different
locations, making it possible for the work to be included in the exhibition Robert Whitman:
Theater Works, 19601976 at the Dia Art Foundation in New York in 1976 as well as Whitmans
2003 Dia retrospective. Of note are Whitmans later Expanded Cinema works that he produced as
site-specific installations at the Hudson River Museum in Yonkers from February 3March 25,
39. For bibliographic information on American Moon see the chronology in the exhibition catalogue Robert Whitman, Playback (New York: Dia Art Foundation, 2003), esp. 202. The catalogue
also includes a DVD with footage from one of the November 1960 American Moon performances
at Reuben Gallery shot by Whitman as a note to recreate future performances. In addition, the
DVD includes an eleven-minute compilation of interviews with Jim Dine, Simone Forti, Claes
Oldenburg, Lucas Samaras, and Whitman conducted by Julie Martin in 1998. The commentary
component includes samples of the 8 mm film that was projected during the performance.
40. For a detailed description, including an overview of Whitmans use of a non-script as well
as production information for the first ten performances organized at Reuben Gallery. See
Michael Kirby, Happenings: An Illustrated Anthology (New York: Dutton, 1966), 13747. A more
condensed description is included in Kirby, The Uses of Film in the New Theater, The Art of
Time: Essays on the Avant Garde (New York: Dutton, 1969), 121. Kirbys essay originally appeared
in Tulane Drama Review 11, no. 1 (Fall 1966).
41. The issue of differing recollections of these types of Expanded Cinema events by participants
and observers is similar to the paradoxes identified by Judith Rodenbeck in her historicization of
Happenings. The fact that an evasion of the historical record was to some extent built into the
happenings runs counter to the treatment of peopleboth audience and participantsas
objects, whatever material remains exist could thus be thought to come in the form of people,
or more specifically of their memoriesnotoriously unreliable, insubstantial, immaterial. Judith
Rodenbeck, Radical Prototypes: Allan Kaprow and the Invention of Happenings (Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press, 2011), 18.
42. Barbara Rose, Considering Robert Whitman, in Projected Images: Peter Campus, Rockne Krebs,
Paul Sharits, Michael Snow, Ted Victoria, Robert Whitman (Minneapolis: Walker Art Center, 1974),
44. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 1. Deweys account of seeing American Moon is relayed in an interview with Richard Kostelanetz who asked Dewey, How did you respond to your first encounter
with mixed-means theater? Dewey answered, In 1961, I saw Bob Whitmans The American Moon
at the Reuben Gallery. When I lived in California, I came back once a year to New York and saw
as many plays as I could, and that same time I saw Bertolt Brechts play, The Jungle of Cities, at The
Living Theater. When I got back to California, these two things were really weighing on me.
Richard Kostelanetz, The Theater of Mixed-Means (New York: The Dial Press, 1968), 171. American


Moon at Reuben Gallery ran from November 29 to December 4, 1960. Dewey probably mistook
the year of the performance.
45.The full program, including panel descriptions of Lincoln Centers Fourth New York Film
Festival, which was directed by Amos Vogel, coordinated by John Brockman, and took place at
Philharmonic Hall Lincoln Center, September 1222, 1966, is reproduced in Film Culture 42 (Fall
1966): 1112. Sheldon Renan is identified as the author of a new book Introduction to the American Underground. Excerpts from the panel What Are the New Critics Saying appear on pages
7688 of the same issue of Film Culture, which focused on the NY Film Festival.
46.Sheldon Renan, An Introduction to the American Underground Film (New York: E.P. Dutton,
1967), 227.
52. As Malcolm Le Grice has aptly noted, understandings of Expanded Cinema differ, and a key
limitation to Youngbloods book is the fact that it is almost exclusively devoted to United Statesbased artists and examples. See Malcolm Le Grice, Mapping in Multi-Space: Expanded Cinema
to Virtuality, in White Cube/Black Box Skulpturensammlung Video Installation Film Werkschau Valie
Export and Gordon Matta Clark, ed. Sabine Breitwiser (Vienna: EA Generali Foundation, 1996), 263.
53. See Hans Scheugl and Ernst Schmidt, eds., Eine Subgeschichte Des Films: Lexikon D. Avantgarde-,
Experimental- und Undergroundfilms (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1974), 25357.
54.To date, Heins book remains the most nuanced comparison of European and American
Expanded Cinema practices. Though it was published one year after Gene Youngbloods book,
Expanded Cinema (1970) and four years after Sheldan Renans chapter on Expanded Cinema in An
Introduction to the American Underground Film (1967), it is Hein who has best articulated the cultural context of the two parallel developments of Expanded Cinema within independent film.
Birgit Hein, Film im Underground Von seinen Anfngen bis zum Unabhngigen Kino (Frankfurt: Verlag
Ullstein, 1971).
55.My argument is clearly indebted to David Joselits methodology of eco-formalism whose
object is interrelated image ecologies rather than individual artworks, as articulated in Feedback:
Television Against Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), xii. In addition, Youngbloods
Expanded Cinema advanced the concept of the artist as ecologist and art as environment rather
than anti-environment in a significant manner. See Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema (New
York: E.P. Dutton, 1970), 43.
56. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 1.


57.Robert Rauschenberg, Sixteen Americans, exh. cat. (New York: The Museum of Modern Art,
1959), 58.
58. See Allan Kaprow, The Blurring of Art and Life (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).
59. John Dewey, Art as Experience (New York: Minton, Balch & Company, c. 1934). For a comprehensive history of the arts program at Black Mountain College refer to Mary Emma Harris, The
Arts at Black Mountain College (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987).
60. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 2.
61. Gruen, 108.
62. Jonas Mekas, Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema, 19591971 (New York: Macmillan Company, 1972), 242.
63. Toby Mussman, The Images of Robert Whitman, in The New American Cinema: A Critical
Anthology, Gregory Battock, ed. (New York: Dutton, 1967), 155.
64. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 1.
66. Renan wrote, It was probably not until 1965 that there was extensive exploration of multiple projection for use in personal art expression. And it was in November of 1965 that the Filmmakers Cinematheque presented New Cinema Festival One, bringing together many Expanded
Cinema works together for the first time. Renan, An Introduction to the American Underground
Film, 233. Jonas Mekas covered the month-long survey in his weekly Village Voice column.
Among the approximately fifty artists included in the festival were Roberts Blossom, Angus
McLise, Nam June Paik, Jerry Joffen, Jack Smith, John Vacarro, Arthur Sainer, Standish Lawder,
Ken Jacobs, Gerd Stern, Ed Emshwiller, Jackie Cassen, Aldo Tambellini, La Monte Young, Elaine
Summers, Ray Wisniewski, Dick Higgins, Piero Heliczer, Ken Dewey, Robert Rauschenberg, Claes
Oldenburg, Robert Whitman, and Stan VanDerBeek.
67. In a profile on VanDerBeek, Robert Christgau wrote, John Brockman of the New York Film
Festival asked VanDerBeek a favor. He wanted VanDerBeek to contribute films and his presence
to two sessions of the Festivals Independent Cinema program, and to finish off the Movie-Drome
in time to display to critics and filmmakers on a tour of the exurban underground that would
also include visits to USCO and filmmaker Robert Breer. Christgau, When VanDerBeek a MovieDrome Decreed, 21.
68.Renan, An Introduction to the American Underground Film, 233. Elaine Summers was a key proponent of early Expanded Cinema works that combined film projection with choreographed
dance. She founded the Intermedia Art Festival in New York in 1977. For a brief overview of
Summerss work within the context of the burgeoning field of film and dance, see Mark Deitch,
Intermediaan Avant-Garde Festival, New York Times, January 27, 1980.
69.Renan, An Introduction to the American Underground Film, 233.


70. See also Andrew Uroskies excellent account of Move-Movies in his analysis of VanDerBeeks
work in his book Between the Back Box and the White Cube (Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
2014), 165.
71.Mekas, Movie Journal: The Rise of a New American Cinema, 19591971, 208. Mekas highlighted
VanDerBeeks work the following week in his column writing, The most dazzling pieces of
expanded cinema in the true sense were provided by that old Barnum of cinema, Stan VanDerBeek, in his three motion picture compositions: Move Movies (a choreography for projectorsfour
movie projectors, three slide projectors, and a flashlight were used; projectionists walked on stage
in a ballet of hand-held projectors); Pastorale: et al (a film and slide study for dancers, with Elaine
Summers); and Feedback No. 1 a movie mural. Ibid., 21314.
72. Ibid., 214.
76. Among the more recent scholarship on Expanded Cinema practices of the 1960s, Branden
Joseph and Roy Grundmann both single out VanDerBeeks animated discussions during the 1966
New York Film Festival Symposium as being representative of the optimism artists felt during the
period. Branden W. Joseph, Plastic Empathy: The Ghost of Robert Whitman, Grey Room 25 (Fall
2006): 65. Roy Grundmann, Masters of Ceremony: Media Demonstration as Performance in
Three Instances of Expanded Cinema, The Velvet Light Trap, no. 54 (Fall 2004): 54.
77. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 1.
79. Stan VanDerBeek, Re: Vision, American Scholar 35, no. 2 (1966): 339. The article is adapted
from a speech VanDerBeek delivered at Vision 65, an international design conference in Carbondale, Illinois.
80. It is precisely for this reason that the curators Massimiliano Gioni and Gary Carrion-Murayari
decided to include a full-scale operating Movie-Drome in the New Museum exhibition, Ghosts in
the Machine (July 18October 17, 2012). In collaboration with Sara VanDerBeek and the
VanDerBeek Estate, the curators conceptualized the Drome, not as a reproduction from photographs of the structure in Stony Point, but as a new realization based on notes, drawings and the
research presented in this volume. The critical stakes for the museums (the New Museum in particular, and contemporary art museums in general) representation of lost or unrealized projects
became part of the discussion in the panel Whats Wrong with Technological Art? The panel
was organized and moderated by art historian Megan Heuer at the New Museum on September
29, 2012, and included art historian Judith Rodenbeck, Heather Corcoran (director of Rhizome.
org), and me.


81.For an analysis of Youngbloods relationship to visual music and synaesthesia, see Kerry
Brougher, Visual-Music Culture, in Visual Music: Synaesthesia in Art and Music Since 1900 (New
York: Thames and Hudson, 2005).
82.Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 81.
83. Heller, unpublished Newsweek research report.
85. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 1.
87. Fran Heller, Newsweek Research Report.
88. Felicity Scott incisively asserts, Communes had adopted the geodesic domes of R. Buckminster Fuller (the very nemesis of architecture) as a radical alternative to establishment practices.
Embraced as environmentally sound, suitably spaced-out, do-it-yourself technologies, domes
were for a short while the countercultures architecture of choice. Scott, Architecture or TechnoUtopia: Politics after Modernism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 155. Moreover, the popularity
of do-it-yourself dome builders flourished in the late 1960s and early 1970s with enough of a
constituency to support publications such as the Domebook series, which was created by Lloyd
Kahn, the Shelter editor of the Whole Earth Catalog. Domebook 2, for example focused on unpacking the technical, mathematical, and practical applications of the geodesic dome and was published in 1971 by Pacific Domes, which billed itself as a nonprofit educational corporation.
Again see Scotts careful analysis of the reception of Buckminster Fullers ideas within the American counterculture in chapter 7 of Architecture or Techno-Utopia, esp. 18588.
89. In addition to Peter Cook, Archigram included Warren Chalk, Ron Herron, Dennis Crompton, Michael Webb and David Greene. Active in the United Kingdom throughout the 1960s and
early 1970s, the architectural collective disbanded in 1975. VanDerBeek received Archigrams
newsletters at his home in Stony Point. After his death, his copies were donated to the Museum
of Modern Art in New York, where they are housed in the museums library. Of particular interest
to VanDerBeek was Archigram no. 6, published in the fall of 1965, which he kept in his studio
files. This issue graphically outlined various uses of dome buildings and the ideas for erecting an
airhouse, a temporary inflatable dome structure. On the writings of Cedric Price, see Stanley
Mathews, From Agit-Prop to Free Space: The Architecture of Cedric Price (London: Black Dog Publishing, 2007).
90. Richard Kostelanetz conducted the interview with VanDerBeek with the intention of including the material in The Theater of Mixed Means, a collection of artist interviews with early proponents of Happenings and mixed means performances. Kostelanetz generously shared a copy of
the interview. Via e-mail correspondence on August 1, 2007, he said that he also had found a
letter from VanDerBeek apologizing for his tardiness in responding, suggesting the reason the
interview was never published in the book. Kostelanetz dates the interview as summer of 1966.
91. VanDerBeek, 1963 Program for Film Makers.


Chapter 2
1. R. Buckminster Fuller, Vision 65 Keynote Lecture (paper presented at the Vision 65 conference, Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, Illinois, 1965), 72.
2.Stan VanDerBeek quoted in taped interview with Ed Emshwiller December 15, 1973. The
Anthology Film Archives collection no. 122.
3.Author interview with Johanna VanDerBeek, July 20, 2006. Johanna VanDerBeek granted
access to the numerous files, slides, exhibition ephemera, and other research material from Stan
VanDerBeeks home and studio in July 2006. As a fellow artist and his wife from 1956 to 1973,
she provided additional biographical information referenced throughout this article.
4. Details of the conference are based on Hosanskys review for Industrial Design. Eugene Hosansky, A., Vision 65, Industrial Design (1966): 7981.
5. Ibid., 79.
6. This manifesto was first published as Culture: Intercom and Expanded Cinema: A Proposal
and would find a wider audience through its inclusion in the anthology, The New American
Cinema. VanDerBeek reprinted parts of this text as his artists statement for press releases, catalogues, programs and other printed matter between 1965 and 1969 when it was reprinted in its
entirety for the Cross Talk Intermedia Festival in Osaka in 1969. One of the most comprehensive layouts in terms of both text and visuals was given to its inclusion in Motive, a monthly
magazine published by the Methodist Churchs Division of Higher Education in November 1966.
In addition to its conceptual affinities with McLuhans writings, this version of VanDerBeeks
manifesto shows how the visual techniques of photo collage using newspaper headlines, news
photographs and other found text were also employed later by McLuhan in his numerous book
collaborations with Quentin Fiore. Most striking is the book War and Peace in the Global Village:
an inventory of some of the current spastic situations that could be eliminated by more feedforward (New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1968).
7. Stan VanDerBeek and Ed Emshwiller in conversation. August 19, 1974, uncatalogued audiotape, Anthology Film Archives collection.
8. Ibid., 7981. Hosanskys review of the conference proceedings reproduced the mission statement of the conference organizers and short quotes from what he labeled as key participants
including Stan VanDerBeek, Buckminster Fuller, and Marshall McLuhan.
9. Fullers Vision 65 speeches are part of the collection of essays in his influential book Utopia or
Oblivion: the Prospects for Humanity first published in 1969. Fullers summary address also appeared
in Perspecta 11 (1967). This issue of the Yale Architecture Journal reprised key talks given at Vision
65 and included a visual essay by VanDerBeek based on his talk. In addition, both of Fullers
Vision 65 lectures are part of a multivolume project by Fuller called World Design Science Decade
19651975 produced by Southern Illinois University and described as five two-year phases of a
world retooling design proposed to the International Union of Architects for Adoption by World
Architectural Schools. The Vision 65 essays are published in Phase II, 1967 Document 5. The


project examines issues such as ecological sustainability and population growth along with a
wide assortment of technological issues relating to architecture and design. The project was
edited by John McHale, who was then executive director of the World Resources Inventory at
Southern Illinois University. It is interesting to note that McHale, along with Richard Hamilton,
Reyner Banham, Alison Smithson, and Peter Smithson formed the London-based Independent
Group. McHales close relationship with Fuller would ensure the circulation of Fullers writings
and ideas in the UK. According to Joachim Krausse, the contacts that Fuller maintained with the
Independent Group since 1950 were strengthened further by John McHale from 1954 forward.
He arranged for numerous publications by and about Fuller in British magazines, including an
issue of Architectural Design in July 1961 that was dedicated to Fuller. Joachim Krausse and
Claude Lichtenstein, eds., Your Private Sky: Discourse R. Buckminster Fuller (Baden: Lars Mller Publishers, 2001), 47. McHale also wrote one of the most comprehensive biographies of Fuller. John
McHale, Buckminster Fuller (New York: George Braziller, 1962).
10. VanDerBeeks copy of his Vision 65 program provided by Johanna VanDerBeek.
11. Hosansky, 79.
12.Marshall McLuhan, The Invisible Environment: The Future of an Erosion, Perspecta 11
(1967): 100.
13. Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore, The Medium Is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects (New
York: Bantam, 1967), 101.
14. Marshall McLuhan and Edmund Carpenter, Explorations Studies in Culture and Communication
8 (Toronto: University of Toronto, 1957).
15. Joachim Krausse and Claude Lichtenstein, eds., Your Private Sky: Discourse R. Buckminster Fuller
(Baden: Lars Mller Publishers, 2001), 44.
16. Fullers illustrated autobiography edited by Robert Synder highlights the Time cover and the
New Yorker article as indicators of Fullers entry into popular culture and they use the descriptor
Dymaxion American in this context. Robert Synder, ed., Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical
Monologue/Scenario (New York: St. Martins Press, 1980), 151. Within the field of architecture
itself, Fuller experienced a similar change in critical reception. As Reinhold Martin summarizes,
the architectural establishment treated Fuller with a mixture of deference and skepticism during
his lifetime despite his prodigious achievements. He endured rejection at the hands of the American Institute of Architecture early on in his career, only to be celebrated in the inaugural issue of
Perspecta in 1952 as one of the three new directions in architecture, along with Philip Johnson
and Paul Rudolph. More significantly Martin notes, Fuller temporarily colonized schools of
architecture across the country, and as his systematic cultivation of the mass media paid off in his
coronation as a popular hero during the 1960s and 1970s. Reinhold Martin, Fuller? Why Fuller?
Why Now?, ANY 17 (1997) 15.
17. In fact, even as a historical figure, Reinhold Martin reminds us in the issue of the architecture
journal ANY that Fullers critical reception is never fixed, but remains full of internal discontinuities and overdeterminations. Ibid.


18. In his introduction to Fullers book Utopia or Oblivion, Stephen Mullin makes the point that
Fullers speaking style offered up a unique language model that he described as a practical and
restrained exposition that must be appreciated as a remarkable achievement considering the
complexity and detail of the topics under Fullers analysis. Stephen Mullin, Introduction, in R.
Buckminster Fullers Utopia or Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity (London: Allen Lane The Penguin Press, 1970), 9.
19.As one of his biographers, Robert Marks described, Fuller overloads the channels of communication. The simplest question evokes a torrent of insights expressed in an incisive, private
argot, resplendent with word coinages, hyphenated Latinisms, and tropes. Robert Marks, The
Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller (New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1960), i.
20. Mark Wigley, Planetary Homeboy, ANY 17 (1997): 1623.
21. Susan Sontag, One Culture and the New Sensibility, Against Interpretation and Other Essays
(New York: Noonday Press, 1965), 295.
22. Susan Sontag, Happenings: An Art of Radical Juxtaposition, Against Interpretation and Other
Essays (New York: Noonday Press, 1965), 262274.
23. Sontag, One Culture and the New Sensibility, 296.
24. Whitney Museum of American Art curator Dana Miller described this new cultural establishment as one that unashamedly drew upon scientific developments and was oriented toward the
plastic rather than the literary arts in the catalogue for the 2008 exhibition on Fuller. See Dana
Miller, Thought-Patterns: Buckminster Fuller the Scientist-Artist, in Buckminster Fuller: Starting
with the Universe (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 31.
26. Sontag, One Culture and the New Sensibility, 298.
27. A testament to Wieners influence within the field of visual art during this period is the inclusion of his text on cybernetics in the catalogue that accompanied the 1968 exhibition Cybernetic
Serendipity organized by Jasia Reichardt for the Institute of Contemporary Arts London. In addition, according to Harriss history of Black Mountain College, Wiener was one of the first members of the influential schools Board of Advisors. Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain
College, 175.
28. Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics, or Control and Communication in the Animal and Machine (New
York: John Wiley and Sons, 1948), 8.
29. VanDerBeeks statement reproduced in Hosansky, Vision 65, 81.
32. Dana Miller, Thought-Patterns: Buckminster Fuller the Scientist-Artist, 3132.


33. These terms comes from Reinhold Martin who noted that the new epistemologies of informatics, artistic and technical experimentation would later provide important objects of analysis for certain strains of continental poststructuralist thought: Paul Virilio on technologies of war;
Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari on John Cage, Jackson Pollock, and information theory; JeanFranois Lyotard on systems theory and game theory, and so on. Martin, Fuller? Why Fuller
Now?, 15. While this may be the case, the historical or even chronological leap from the source
writings of Fuller, Wiener, et al. in the 1940s and 1950s to the 1980s (at least in the case of Virilios writing) is quite typical of writing on this subject as evidenced by the articles included in
ANY 17 (1997), an issue devoted to Fuller edited by Martin. This leap is problematic, as it completely bypasses the ground covered by Sontags more fraught analysis of the new cultural establishment in the 1960s and 1970ssomething this study hopes to help fill out.
34.Gyrgy Kepes, Explorations (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1970), 1. See
also my essay that contextualizes Art in Americas reprinting of Stan VanDerBeeks signal text,
New Talenthe Computer as part of the magazines 100th anniversary. Gloria Sutton, Stan
VanDerBeek, Art in America (January 2013): 66.
35. Kepes, 1.
38. Burnham is better known as an art critic and historian whose important writings fleshed out
the relationship of technology to sculpture, earth works and other central art forms of the postwar period. Explorations also included work by Stephan Antonakos, Newton Harrison, Lila Katzen,
Gyrgy Kepes with William Wainwright, Preston McClanahan, Gary Thomas Rieveschl, Charles
Ross, James Seawright, Vera Simons, Wen-Ying Tsai, and Richard Venezky.
39. Moreover, in the fall of 1970, two other more documented exhibitions mounted in New York
City, Software curated by Burnham at the Jewish Museum and Kynaston McShines Information
exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art would present two additional trajectories for the conceptualization of new media and information technology within the visual arts.
40.Quoted from VanDerBeeks proposal titled Telephone Mural written for Marcia Tucker,
then curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, May 1969, 2004.M.13 box 61, folder, 22,
Marcia Tucker Papers, Getty Research Institute Library, Los Angeles.
41. Buckminster Fuller, Summary Lecture, Perspecta, no. 11 (1967).
42. Ibid., Fuller, Summary Lecture, 67.
43. In his introduction to Fullers Utopia or Oblivion, Stephen Mullin provides a summary of Fullers rhetorical strategies. While Fullers lectures were unscripted, Mullin notes, Fuller is now long
practiced in the art of continuous response to his audience, and actively develops his involvement sentence by sentence. He is thus able to maximize the peculiar skills and interests of that
audience and use them to develop the most favourable [sic] angle of attack on the particular


concepts under discussion. Stephen Mullin, Introduction, in R. Buckminster Fullers Utopia or

Oblivion: The Prospects for Humanity (London: Allen Lane and the Penguin Press, 1970), 9.
44. Felicity Scott makes this argument throughout Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics After Modernism. Specifically Scott notes, Fullers automatic evolution through technology, recast as revolution by design, would enjoy a second life in the late 60s and early 70s when adopted by the
American counterculture. While I agree with Scotts observations, the notion that a design revolution would be a substitute for direct political action is not limited to the counterculture but was
also absorbed by art groups such as EAT whose affiliation with IBM and Bell Labs situated them
more squarely within the mainstream than collectives such as USCO and Ant Farm which are at
the core of Scotts astute study. See Felicity Scott, Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics after Modernism (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 35. The revolution by design mantra also echoed the
pedagogy expressly connected to the Bauhaus which was loosely transplanted to Black Mountain
45. As Johanna VanDerBeek described it, when her husband was crafting his ideas for the shape
and use of the Movie-Drome, he was beside himself with excitement from the success of the
Vision 65 conference. Buckminster Fuller was there and Stan adored him. Johanna VanDerBeek
quoted in an interview with Museum of Modern Art curator Anne Morra. See Anne Morra, Interview with Johanna VanDerBeek, in Il grande ochio della notte: cinema davanguardia Americano
19201990, ed. Marilyn Mancino (Turin: Museo Nazionale del Cinema). Translated from the Italian for use here by Aaron Thomas.
46. R. Buckminster Fuller. 1954. Geodesic dome. US Patent 2,682,235, filed June 29, 1954. For a
copy of Fullers designs and drawings for the Geodesic dome approved by the US Patent Office see
Robert Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller (New York: Reinhold Publishing Corporation, 1960), 181.
47. VanDerBeek made a copy of the letter and put it in one of his Black Mountain College journals. Access to his uncataloged journals was provided by Johanna VanDerBeek.
48. According to Martin Duberman, thanks to the GI Bill the school found itself in the postwar
period with more applicants than it could comfortably handlea unique and temporary situation in the colleges history. Martin Duberman, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community
(New York: EP Dutton, 1972), 272. VanDerBeek had enlisted in the US Navy during the latter half
of the 1940s.
49. Ibid., 273.
51.Duberman, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community, 273.
52. Percival and Paul Goodman, CommunitasMeans of Livelihood and Ways of Life (New York:
Vintage, 1947 reprinted 1960).
53. Vera Williams quoted in Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain College (Cambridge,
MA: MIT Press, 1987 reprinted 2002), 215.


54. Percival and Paul Goodman, CommunitasMeans of Livelihood and Ways of Life (New York:
Vintage, 1947 reprinted 1960), 6. The Goodmans also noted how the cycle of technological innovation often makes people dependent on devices that they do not know how to fix themselves.
Here once again we have the inevitable irony of history: industry, invention, scientific method
have opened new opportunities, but just as the moment of opportunity, people have become ignorant by specialization and superstitious of science and technology, so that they no longer know
what they want, nor do they dare command it. The facts are exactly the world of Kafka: a person
has every kind of electrical appliance in his home, but he is balked, cold-fed, and even plunged
into darkness because he no longer knows how to fix a faulty connection. Communitas, 14.
55. According to Fullers account, It was during the war that I was being asked to give talksby
Boeing Company and other companies and institutionsand I came east. We were living in
Forest Hills in New York then, and I was asked to speak at the Institute of Design in Chicago.
They were crazy about my presentation and apparently as a consequence I got a call from Joseph
Albers at Black Mountain College to be one their summer professors for the summer of 1948, and
I accepted. Robert Synder, ed., Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario (New
York: St. Martins Press, 1980).
56.Fullers presence at Black Mountain should be distinguished from year-round instructors.
Duberman suggests that due to the fact that the summer teachers werent trying to make a life at
Black Mountain, the summer institute experiences were contrary to the community patterns
during the year. The limited time commitment, argues Duberman, encouraged a restricted
emotional one. Things were kept light, unpleasantness circumvented, difficulties shrugged off
and perhaps one of the most enduring qualities of the summer institutes resulted in the institutes
being considered utopias of a sortplaces, that is of a good-humored vitality, of agreeable sights
and sounds, of people making an effort to be pleasant and cooperative. Duberman, 280. In more
pragmatic terms, the limited time frame of the summer institute allowed those who had other
academic affiliations or were reluctant to spend more time away from their studios to come to the
College. As an aside, Fuller also wrote the essay Total Thinking at Black Mountain College
during the following summer stint in 1949. In this important, but less cited essay, Fuller makes
the case for computer programming as a type of experimental strategy. Introducing the text in a
collection of his essays, Fuller stated the piece was written prior to the electronic computers
present massive development and the latters swiftly fed-back popularization of Professor Norbert Wieners Cybernetics born language of 1948. He added, I had not read cybernetics when I
wrote Total Thinking and I publish it now (1963) because its analytical epistemology unexpectedly provides a broad view of computer-programming conceptions and experimental strategies
which embrace potentially powerful forecasting abilities. James Meller, ed., The Buckminster
Fuller Reader (Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, 1972), 310.
57.Duberman, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community; Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller.
58.Duberman, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community, 285287. Duberman interviewed
Fuller, Cunningham and de Kooning and described their accounts.


59. According to Dubermans research, Arthur Penn, one of the students who helped bolt the
Venetian blind strips corroborated Fullers version. Duberman interviewed Penn who noted,
The dome fell down because it was predicted to fall down. Fullers calculations clearly showed
the structure not being able to be maintained using those flimsy materials.
60.Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller, 178.
61. These terms and points are raised by Duberman, who notes, Fuller long believed that buildings were overbuilt, that the fortress mentality (the heavier the better for security purposes)
had prevented attention to other needs. Duberman, Black Mountain: An Exploration in Community, 285.
62. This description comes from Markss section on Geodesic Invention and Development. For
a more detailed description about these experiments and other similar experiments in critical
limits Fuller conducted at the Chicago Institute of Design, see Marks, The Dymaxion World of
Buckminster Fuller, 178189.
63. This notion of failure as a process of production is in contrast to Brandon Josephs account of
Fullers supine dome in which he describes Fullers attempt to erect a geodesic dome as a failed
trial. See Branden W. Joseph, Hitchhiker in an Omni-Directional Transport: The Spatial Politics
of John Cage and Buckminster Fuller, ANY 17 (1997).
64.Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller, 19.
65.Joseph Corn and Brian Horrigan, Yesterdays Tomorrows: Past Visions of the American Future
(Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1984), 6769. In addition, Markss study on Fuller
relays a detailed history of how the Dymaxion moniker derived from Fullers earlier studies in
relativity physics (time-space dimension), what he referred to as 4D; the acronym became short
hand for Fullers writings on radically revising the conception of a house and was also the title
given to a publication Fuller produced in a small print run of 200 mimeographed copies bound
by hand in 1927 and then later published as 4D Timelock. See Marks, The Dymaxion World of
Buckminster Fuller, 1924. In an interesting note, Marks points out that the term Dymaxion that
has become synonymous with Buckminster Fullers designs was actually coined in 1929, not by
Fuller, but by the Marshall Field department store in Chicago. The firms marketing department
had seen Fullers 4D house model and searching for a setting that would dramatize, yet also contextualize the forward design of the modern furniture they were selling ordered from the Paris
Exposition of 1926. As Marks notes, the promotional minds of the Marshall Field organization
decided that for maximum publicity effectiveness Fullers house of the future required a name
more acceptable than 4D, which seemed to suggest not so much the fourth dimension as a
grade in public school or, perhaps living quarters on the fourth floor of an ordinary apartment.
Marks, 24.
66.Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller, 21.
68. Ibid., 20.


69. Marks asserts that Fullers Dymaxion house was the first tangible embodiment of what one
French architect hopefully designated as a Machine-for-Living. Its purpose was avowedly not
only to keep the occupants sheltered from the bite of the elements, but also to reduce to a minimum the drudgery of physical existence. The central mast, in which basic utilities were factoryinstalled, came ready for instant use.
70. Robert Synder, Buckminster Fuller: An Autobiographical Monologue/Scenario (New York: St. Martins Press, 1980).
71.Scott, Architecture or Techno-Utopia: Politics after Modernism, 185. Scott offers this description
at the start of her chapter on the rise of backyard domes, and the ensuing subculture with its
related publications including the edited manual, or information net, for do-it-yourself domebuilders called Domebook.
72.Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller, 21.
73. Percival and Paul Goodman, CommunitasMeans of Livelihood and Ways of Life (New York:
Vintage, 1947 reprinted 1960), 19.
74.The use of a grain silo to create the Movie-Drome may have been linked to another early
lesson gleaned from Black Mountain Colleges rural setting in western North Carolina. Among
VanDerBeeks uncatalogued papers is a very battered copy of an issue (vol. 3 no. 1, 1952) of North
Carolina State College of Designs student publication featuring a detailed text on Fuller and his
experimental designs. Also, an article entitled The Architect and Agriculture is included. This
essay outlines how the field of architecture has remained primarily divided between urban and
suburban contexts with little to application or dialogue with more rural settings. The article outlines how structures specific to farms such as groupings of buildings, communal use, mobile
structures, equipment sharing, and the like have much to offer modern models of experimental
75. A series of black-and-white contact sheets documenting the construction of the Movie-Drome
during its initial construction phase in 1965 were located among VanDerBeeks papers stored in
the VanDerBeeks Baltimore home in 2007 and have been generously shared with the author by
Sara VanDerBeek.
76. Stan VanDerBeek, Media W/Rap Around, or a Man with No Close, Filmmakers Newsletter 4,
no. 5 (1971): 20. Also, in the documentary VanDerBeekiania! VanDerBeek states I built the dome
out of a 31-foot silo top I bought from a manufacturer in Chicago, the Midwest grain area, and
they shipped it to me in this great big enormous box. See Archive, Creative Arts Television.
VanDerBeekiania!: Stan VanDerBeeks Vision (Creative Arts Television Archive, 1968, video).
77.Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster Fuller, 131.
79. Ibid., 21.
80.The sketch is undated but was stored together with a series of other similar drawings that
were dated 1957.


81. According to Marks, it is a cardinal assumption of Fullers that all design should be muted at
zero as with a musical instrument. A violin or a piano is not itself a form of music, nor is it a
container of music; it is a device for articulation. A house has a corresponding function. The harmonic potential for design should be articulated by those who live in the house; what is significant is the personality of the dweller, not the dwelling. Marks, The Dymaxion World of Buckminster
Fuller, 22.
82. Ibid., 23.
83. Johanna VanDerBeek, interview with the author, July 27, 2006. She explained that Paul and
Vera Williams, who financed the purchase of the property, owned the rights to the Land. Individual sections were parceled out to families to build their own structures. However, the artists
did not actually own their own lots, or maintain formal lease agreements. And when occupants
vacated as the VanDerBeeks did in late 1968, structures were left behind and new occupants
moved in. Therefore, as of 2014, the Movie-Drome structure still exists on the Land. However,
subsequent occupants have covered the aluminum surface with shingles and other building
materials and radically altered the interior space.
84. Filmmakers, 16 mm film transferred to DVD, directed by Takahiko Iimura (1969, Japan: Film
Co-op, 2005). This DVD version of Iimuras film is a compilation of portraits the Tokyo-based
filmmaker shot of filmmakers whom I was most interested in at the time; Stan Brakhage, Stan
VanDerBeek, Jack Smith, Jonas Mekas, Andy Warhol. The footage was shot during Iimuras first
visit to the US between 1966 and 1968 and then edited in Japan in 1969. Iimuras commentary
notes that he chose to profile each filmmaker subject by borrowing the technique most associated with that filmmakerthe frame-by frame shots of Jonas Mekas, for example. Likewise,
VanDerBeeks portrait is composed of Iimura spinning the camera in a circle. The footage includes
scenes of the VanDerBeeks at home, and also a multimedia program run in the Movie-Drome.
85. Gail Sheehy, Home Is Where the Dome Is, New York Herald Tribune, 1965. A copy of this
article was provided by Johanna VanDerBeek.
86.The six-page, hand-written log was stored among VanDerBeeks files in his home in Baltimore. Access to the material was provided by Louise and Sara VanDerBeek.
87. Barry DeMuth, 1964. Courtesy of the Stan VanDerBeek Estate.
88. These drawings and notes are from VanDerBeeks papers housed in the Museum of Modern
Arts Film Study Center special collections.
89. This elongated, covered walkway directly mimics entrances for Panoramas.
90.Stan VanDerBeek, Media W/Rap Around, or a Man with No Close, Filmmakers Newsletter
no. 4 (1971): 20.


93. Michael K. Hayes, Fullers Geological Engagements with Architecture, in Buckminster Fuller:
Starting with the Universe, Michael K. Hayes and Dana Miller, eds. (New Haven and London: Yale
University Press, 2008), 3.
95.According to Hayes, Fullers speculation on the prospect of developing a data-mapping
system dated back to 1928. Hayes cites Fullers chapter 19 called Land to SkyThe Outward
Progression in which Fuller makes references to a great glass globe of the earth. Fuller opined,
The point of view, through introspection, unlimited to the segmental area of our temporal eyes,
is our abstract central position in the center of the universe, looking or building from the inside
out, as from the center of a great glass globe of the earth. Ibid., 9 and also Buckminster Fuller, 4D
Time Lock (Albuquerque, New Mexico: Lama Foundation-Cookbook Fund I Biotechnic Press,
1972), 31.
96. These models developed from architectural classes Fuller was teaching at Cornell, Princeton,
and the University of Minnesota. For the most comprehensive account of the Geoscope project
including its conceptual relationship to the Sky Ocean World map and its subsequent relationship to Fullers Expo 67 design along with Fullers rationale for developing a real-time map that
could make the invisible visible and possibly affect US USSR relations see chapter 5 in Buckminster Fuller, Critical Path (London: Hutchinson and Company, 1981). For a comprehensive
account of Fullers geodesic dome construction see Yunn Chii Wong, The Geodesic Works of
Richard Buckminster Fuller, 194868 (Universe as a Home of Man), dissertation, MIT, 1999.
97.Fuller, Critical Path, 174.
98.According to Joachim Krausse, the contacts that Fuller maintained with the Independent
Group since 1950 were strengthened further by John McHale from 1954 forward. He arranged for
numerous publications by and about Fuller in British magazines, including an issue of Architectural Design in July 1961 that was dedicated to Fuller. Joachim Krausse and Claude Lichtenstein,
eds., Your Private Sky: Discourse R. Buckminster Fuller (Baden: Lars Mller Publishers, 2001), 47.
McHale also wrote one of the most comprehensive biographies of Fuller. John McHale, Buckminster Fuller (New York: George Braziller, 1962).
99. Hayes, Fullers Geological Engagements with Architecture, 9.
101.Fuller, Critical Path, 17374.
103. Lewis H. Lapham, Introduction to MIT Press Edition, in Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2001), x.
104. McLuhan, The Invisible Environment: The Future of an Erosion, 166.


107.Stan VanDerBeek, Culture: Intercom and Expanded Cinema, A Proposal, in The New
American Cinema, edited by Gregory Battcock (New York: Dutton, 1967), 173.
108. Marshall McLuhan, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press,
2001), 57.

Chapter 3
1. Oliver Grau, Virtual Art from Illusion to Immersion (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 14.
2. Ibid, 15.
3. Alison Griffiths, Shivers Down Your Spine: Cinema, Museums, and the Immersive View (New York:
Columbia University Press, 2008), 3.
4. Erkki Huhtamo, Illusions in Motion: Media Archaeology of the Moving Panorama and Related Spectacles (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2013), 5.
5. Quote by VanDerBeek from an unpublished interview with Richard Kostelanetz, 1966.
6. Sontag, One Culture and the New Sensibility, 296.
8. Ibid, 304.
9. Bernard Karpel, Hannah B. Muller, and Mrs. Donald Straus, The Revision of Vision, The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art 21, no. 2, Idea & Symbol in the Library (Winter, 19531954),
New York: Museum of Modern Art, 323.
10.Stan VanDerBeek, Re: Vision, The American Scholar 35, no. 2 (1966): 339. The article is
adapted from a speech VanDerBeek delivered at Vision 65.
11. Beaumont Newhall as quoted in Karpel, Muller, and Straus, The Revision of Vision, 3.
12. Ibid
13. For a detailed examination of the confluences between Op art and Expanded Cinema see The
Expanded Eye: Stalking the Unseen (Zrich: Kunsthaus Zrich and Hatje Cantz), 2006. This exhibition catalogue was edited by curator Bice Curiger and accompanied the exhibition she organized
of post war experiments in visual phenomena at the Kunsthaus Zurich from June 16September
3, 2006. VanDerBeeks 16 mm films, Poemfield No. 3 (1967) as well as Moirage (196668) were
projected as part of the exhibitions screening series on August 26 and 27, 2006.
14. Stan VanDerBeek, Towards a Definition of Photography, Five Photographers (Black Mountain, NC: Black Mountain College, n. d.), unpaged. In addition to work by VanDerBeek, the publication includes photographs and statements by Hazel Larsen Archer, Vernon Phillips, Andrew
Oates, Jr., and Nick Cernovich. A copy of Five Photographers is in the research library of the
Museum of Modern Art, New York.


15. Ibid. For a description of Archers photography course and the introduction of film at Black
Mountain College see Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain College (Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 2002), 182201, especially 188.
16. References are to images that appear in VanDerBeeks animated films: Science Friction, 1959,
10 min., color; Wheels, Or, America on Wheels, 1958, 4 min., black and white, sound; A La Mode:
An Attire Satire, 1959, 7 min., black and white, sound; Breathdeath: A Trageede in Masks, 1963, 15
min., black and white, sound, all in the film collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
Screened July 24, 2001.
17. Sontag, 303.
18. The color photographs and article produced for the pages of Arts Magazine and Grahams 35
mm slide projector presentation of these straightforward color photographs focus on the uniformity in design and fabrication of these type of homes.
19. The History of Violence was produced between 1971 and 1973 while VanDerBeek was a fellow
at MITs Center for Advanced Visual Studies. The work is composed of a 14-page non-article
collaging articles, images, and headlines from a variety of newspapers and other media sources.
Juxtaposing information about military research and war with advances in media technology
such as satellites and cable, VanDerBeek presents a visual essay about education and media.
20. Sontag, 29697.
21. Sontag, 29798.
22. Sontag, 304.
23. For a more detailed consideration of what art historian Julia Robinson has called Oldenburgs
metaphoric mode of intervention into 1960s art practice, see her excellent account in Before
Attitudes Became FormNew Realisms: 19571962 in New Realisms: 19571962 Object Strategies
Between Readymade and Spectacle, Julia Robinson ed. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2010), 2339,
esp. 3637.
24. Snapshots of the City is in the film collection of the Museum of Modern Art, New York. I
would like to thank curators Anne Morra and Charles Silver for their help in arranging a series of
screenings of VanDerBeeks film for my research.
25.Johanna VanDerBeek donated the only remaining print of this 16 mm film to Anthology
Film Archives. Claes Oldenburg re-edited another version of this film into a two-part work which
he titled Birth of the Flag I, II (16 mm, black and white, silent, 19 minutes each part). Crediting
VanDerBeek with the film, Oldenburgs version also lists Diane Rochlin and Sheldon Rochlin as
co-filmmakers. Rudy Wurlitzer is listed as the co-producer. The film was screened in the retrospective Claes Oldenburg: An Anthology, organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC
(February 12May 7, 1995) and traveled to the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (June
18September 3, 1995), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York (October 7, 1995January 21, 1996), Kunst- und Ausstellungshalle der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Bonn (February
15May 12, 1996) and the Hayward Gallery, London (June 6August 19, 1996).


26. While distinct from the multiscreen projection experiments VanDerBeek engaged with, he
also collaborated on a filmed work called Site with Robert Morris and Carolee Schneemann that
used a series of blank boards. Performed in 1964, Site was later included in Aspen magazine issue
5/6 as a 8 mm reel with about a 5-minute excerpt from the performance. The footage featured a
gloved Robert Morris methodically lifting a series of five-by-eight plywood sheets and positioning
them around the stage. The boards were arranged and propped up horizontally on the stage to
function as a series of blinds or covers and as he removed the final one, Morris revealed a nude
Schneemann, seemingly (un)dressed wearing a fabric choker, posing as Manets Olympia propped
up on a sheet-covered couch. See Aspen 5/6 (Fall/Winter 1967).
27. Stan VanDerBeek, The Cinema Delimina: Films from the Underground, Film Quarterly 14
(Summer 1961): 513.
28. VanDerBeeks terms as quoted in the documentary film VanDerBeekiania!: Stan VanDerBeeks
Vision, 1968. He states: Theres a conflict there and I think were opening a new idea of the
dynamics of things. I like to call it the aesthetics of anticipation, which is compared to the 19th
century idea of the aesthetics of mediation. Its a very important change over in our culture. This
change over also occurred to me when I began working with computers. I realized that computers
are probably the most significant graphic tool of our time. Creative Arts Television Archive,
VanDerBeekiania!: Stan VanDerBeeks Vision (Creative Arts Television Archive, 1968). Moreover,
VanDerBeek referred to the distinction between the nineteenth and twentieth century as a difference in meditation and anticipation in numerous published articles and essays such as Re:
Vision, in which he wrote, I have emphasized that motion pictures are the unique art form of
the twentieth century, that they have produced a revolution in worldwide aesthetics (namely,
that motion pictures have produced the new aesthetics of anticipation, as compared to the older
idea of painting and art history as mediation). See VanDerBeek, Re: Vision, 339.
29. Stan VanDerBeek, Social Imagistics, or some thoughts about some experiences I have had in
video, and some thoughts and experiences I would like to try in video, in The New Television: A
Public/Private Art, ed. Davis and Simmons (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974), 58.
30. VanDerBeek, Culture: Intercom, 175.
31. This form of immersion also registered in psychological terms. VanDerBeeks ultimate aim was
to employ all of the various forms of media, film, video, sounds, and lights at his disposal in such a
way that they disappear and are no longer noticed by the viewer so that the immersive subject, like
the subject of Heideggers world-picture or Benjamins auratic scene as defined by Sam Weber
does not merely breathe in the scene, but absorbs it. See Sam Weber, Mass Mediauras, Or: Art and
Media in the Work of Walter Benjamin, Mass Mediauras: Form, Technic, Media (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1996), 97.
32. These diverse viewing structures for film derive from earlier mediums for images including
the panorama and diorama, which were the initial venues for aligning immersion with illusion in
a mass form. On this topic see Oliver Grau, Intermedia Stages of Virtual Reality in the Twentieth
Century in Virtual Art from Illusion to Immersion (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2003), 14190, esp.


33. Scott McQuire, Maximum Vision: Large-format and Special-venue Cinema (Brisbane: Australian
Key Centre for Cultural and Media Policy, Griffith University, 1999), 103.
34.John Belton, Widescreen Cinema (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992), 189.
Belton quotes from an ad for Cineramas CinemaScope, which promised, You wont be gazing at
a movie screenyoull find yourself swept right into the picture, surrounded by sight and sound.
Everything that is happening on the curved Cinerama CinemaScope screen is happening to you.
35. Jean Baudrillard, Simulations, trans. Paul Foss, Paul Patton and Philip Beitchman (New York:
Semiotext(e), 1983).
36.Janet Vrchota, Stan VanDerBeek: Technology's Migrant Fruit Picker, Print (March/April
1973): 4854, esp. 49.
37.Ibid. In addition, in the Fourth New York Film Festivals Expanded Cinema symposium
panel, VanDerBeek also noted that every new technical invention, rather than hurt the previous
state of our aesthetic, has done the exact opposite. It has geared it up. We have just speeded up
[sic] our whole sensitivitiessense organs are just expanding quite literally and were using the
term expanded cinema as a simile to that effect. Dewey, Geldzahler, et al., 1.
38. Stan VanDerBeek, Culture: Intercom and Expanded Cinema: A Proposal, in The New American Cinema, ed. Gregory Battcock (New York Dutton, 1967), 175.
39. On the rise of consumer electronics and mediation see Mark Poster, Words without Things:
The Mode of Information, October 53 (Summer 1990): 63. More significantly, in his detailed cultural history of electrics and the networks that support them, Brian Winston suggests that beyond
a straightforward account of technological history are more questions about how the pattern of
innovation and diffusion of electrical and electronic communications illuminates the broader role
played by such technologies in our civilization. Brian Winston, Media Technology and Society A
History: From the Telegraph to the Internet (New York and London: Routledge, 2008), 2.
40. Sheldon Renan, An Introduction to The American Underground Film (New York: Dutton, 1967),
41.David Joselit, Feedback: Television Against Democracy (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press,
2007), 15.
42. Ibid., 91. For this historical information, Joselit cites Ralph Engelman, Public Radio and Television in America: A Political History (Thousand Oaks, California: Sage Publications, 1996), especially
23545. See also Winstons assessment of the impact that launching of domestic satellites had on
the development of FCC regulations and the resulting effects in his analysis of the US cable
industry that appears in the aptly named section the intricate web of trails, this grand system,
from Media Technology and Society A History: From the Telegraph to the Internet (New York: Routledge, 2008), esp. 308314.
43.Raindancewhose members included Phyllis Gershuny, Frank Gillette, Beryl Korot, Paul
Ryan, Ira Schneider, and Michael Shambergwas established to do R & D in the emerging field
of media ecology.


44.Shamberg and Raindance Corporation, Guerilla Television (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1971).
45.Though VanDerBeek and the members of the Raindance Corporation operated in distinct
spheres of this emerging field, they did continue to overlap. Both participated in Eyeconosphear, from May 39, 1971 at SUNY Buffalo. Organized by Gerald OGrady, Eyeconosphear
according to the program notes, was designed to have students personally participate in the
creation of the latest electronic art forms which are transforming the contemporary consciousness. The festivals hands-on approach and emphasis on workshops encapsulated the pedagogy
that OGrady advanced through the formation of the media studies program. To this end, a wide
range of writers, musicians, and artists were invited to work with students including Gene Youngblood, Yayoi Kusama, Raindance, and VanDerBeek who following the pun of the festival name
created the multiscreen installation, Media (W)rap Around a Man with No Close.
46. The histories of many of these organizations coalesced in Julie Aults important 1996 exhibition Cultural Economies: Histories from the Alternative Arts Movement, NYC at the Drawing
Center, New York. The exhibition and its related programming informed the anthology Alternative Art: New York 196585 (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2002), edited by Ault.
47. This window between 1970 and 1974 was the subject of a conference entitled Open Circuits:
An International Conference on the Future of Television at the Museum of Modern Art in January 1974. Douglas Davis and Allison Simmons edited the essays, statements and discussions into
the book entitled, The New Television: A Public/Private Art (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974). The
inherently international scope of this enterprise was captured in the sections focused on outlining activities in the US, UK, Africa, Asia, Central Europe, Japan and Latin America. In many ways
this volume would establish the points of critical investigation of media art that continue to
occupy the field more broadly framed.
48. The Artists-in-Television program was supported by the Rockefeller Foundation, which gave
grants to both WGBH in Boston and KQED in San Francisco.
49. Gerald OGrady detailed VanDerBeeks work at WGBH in an interview in Cambridge, MA on
September 5, 2013. While Violence Sonata did not air until 1970, VanDerBeek had been developing the project as early as 1965 as indicated by a letter to Boyd Compton of the Rockefeller
Foundation dated November 2, 1965. In this informal proposal to the Rockefeller Foundation,
VanDerBeek outlined a number of ideas for projects including making a film called Violence
Sonata. Describing the project VanDerBeek wrote, The presentation will try to deal with violence
as an emotional force, in which by using certain images I hope to induce a revulsion to the idea
of violence ... that film is called Violence Sonata. A copy of this letter is included in the
Museum of Modern Art Department of Film and Media Exhibition Files on Stan VanDerBeek, box
no. 7.
50. Gerald OGrady, Stan VanDerBeek's Violence Sonata realized in and on Channels 2 and 44,
WGBH-TV, Boston. Copy of OGradys press release provided by the Iota Center, Los Angeles.


51. Stan VanDerBeek, Social Imagistics, or some thoughts about some experiences I have had in
video, and some thoughts and experiences I would like to try in video, in The New Television: A
Public/Private Art, Davis and Simmons, eds. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974), 60.
54.The reference to Turings Universal Machine stems from John Johnston, Friedrich Kittler:
Media Theory After Poststructuralism in Friedrich A. Kittler Essays: Literature, Media, Information
Systems (Amsterdam: G+B Arts International, 1997), 5. The definition of Turings Universal
Machine derives from Andrew Hodges, Alan Turing the Enigma of Intelligence (London: Burnett
Books, 1983), and A.K. Dewdney, The Turing Omnibus: 61 Excursions in Computer Science (Rockville, MD: Computer Science Press, 1989), 314.
55.Teslas project was described by Jonathan Crary, in Eclipse of the Spectacle, in Art After
Modernism: Rethinking Representation, ed. Brian Wallis and Marcia Tucker (New York: New Museum
of Contemporary Art, 1984), 283. Tesla asserted that photographs were only the first steps toward
the immeasurable greater achievement of televisionthe instantaneous transmission of visual
impressions to any distance by wire or wireless. Tesla also tied the mode of reception to the
physical body by trying to develop a transmitter analogous to the retina of the eye, a medium of
conveyance corresponding to the optic nerve and a receiver organized similarly to the brain.
Nikola Tesla Museum, Nikola Tesla: Lectures, Patents, Articles (Belgrade: Nikola Tesla Museum,
1956), A-97.
56.For example, see Emily Thompsons excellent discussion on the deployment of amplified
phonographs, public address systems, microphones, and loudspeakers into the American soundscape during the 1920s that not only reproduced sound, but engendered new ways of listening.
These innovations also led to audiences becoming what she identifies as increasingly sound
conscious, desiring a sound that was clear and focused, issuing directly toward them with
little opportunity to reflect and reverberate off the surfaces of the room in which it was generated. Thompson details how these recording and playback capabilities encouraged or emphasized fidelity to the original source. Emily Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity: Architectural
Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America 19001933 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004),
57. This proposed application of the idea of remediation, while indebted to Jay David Bolter and
Richard Grusins analysis of the term, breaks from their definition, which is based on what they
call hypermediation, and focuses on the qualities intrinsic to digital media, namely, speed and
efficiency. Instead, within the context of analog media such as film, remediation tends to slow
down the process of reception. See Jay David Bolter and Richard Grusin, Remediation: Understanding New Media (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2000).
58. Variations 1 (1958); Variations II (1961); Variations III (1962); Variations IV (1964); Variations V
(1965); Variations VI (1966); Variations VII (1966); Variations VIII (1978).


59. This description and what follows is based on dancer Carolyn Browns detailed chronicle of
Variations V in her biography Chance and Circumstance Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham
(New York: Random House, 2009), 45860 and 477.
60. Richard Kostelanetz, The Theater of Mixed Means, an Introduction to Happenings, Kinetic Environments, and Other Mixed-Means Performances (New York: Dial Press, 1968), 20.
61. Brown, 459.
62. According to William Fettermans account of Variation V, the soundmixer was designed by
Max Mathews. The unscored collaboration at Lincoln Center on July 23, 1965 included choreography by Merce Cunningham with himself, Carolyn Brown, Barbara Lloyd, Sandra Neels, Albert
Reid, Peter Saul, and Gus Solomon, Jr.; electronic devices by Robert Moog; films by Stan VanDerBeek, and distorted television images by Nam June Paik; lighting by Beverly Emmons; the musicians John Cage, David Tudor, Malcolm Goldstein, Frederick Lieberman, and James Tenney; and
Billy Klver as technical consultant. Fetterman, William. John Cages Theater Pieces: Notations and
Performances (Contemporary Music Series: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1996), 12829.
63.See for example Jenkins, 202 and David Revill, The Roaring Silence: John Cage, a Life (New
York: Arcade Publishing, 1992). A description of VanDerBeeks participation in Variations V is
also included in Michael Rushs, New Media in Late 20th Century Art, 37. While attending Black
Mountain College during the early 1950s, VanDerBeek met and worked with Merce Cunningham
and Cage. Developing Variations V was likely more of a collaborative process between all of the
artists involved. This discrepancy also reflects the nature of these types of malleable events in
which the level of participation often changed and the audiovisual elements of the performance
reflected this shifting nature inherent in the work itself so that for example, in the version of
Variations V that was broadcast in Hamburg, Paiks visualizations that play on the surface of the
screen are considerably more noticeable than in the mixed projection environment within Lincoln Center. The documentation for these types of remediated events often does not reflect the
collaborative nature of these events recording and referring to them as the same event simply
performed at different dates and locations.
64. Jud Yalkut, Understanding Intermedia: Passage Beyond Definitions, Arts Magazine 41, no. 7
(May 1967): 20; Clement Greenberg, Avant-Garde Attitudes: New Art in the Sixties, Studio International 179, no. 921 (April 1970): 142.
65. The score for Variations V was created by Cage in September and October 1965 at Gate Hill
Co-op after its first performance in Lincoln Center and contains 37 remarks concerning an audiovisual performance, including a list of participants in the initial staging. The four-page score was
published by Henmar Press in New York in 1965 and is in the Special Collections of the Getty
Research Institute Library: Score, David Tudor papers, no. 980039, Getty Research Institute.
66.William Fetterman, John Cages Theater Pieces: Notations and Performances (Contemporary
Music Series: Harwood Academic Publishers, 1996), 130.
68. Richard Kostelanetz, The Theater of Mixed Means, 62.


69. Ibid., 6263.

70. Ibid., 63.
71. I am employing the term soundscape as defined by Emily Thompson following the work of
Alain Corbin as an auditory or aural landscape. Like a landscape, a soundscape is simultaneously
a physical environment and a way of perceiving that environment; it is both a world and a culture constructed to makes sense of that word. Emily Thompson, The Soundscape of Modernity:
Architectural Acoustics and the Culture of Listening in America 19001933 (Cambridge, MA: MIT
Press, 2002), 1.
72. In 1966 Norddeutscher Rundfunk Hamburg and Sveriges Radio Television produced a version
of Variations V specifically for television broadcast.
73. While I insist on recognizing a distinction between experience and form, I am not implying
that experience is immune from taking on an object status. The concept of experience itself can
also be reified into a commodity, especially within the realm of the media or cultural industry.
Themed parks, restaurants and museums based on films are just one example.
74. This is a reference to Jonathan Crarys modernity thesis which posits the idea that the nineteenth-century observer was shaped by the convergence of new urban spaces, technologies and
new economic and symbolic functions of images and productsforms of artificial lighting, new
use of mirrors, glass and steel architecture, crowds. Jonathan Crary, Techniques of the Observer: On
Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992), 20. In a special
issue of The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism devoted to the historicity of the eye, Nol
Carroll challenges Crarys thesis and the notion that human vision changes over history and
that artistic representation plays a significant role in effecting such transformations. He argues
that the human perceptual apparatusat the level of seeing how things look and recognizing
them on that basisdoes not change, and, therefore, art does not change vision. See Nol Carroll, Modernity and the Plasticity of Perception, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 59,
no. 1 (2001). I want to argue in agreement with Crary that while art may not alter the physical
act of seeing, it is conditioned through certain social and technical apparatuses. See also Mark C.
Taylor, Net Working, in Anyway, ed. Cynthia Davidson (New York: Rizzoli, 1994).

Chapter 4
1.Michel Foucault, Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias, in Architecture Culture 1943
1968, ed. Joan Ockman (New York: Columbia Books of Architecture/Rizzoli, 1993), 420.
2. Ulrich Conrads and Hans Sperlich, The Architecture of Fantasy; Utopian Building and Planning in
Modern Times, translated, edited, and expanded by Christiane Crasemann Collins and George R.
Collins (New York: Praeger Press), 1962. I would like to thank Sara VanDerBeek for bringing this
book to my attention.
3.Joan Ockman, The Road Not Taken: Alexander Dorners Way Beyond Art, Autonomy and
Ideology: Positioning an Avant-Garde in America, ed. Robert Somol (New York: Monacceli Press,


1997), 87. Ockman details how the Cabinet of Abstract Art was the culmination of Hannover
Museum director Alexander Dorners synaesthetic concept of the atmosphere room. She maintains that instead of presenting artworks as isolated objects or stylistic manifestations accompanied by associated dcoras in the traditional period room, with its simulated interiorDorner
attempted to re-create the way of seeing or Kunstwollen, specific to each epoch.
4.Timothy O. Benson, ed., Central European Avant-Gardes: Exchange and Transformation, 1910
1930 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2002), 167168. The Spatial Theater was developed for the
Vienna Concert Hall and also appears in the special issue of the Ma journal devoted to new theater techniques. See Frederick Kiesler, Internationale Ausstellung Neuer Theatertechnik, in Ma
(Vienna: Kunsthandlung Wthle and Sohn, 1924).
5. These are Kieslers terms used to describe the Spatial Theater. See Maria Bottero, Frederick Kiesler:
Arte Architettura Ambiente (Milan: La Triennale di Milano/Electra, 1995), 190191.
6. Ibid., 191.
9.Frederick Kiesler, Selected Writings, Siegfried and Gunda Luyken, eds. (Hatje: Verlag Gerd,
1996), 1617.
10. Martha Ward notes that despite the appearance of salons during the eighteenth century, it is
nevertheless the case that art installation during this period was not yet a subject for professional discussion, lacking a particular language or pervasive set of standards. See Martha Ward,
History of Modern Art Exhibitions, in Thinking about Exhibitions, Reesa Greenberg, et al. eds.
(New York: Routledge, 1996), 45253.
11. Foucault, 420. This is a reference to Foucaults definition of spectacle as a set of techniques
used expressly for the regulation of bodies.
12.Christopher Phillips, The Judgment Seat of Photography, in October: The First Decade
19761986 (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987), 273.
13. Roland Barthes, From Work to Text, in Image, Music, Text (New York: Noonday Press, 1977).
14.Hector Currie and Michael Porte, eds., Cinema Now: Stan Brakhage, John Cage, Jonas Mekas,
Stan VanDerBeek, Perspectives on American Underground Film (Cincinnati: University of Cincinnati,
1968), 2.
15. John Cage quoted in Hector Currie and Michael Porte, eds., Cinema Now: Stan Brakhage, John
Cage, Jonas Mekas, Stan VanDerBeek, Perspectives on American Underground Film (Cincinnati: University of Cincinnati, 1968), 8.
16. Cage, 9.


18. In addition, VanDerBeek often used his public speaking engagements to make an open call
for film, slides etc. for the Movie-Drome. See the call for work in Film Culture, no. 43 (1966): 10.
19. Pat Kirkham cites many examples of how the Eames fretted over which exact images to start
with, which to build a crescendo effect, and which ones to close with so as not to overpower
their overall message. Kirkham quotes Ray Eames as saying, We tried our various tricks and
rhythms in changing the images. We discovered that if you had seven images and changed one
of them, this put an enormously wasteful, noninformative burden on the brain, because with
every image the eye had to check every image to see which one had changed. When youre busy
checking, you dont absorb information. See Pat Kirkham, Charles and Ray Eames, Designers of the
Twentieth Century (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1995), 324.
20. Beatriz Colomina, Enclosed by Images: The Eameses Multimedia Architecture, Grey Room 2
(2000): 29. Colomina establishes the relationship between the Eameses and their governmental
connections and roles as corporate consultants in this important essay which links Expanded
Cinema to other issues within architectural discourse.
21. Elmer Bernstein composed the music. For a more detailed account see Kirkham, 323.
22. Guy Debord, Society of the Spectacle (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1992).
23. See also Midori Yoshimoto, Expo 70 and Japanese Art: Dissonant Voices, An Introduction
and Commentary, Review of Japanese Culture and Society (December 2011): 112.
24. Experiments in Art and Technology, et al., Pavilion (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972).
25.For a further description of Single Wing Turquoise Bird, see Gene Youngblood, Expanded
Cinema, 39296. According to Kerry Broughers account, Single Wing Turquoise Bird members
included Jon Greene, Larry Janss, David Lebrun, Charles Lippencott, Bob Maestri, Peter Mays, Rol
Murrow, and Jeffrey Perkins who were all directly aware of the abstract experimental films of
Oskar Fischinger, the Whitneys, and Belson, and invested in the tradition of visual music. For a
historical account of psychedelic light shows within the context of visual music, see Kerry
Brougher, Visual Music Culture, in Visual Music Synaesthesia in Art and Music since 1900 (New
York: Thames and Hudson, 2005), 88179, esp. 15571.
26. Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 394.
27.Gene Youngblood, Expanded Cinema, 38891. See also Kerry Brougher, Visual Music Culture, 15560.
28. In the back of the winter 1966 issue of the journal Film Culture, Warhol placed an advertisement announcing an open audition for the Plastic Inevitable. Applicants were directed to apply
in person at Warhols Factory, 231 E. 47th Street, New York, NY. See Film Culture, no. 43
(Winter 1966).
29. EPIs development revolved around a series of introductions between Andy Warhol, Lou Reed,
and his group the Velvet Underground. In a 1978 interview conducted by Patrick Smith, Gerald
Malanga situates the start of the EPI with an invitation from Jonas Mekas to Warhol to do something for three days at the Filmmakers Cinematheque. Warhol invited the Velvet Underground


to perform their regular set and decided to use his own films as a backdrop instead of regular colored gels to enhance their stage show. Malanga states that Warhol specifically wanted a star to
dramatize their stage presence and picked Nico, a beautiful German singer. Performances also
included Malangas famous whip-dance. Patrick Smith, Andy Warhols Art and Films (Ann Arbor,
MI: UMI Research Press, 1986), 139140. For the most comprehensive and nuanced account of
EPIs relationship to the broader cultural context of the period see Branden Joseph, My Mind Split
Open: Andy Warhols Exploding Plastic Inevitable," Grey Room 8 (Summer 2002): 80107.
30. While as David Joselit suggests the figure/ground relationship becomes scrambled or neutralized in Warhols practice, the divide between the performer and the audience remains clear. See
Joselits Yippie Pop: Abbie Hoffman, Andy Warhol, and Sixties Media Politics, Grey Room 8
(Summer 2002): 6279.
31. Weber, 97.
32. Mongrel developed in 1995 out of a group who worked together at the London Technology
Centre where they organized among other activities training programs for the long-term unemployed. In response to what they saw as a lack of critical attitude to the exclusive nature of
emerging technologies, core members Graham Harwood, Matsuko Yokokoji, Mervin Jarman,
Richard Pierre-Davis, and Matthew Fuller established Mongrel. The collectives projects rigorously
engage with the contentious issues of national identity, migration, and race, and at the same
time they offer a critical examination of the very tools and technologies on which the work is
33. Joe Adcock, Fels Planetarium Becomes a Giant Screen, Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, 3 May
1971. Additional information from a press release generated by the University of South Floridas
information services office included in the VanDerBeek files in the iotaCenter library. Staged in
San Franciscos Morrison Planetarium between 1957 and 1960, the Vortex Concerts presented a
fusion of electronic music and abstract light shows that incorporated film material from Jordan
Belson, Hy Hirsch, and James Whitney.
34. Vrchota, 52. She mentions that Cine Naps, Cine Dreams, and Dream Theater are all
copyrighted terms by VanDerBeek.
37. In many ways, the imperative to share their experiences during and immediately after participating in Cine Naps is better suited to todays audiences accustomed to social media and instantly
sharing their thoughts and reactions during events. The projects relevancy to the current
moment was demonstrated in March 28, 2014 when curators Massimiliano Gioni and Vincenzo
De Bellis orchestrated a restaging of Cine Naps in an eight hour overnight program in Milans
Civico Planetario Ulrico Hoepli where like their counterparts in from the 1970s, viewers brought
their pillows and blankets and watched and napped through VanDerBeeks multimedia program,
later leaving recordings of their dreams in a voicemail box set up for this express purpose. The
event was sponsored and produced as part of the art program of Fondazione Nicola Trussardi.


38. Vrchota, 53.

Chapter 5
1. Gyrgy Kepes, The Language of Vision (Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, 1995), 13.
2. Ibid., 15.
3. Ken Knowlton worked in the Computer Techniques Research Department of Bell Telephone
Laboratories between 1962 and 1982, during which he created the graphic programming languages BEFLIX, EXPLOR, ATOMS, and SPHERES. He also filed 10 US patents and developed a
variety of applications for computer graphics. The technical aspects of Knowltons BEFLIX system
are described in two forms: a 17-minute, 16 mm black-and-white silent film, A Computer Technique for the Production of Animated Movies produced using the very process it sought to describe
and distributed by Bell Labs Technical Information Library. And secondly, as a paper called A
Computer Technique for Producing Animated Movies published in the AFIPS Conference Proceedings Volume 25, 1964 Spring Joint Computer Conference.
4.Barbara Rose, Art as Experience, Environment, Process, in Pavilion, ed. Julie Martin, Billy
Klver, and Barbara Rose (New York: E.P. Dutton, 1972). 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering which
ran from October 13 to October 23, 1966, at New York Citys Armory, was the first of several
important events orchestrated by EAT. Many of the technical and aesthetic concerns advanced by
the Armory show culminated in the Pepsi-Cola Pavilion that EAT designed, constructed, and
programmed for Expo 70, the Worlds Fair in Osaka. For a critical account of the performances
and events that comprised 9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering see Michelle Kuo, Clarisse Bardiot,
Lucy Lippard, Catherine Morris, Brian ODoherty, 9 Evenings Reconsidered: Art, Theater, and Engineering, 1966, ed. Catherine Morris (Cambridge, MA: MIT List Visual Arts Center, 2006).
5. By March 18, 1970, when EAT issued its first newsletter called EAT Information, the group had
received its nonprofit, tax-exempt status, moved to 235 Park Avenue South and advertised the
following services: matchings between artists and engineers; technical information; safety consultations for safely exhibiting new technologies such as lasers; open house lectures. Copies of
EAT Information are located in the Experiments in Art and Technology Records, 19661993, accession no. 940003, the Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles.
6. Ken Knowlton in an email to the author, February 26, 2008.
7. Stan VanDerBeek, EAT Talk, c. 1968 Sound Recording. Experiments in Art and Technology
Records, 19661993, accession no. 940003, the Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los


12. Significant to the type of research initiated by the Center for Advanced Visual Studies at MIT
was an emphasis on collaboration as an intrinsic factor in media art production. This shaped
expectations for an artist-in-residence to interact with a variety of departments. Stewart Kranz
described this emphasis on collaboration as stemming from a basic perception of the process
itself; namely, that the individual disciplines of engineering, electronics, physics, optics, visual
imaging systems, audio components, and related disciplines, are simply too complex for one
person to practice and master. Kranz also noted that these disparate activities engage talents far
removed from those commonly associated with the creative artist. See Stewart Kranz, Science and
Technology in the Arts: A Tour through the Realm of Science Art (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold
Co., 1974).
13. See Gregory Battcocks introduction in The New American Cinema: A Critical Anthology (New
York: Dutton, 1967), 1213. Significantly, Battcock suggested that instead of just being anti-Hollywood, the emergence of the New American Cinema reflected the changing role of the artist in
the 1960s. The artists own role can no longer be considered as that of a craftsman whose unique
and individual skill stamps everything he makes. Whether painter, sculptor, inventor of Happenings or filmmaker, he now stresses his position as an originator; he functions primarily as the
creator of new ideas which being much more rapidly diffused, at least in general terms, than was
ever possible before, may well prove to be social catalysts.
14. One obvious result is that dating the films in the series becomes difficult. Complicating matters is the fact that VanDerBeek tended to save and reuse duplicates in addition to producing
multiple versions of the same film. For this reason, contextual evidence such as dates of talks,
letters and screenings has played a vital role in dating the Poemfields.
15. Kenneth C. Knowlton, Computer-Animated Movies, in Cybernetic Serendipity the Computer
and the Arts, ed. Jasia Reichardt (London: Studio International, 1968), 67.
16. As evidence of the typology of medium remains the organizing structure for the collecting
art, VanDerBeeks work remains in MoMAs film collection managed by a film department.
17.The film inspection report, compiled by Eileen Bowser, is part of the VanDerBeek papers
stored in the Museum of Modern Arts Department of Film. The condition of many of the Poemfield films has deteriorated to the point that some films have been completely destroyed such as
the case with Poemfield No. 3. While materials for Poemfield No. 1 are in the Museum of Modern
Arts collection, it was sold with all rights to Universal Pictures in New York, according to a
letter written by VanDerBeek in a response to a 1970 request from the IBM Research Center to
purchase Poemfield No. 1 along with No. 7 and Man and His World. Letter in the files of the Department of Film, VanDerBeek Papers box 7. The canisters themselves register the fact that VanDerBeek had not settled on the title for the series. Poemfield No. 1s canisters were labeled as
Computer Poem Field #1 and also Poetry Field #1, for example.
18. Knowlton, Computer-Animated Movies, 67.
19. The group exhibition included multiscreen projects by VanDerBeek, Herbert Gesner, Les
Levine, USCO and Robert Whitman and was mounted at the ICAs 100 Newbury Street location


between January 17 and February 12, 1967. The Projected Image, exh. cat., ed. Molly Rannells
(Boston: Institute of Contemporary Art, 1967).
20. Stan VanDerBeek, New TalentThe Computer, Art in America (January 1970): 86. This article was recently reprinted as part of Art in Americas 100th anniversary year revisiting signal texts
in its publication history. See my introduction to the reprinted text. Gloria Sutton, Stan VanDerBeek, Art in America (January 2013), 66.
22.VanDerBeek, New TalentThe Computer, 86. VanDerBeeks description of this process is
paraphrased from Ken Knowltons article detailing the process of making BEFLIX computeranimated movies including a more detailed discussion of the films made in collaboration with
VanDerBeek in the exhibition catalogue, Cybernetic Serendipity.
23. Poemfields #2, #3, #4, #5, and #7 were colorized through a special color-printing process
developed by west coast filmmakers Robert Brown and Frank Olvey. See Stan VanDerBeek,
VanDerBeek, Lightworks 10 (Fall 1978). All films generated by the 4020 Stromberg-Carlson (later
Stromberg-Datagraphics) Microfilm Printer were initially 35 mm black-and-white and then subjected to various film coloration techniques.
24. Ken Knowlton, email message to author, 2008.
25. Stan VanDerBeek, EAT Talk, c. 1968 Sound Recording. Experiments in Art and Technology
Records, 19661993, accession no. 940003, the Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los
27. Ibid. In his talk VanDerBeek recounted the experience of adding color during the broadcast
of Poemfield No. 1 at CBS. He enthused, Its just extraordinary color...its quite a phospherent
[sic] level of incredibly intense color and you can do it with any black-and-white material. You
can just electronically add the three primary colors and via combinations of things get absolutely
amazing results.
28. For example, Holly Willis refers to the abstract films of John Whitney produced in the 1940s
as well as VanDerBeeks Poemfields as an early moment in the developing nexus between independent filmmaking and computer technology. However, the type of imagery produced by
BEFLIX hardly leads to the full-scale digital special effects enabled by more advanced commercial
filmmaking that Willis expertly outlines as being part of the digital filmmaking revolution. See
Holly Willis, New Digital Cinema: Reinventing the Moving Image (London: Wallflower Press, 2005),
29. VanDerBeek quoted in Adrienne Mancia and Willard Van Dyke, Four Artists as Film-Makers, Art in America (January 1967): 70.


31. See also Kranz, Science and Technology, 237. Of course, the notion that cinema represented a
new expressive medium that could synthesize all other forms of existing visual art while also
breaking free from the formal boundaries of the frame, theater, and book was advanced by the
writings of the Futurists as evidenced by the manifesto Futurist Cinema of 1916 by F.T. Marinetti, Bruno Corra, Emilio Settimelli, Arnaldo Ginna, Giacomo Balla, and Remo Chiti. Cinema
being only a few years old, their ideas about film were directly related to what they called Futurist Synthetic Theater although they claimed that cinema is an autonomous art and must
therefore never copy the stage. Marinetti et al., The Futurist Cinema, in Futurist Manifestos,
ed. Umbro Apollonio (London: Thames and Hudson, 1916).
32. VanDerBeek quoted in Mancia and Van Dyke, 70.
33. Stan VanDerBeek, EAT Talk, c. 1968 Sound Recording. Experiments in Art and Technology
Records, 19661993, accession no. 940003, the Research Library, Getty Research Institute, Los
34. VanDerBeek, New TalentThe Computer, 86.
35.FORTRAN (FORmula TRANSlation), a computer language based on algebra, grammar, and
syntax rules, was one of the most widely used programs from the time of its introduction by IBM
in 1957 through the mid-1960s. The latter concern is probably best exemplified by Alison
Knowless seminal computer generated poem The House of Dust produced with James Tenney
in 1967. The House of Dust creatively tapped the computer program FORTRAN to randomly
combine sets of descriptive terms about houses and domesticity input by Knowles and stored by
the computer, which sorted phrases and words into new sentences each time the program was
run. The resulting poems therefore read as lines of text output by the computer. See the section
on Computer poems and texts, in Cybernetic Serendipity, which featured the work of Knowles
and Tenney and others who were working in this area in the US and UK. In addition, VanDerBeek would undoubtedly become familiar with Knowless work in 1962 as both artists participated in the seminal Fluxus event FESTUM FLUXORUM that transpired in Dsseldorf, Paris and
other European cities throughout 1962. Also, Knowles and VanDerBeek were both among the 19
artists who were on the distribution list for the Fluxus Newsletter circulated by George Maciunas
from 1962. For reproductions of the programming events of FESTUM FLUXORUM and copies of
the Fluxus newsletters, see the catalog accompanying the exhibition Happening & Fluxus from the
Klnischen Kunstverein curated by Harald Szeemann. See Harald Szeemann, et al., Happening &
Fluxus: Materialien Zusammengestellt Von H. Sohm (Cologne: Klnischer Kunstverein, 1970).
36. VanDerBeek quoted in an unpublished interview by Richard Kostelanetz, 1966.
37. According to Irving Finkelstein the eight compositions represented the first climatic group
of works after Alberss emigration to America and were first shown publicly at Harvard Universitys Graduate School of Design from March 1626, 1942. See Irving Finkelsteins Albers
Graphic Tectonics in Form no. 4 (1967), which was excerpted from his unpublished doctoral
dissertation, The Life and Art of Josef Albers submitted to New York University, 1968. The eight
lithographs were later exhibited in 1968 at Galerie der Spiegel in Cologne and reproduced in the


accompanying catalogue Josef Albers: Graphic Tectonic, ein Zyklus von acht Lithographien aus dem
Jahr 1942, ed. Margit Staber (Cologne: Galerie der Spiegel, 1968).
38. For a detailed discussion on Alberss move from the Bauhaus to Black Mountain College see
Frederick A. Horowitz and Brenda Danilowitz, Josef Albers: To Open Eyes (New York: Phaidon,
2006), 2933.
39. In his synopsis of Graphic Tectonics, written in 1943, Albers explained how the modulation of
line itself was a dominant technique. Wie ersichtlich, ist jede Modellierung innerhalb der Linien
vermieden. Das heisst, Zu- und-Abnahme in Strke bzw. Schwrze der Linien existieren hier
nicht, obschon dies normalerweise in Graphik dominiert wie im Freihandzeichen. See Alberss
synopsis in Josef Albers: Graphic Tectonic, ein Zyklus von acht Lithographien aus dem Jahr 1942, ed.
Margit Staber, 1.
40. Franois Bucher, Josef Albers Despite Straight Lines (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1961), 9.
41. Ibid, 10.
42.In Kostelanetzs interview, VanDerBeek cites the fact that Albers had left Black Mountain
College by the time he arrived at the college in order to support his claim that he escaped
Alberss pedagogical leanings which formed the foundation of the schools curricula. However, as
Mary Emma Harris asserts in her history of the arts program of Black Mountain College, as a
founding faculty member, Alberss teaching, beliefs, and influence permeated the school and he
was a formidable presence even after leaving North Carolina. See Mary Emma Harris, The Arts at
Black Mountain College (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1987).
43. Eugen Gomringer, Josef Albers His Work as Contribution to Visual Articulation in the Twentieth
Century (New York: George Wittenborn, 1968). The poem is reprinted from Poems and Drawings, 2nd enlarged edition (New York: George Wittenborn, 1961).
44. On the history of visual or pattern poetry see Dick Higgins, Pattern Poetry: Guide to Unknown
Literature (Albany: State University of New York, Press, 1987), which presents a historical overview of the development of the practice. In his study of the relationship between poetry and
networked art, Craig J. Saper notes that Swedish artist yvind Fahlstrm had published the first
manifesto for concrete poetry, manifest for konkret poesi, three years before Gomringer adopted
the name concrete poetry. Craig J. Saper, Networked Art (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota
Press, 2001), 71. See also The Strategy of Visual Poetry: Three Aspects, in Horizons the Poetics and
Theory of the Intermedia (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1984).
In addition, VanDerBeeks interest in poetry is also reflective of the broader incorporation of language and text into visual art practices associated with Minimalism and Conceptual art. On this
topic see Liz Kotz, Words to Be Looked At (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007).
45.Gomringer, Eugen translated by Stephen Bann Gomringer, The First Years of Concrete
Poetry, Form no. 4 (1967).
46.Johanna VanDerBeek generously granted access to VanDerBeeks uncatalogued papers and
files from his former studio in August 2006. Among his notes related to Poemfields was VanDerBeeks subscriber copy of Form no. 4 (1967). Edited by Stephan Bann, Philip Steadman, and Mike


Weaver (US), the editorial aim of Form was to publish and provoke discussions of the relations of
form to structure in the work of art, and of correspondences between the arts. Emphasis is to be
placed in particular on the fields of kinetic art and concrete poetry. Publishing ten issues
between 1966 and 1969, Form covered an eclectic range of topics including the writing of Frank
Popper, Theo van Doesburg, Hans Richter, and Charles Biederman, as well as Banns translations
of Roland Barthes. A reprint of the ten issues was published in 1974 by Kraus, Nendeln, and
Lichtenstein. The introduction to concrete Poetry for issue no. 4 was penned by Eugen Gomringer,
the author of the Wittenborn book on Albers, and translated by Stephan Bann, who maintained
that Gomringer was the unchallenged founder of the movement of Concrete Poetry in Europe.
Philip Steadman who was not only an editor, but also served as the publisher for Form fielded my
queries about its copyright in an email exchange on April 30, 2014.
47.In a meeting with Marcia Tucker in early June 1969, VanDerBeek described his Poemfield
series to the then Whitney Museum curator as multiscreen concrete poetry. Tucker met with
VanDerBeek in preparation for an experimental exhibition called Telephone Mural in which
VanDerBeek created a wall mural from images sent over a Xerox telefax (proto-fax machine) set
up at the Whitney Museum of American Art and other US museums. Her notes are included in
the Marcia Tucker papers, 19572004, accession no. 2004.M.13, the Research Library, Getty
Research Institute, Los Angeles.
48. According to Emma Harriss account, Vera and Paul Williams joined Cage, M. C. Richards,
and others associated with the college in the 1950s to form the Gate Hill Cooperative Community in Rockland County, New York in 1954, which also included Patsy Lynch Wood, her husband LaNoue Davenport, and artist Ray Johnson. Harris, The Arts at Black Mountain College,
49. VanderBeek quoted in a taped interview with Ed Emshwiller on December 15, 1973. Anthology Film Archives tape. Of course, there is no consistent or definitive account of Theater Piece #1
and by the time of VanDerBeeks discussion with Emshwiller, he would have also been subject to
the mythology of this by then legendary event.
50. Stan VanDerBeek quoted in taped interview with Ed Emshwiller, December 15, 1973.
51. According to Johanna VanDerBeek, around 1959 at age 29 VanDerBeek was diagnosed with
Hodgkins lymphoma and subsequently received radiation treatment. While he never publicized
this condition, he alluded to his treatment and failing health in his journals. Author interview
with Johanna VanDerBeek, July 20, 2006. Upon Awakening is one of two signed poems that M.
C. Richards sent to VanDerBeek with the heading poems of love for Stan.
52. Despite having published in 1958 the only English translation of Antonin Artauds Theater
and its Double, a formative text for the arbiters of experimental theater and artists including
VanDerBeek, M. C. Richardss influence within the neo-avant-garde remains under evaluated. An
exception is art historian Jenni Sorkins consideration of Richardss role as Cages collaborator at
Black Mountain especially with regards to Theater Piece No. 1. See Jenni Sorkin, Live Form: Gender
and the Performance of Craft, 19401970 (PhD dissertation, Yale University, 2010). See also her
account of Richardss influence in The Pottery Happening: M. C. Richardss Clay Things to
Touch (1958), Getty Research Journal (no. 5, 2013): 197202.


53. Carolyn Brown, who was in the audience, characterized the event as an unmitigated disaster. Brown, 487488.
54. I would like to thank Jenni Sorkin for bringing the particular nature of Black Mountain College theater productions to my attention.
55. Stan VanDerBeek, Animation Retrospective, Film Comment 13, no. 5 (1977): 33.
56. Stan VanDerBeek to the Art Department at Troy State University, VanDerBeek Papers, box 3,
Department of Film, the Museum of Modern Art, New York.
57. Also of note was Robert Ashleys That Morning Thing (1968), which integrated performances
by eleven actors, a pianist, and a female entertainer with a fourteen-channel audio system that
piped in over 6 different channels of prerecorded sounds and voices.
58. John Cage et al., Cross Talk Intermedia (Tokyo: Pepsi, 1969). Program notes from Cross Talk
indicate that Cages HPSCHD (the title refers to the computer abbreviation for harpsichord) produced in collaboration with the engineer-composer Lejaren Hiller was also scheduled to be part
of Cross Talk, but the difficulty of securing the required instruments and equipment including
seven harpsichords, fifty-two tape machines, eight film projectors, and sixty-four slide projectors
precluded its inclusion in Tokyo. For a detailed account of HPSCHD see Stephen Husarik, John
Cage and Lejaren Hiller: Hpschd, 1969, American Music 1, no. 2 (1983). See also Frances Dyson,
The Ear that Would Hear Sounds in Themselves: John Cage 19351965, in Wireless Imagination:
Sound, Radio, and the Avant-Garde, ed. Douglas Kahn and Gregory Whitehead (Cambridge, MA:
MIT Press, 1992), esp. 393.
59. Reynolds, 97.
60.For a well-versed account of Japanese art and technology practices within the context of
Cross Talk Intermedia see Midori Yoshimoto, Into Performance: Japanese Women Artists in New York
(New Brunswick, New Jersey and London: Rutgers University Press, 2005).
61. A special reprint of the Cross Talk Intermedia Festival program along with a summary report
was included in the April 1969 issue of the Japanese contemporary art journal Bijutsu Techo.
Translation from the Japanese provided by Chelsea Foxwell.
63.Tono Yoshiaki, Stan VanDerBeek Wizard of Expanded Cinema, Graphic Design (March
65. David Joselit makes this important point in his broader discussion about television and the
neo-avant-garde in Feedback: Television Against Democracy (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2007), 6.
More specifically, my language reflects Joselits from note 5 on page 175 in which he links the
teleology of Frankfurt School reification to current art historical writing on the culture industry.
66.See for example, Bruce Jenkins, The Other Cinema: American Avant-Garde Film of the
1960s, in Art and Film Since 1945 (New York: Monacelli Press, 1996).


67.Stan VanDerBeek, 5 Difficulties, A Dialogue About Computer Art, c. 1969. Unpublished


1.Susan Sontag, Styles of Radical Will (New York: Picador, 1966), 119. Concurrent to debates
about how multiple forms and disciplines converge within Expanded Cinema, Sontag was writing about the emergence of film and theater and in 1966 opined, The relation between film and
theatre involves not simply a static definition of the two arts, but sensitivity to the possible
course of their radicalization. Every interesting aesthetic tendency now is a species of radicalism.
This doesnt mean all contemporary artists believe that art progresses. A radical position isnt
necessarily a forward looking position.
2. Annette Michelsons New York Film Festival address, Film and the Radical Aspiration, was
transcribed and printed in Film Culture, no. 42 (Fall 1966): 3442, and 136.
3. Michelson, 42.
4. Michelson, 42.
6. Michelson, 42 and 136.
7. These terms have become common curatorial parlance often used to describe the types of
darkened spaces necessary for the installation of moving image work within existing museum
and gallery spaces. For more on the nuancing of these terms see Andrew Uroskie, Between the
Black Box and the White Cube: Expanded Cinema and Postwar Art (University of Chicago Press,
8. Deans FILM was on view at the Tate Modern in London from October 11, 2011, to March 11,
9.Tacita Dean quoted in review by the Guardians chief arts writer, Charlotte Higgins, Tacita
Dean's Turbine Hall Film pays homage to a dying medium, The Guardian October 10, 2011, last
accessed October 11, 2013. Tate Modern published a compendium that collected Deans meditations on
the effects of analog films endangerment as well as those offered by eighty other artists, writers,
curators, and historians, cinematographers, critics, editors, archivists, designers and others
directly impacted by the waning of the processes necessary to produce photochemical film. See
FILM Tacita Dean, a book about film and the importance of analogue in the digital age, ed. Nicholas
Cullinan (London: Tate Publishing, 2011).


10.This idea developed from an exchange with Karen Lang, then editor of the Art Bulletin who
invited me to contribute to the September 2013 issue of the publication, which was focused on the
theme of time. See Gloria Sutton, Notes from the Field, Art Bulletin (September 2013): 375377.
11. Michelson, 136.
14. Michelson, 42.
17.Contemporary arts interpolation of broadcast television was profoundly shaped by Nam
June Paik, whose early media experiments resulted in one of the most complex and enduring
relationships with television as both an apparatus and a cultural form. In 1968, in a report written to the Rockefeller Foundation titled Expanded Education for the Paperless Society, the
inimitable artist outlined how video, broadcast, and various recording equipment could be used
not just for commercial purposes, but to enhance learning opportunities in and outside of academia, especially the fields of music publishing and museums. This report offered a textual summary for the ideas surrounding his concept of a global artbased television that he consistently
espoused in his experiments with video installation, a survey of which called Videa n Videology 19591973 was organized by Ross at the Everson Museum of Art in 1974.
18. Michael Shamberg and Raindance Corporation, Guerilla Television (New York: Holt, Rinehart
and Winston, 1971).
19. Anthony Giddens, Beyond Left and Right: The Future of Radical Politics (Palo Alto, California:
Stanford University Press, 1994), 80. Quoted in Lisa Parks, Cultures in Orbit: Satellites and the Televisual (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2005), 56.
20.John S. Quarterman, The Global Matrix of Minds, in Linda M. Harasim, ed., Global Networks: Computers and International Communication (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1994), 36.


Note: Page numbers in italic type indicate illustrations.

Abstract images, 111114
Acconci, Vito, 136
Advertising, 117
Aesthetics of anticipation, 128, 154, 226n28
Agam, Yaacov, 112
Agel, Jerome, 54, 57
AG Gallery, New York City, 5
Aitken, Doug, 193
Akiyama, Kuniharu, 186
Albers, Josef, 71, 121, 239n42
Graphic Tectonics, 177179
There is no world, 179180
Ali, Muhammad, 114
Alphanumeric keyboard, 175, 177
Alternative arts movements, 196
American Cultural Center, Paris, 28, 207n20
Analog processes, 10, 145, 194195
VanDerBeeks computer-aided, 16, 166171
VanDerBeeks experience in, 9899
VanDerBeeks style of, 128, 168
VanDerBeeks technique of, 169170
Ant Farm, 218n44
Anthology Film Archives, 51
Anticipation, aesthetics of, 130, 142, 226n28
Archer, Hazel Larsen, 52, 114, 116, 225n15
Archigram, 49, 213n89
The Architecture of Fantasy, 148
Arnborn, Arne, 142

Arnheim, Rudolf, 2324

Art. See Visual art
Art as social practice, 48. See also Civic and social concerns of art
Artaud, Antonin, 182
Artists cinema, 22
Artists role
autonomy of, 37
computers and, 188
digital projects and, 161
in global perspective, 90
intention and, 158159
in 1960s, 236n13
VanDerBeek and, 90, 158159
Variations V, 141142
in works based on image transmission, 63
Art-life relations, 3940, 134, 180
Art production. See also Film production
communication as, 41
computers utilized for, 189
culture industry vs., 188
new media and, 16
Arts funding, 26, 28, 207n20
Artzybasheff, Boris, 57
Ashley, Robert, 186, 205n10
That Morning Thing, 241n57
Aspen (magazine), 128
Assembly films, 5


Audience. See also Immersion

agency and participation of, 33, 4749, 79
80, 93, 131, 138139, 146, 154, 159161,
187, 235n37
collective, 10, 160161
exhibition design and, 153154, 156157
Expanded Cinema and, 910, 37, 39, 41,
4448, 135
experiences of, 910
for fax art, 62
McLuhan on role of, 93
in Movie-Drome, 31, 33, 7980, 9597, 128,
147, 154, 157, 159160
networked, 158
performers distinguished from, 159
primary vs. secondary, 156158
Variations V, 143
Ault, Julie, 196
Avant-garde. See also Neo-avant-garde
culture industry vs., 193
Expanded Cinema as, 23, 38
Baker, Max, 35
Baldessari, John, 136
Banham, Reyner, 89
Bann, Stephan, 239n46
Barba, Rosa, 194
Barr, Alfred H., Jr., 2, 4, 149
Barthes, Roland, From Work to Text, 152
Barzyk, Fred, 136
Battcock, Gregory, 23, 236n13
Baudrillard, Jean, 132
Bauhaus, 178, 218n44
Bayer, Herbert, 148, 151152, 156157
Diagram of Field of Vision, 151
BEFLIX, 13, 166, 167, 173174, 177, 183, 188
Behrman, David, 186
Bell Telephone Laboratories, 164165, 188189
Belson, Jordan, 46, 157, 174
Bergman, Ingmar, 114
Black Mountain College
advisory council of, 40, 201n11, 216n27
Albers at, 178179

architecture at, 7071

artistic activities at, 7072, 180183
Dewey and, 40
dissolution of, 29
Fuller at, 7072, 201n11
influence of, 201n11
pedagogy of, 40, 70, 218n44
principles of, 70
summer institutes at, 219n56
Theater Piece # 1, 182
VanDerBeek at, 1, 9, 15, 52, 70, 179182,
208n35, 230n63, 239n42
Blossom, Robert, 23
Bolter, Jay David, 229n57
Borkin, Harold, 205n10
Brakhage, Stan, 46, 142, 152, 174
Brecht, George, 6
Breer, Robert, 2425
Bretherton, George, 35
Breton, Andr, 195
British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), 28
Brockman, John, 24, 42
Brown, Carolyn, 139, 142
Bucher, Franois, 177
Buckingham, Matthew, 194
Buck-Morss, Susan, 10
The Bulletin of the Museum of Modern Art (journal), 107111
Bureau of Inverse Technology (BIT), 158
Burnham, Jack, 60, 61, 217n38
Cable television, 134135
Cage, John, 9, 58, 71, 152, 180184, 201n11,
207n23, 230n63
Art and Technology, 186
433, 155
Poemfield No. 7 (with VanDerBeek), 184185
Variations V (with VanDerBeek, Cunningham, Tudor, and Paik), 97, 140142, 144,
145, 146, 182, 230n63
Carpenter, Edmund, 54
Carroll, Nol, 231n74
Cassen, Jackie, 41


CBS television network, 9899, 136, 193

Center for Advanced Visual Studies, MIT, 58,
60, 62, 167, 173, 236n12
Children, medias effect on, 48
Christgau, Robert, 31, 33
Cinema Now (symposia), 143, 153
CinemaScope, 132
Cinematic apparatus, 38, 162
Cine Naps, 159, 234n37
Cinerama, 132
Civic and social concerns of art. See also
advocacy for, 6061
art as social practice, 48
feedback and, 142
Fuller and, 63
growth of, in 1960s, 26
Movie-Drome and, 11, 4749, 52, 133134
VanDerBeek and, 28, 62, 63, 131, 139
Civil Rights Act, 4
Civil rights movement, 11, 39, 122123
Clarke, Shirley, 19, 25
Cocteau, Jean, 182
Cohen, Milton, 23, 205n10
Cold War, 39
Collaboration, 8, 13, 28, 34, 70, 71, 140141,
182, 236n12
Collage, and subjectivity, 183
Colomina, Beatriz, 154, 233n20
Communication. See also Information
as art, 41, 4445, 52
computers utilized for, 9, 53
Movie-Drome and, 11, 15, 3335, 86, 88, 93,
139, 149162, 195197
VanDerBeek and, 52, 59, 93, 132, 195197
Vision 65 conference and, 5354, 57
visual, 166
Wieners theories of, 59
Communication networks, 9
Community programming, 135
Computer-generated films, 16
Computer-Generated Pictures by Bla Julesz and
Michael Noll (exhibition), 201n10

Cage comparing music to, 186
communications uses of, 9, 53
difficulties of art production with, 188
programmability of, 139
VanDerBeek and, 13, 161162, 166169,
173176, 184185
visual art as means of analyzing cultural impact of, 9
Concrete poetry, 16, 164, 179, 239n44,
Connolly, Maeve, 205n8
Connor, Bull, 119
Consciousness, Expanded Cinemas effects
on, 46
Contemporary art
expanded arts and, 6, 9
film and, 191195
historiography of, 13
new media and, 138, 193
Cook, Peter, 49
Cooper Union, 52, 208n35
Counterculture, 4849, 74, 218n44
Crary, Jonathan, 206n12, 231n74
Creeley, Robert, 182
Critical limit, 72
Cross-disciplinary practices, 2, 1213, 22, 29,
5859, 137, 184. See also Medium specificity; Multimedia
Cross Talk Intermedia Festival, Tokyo, 185
189, 187
Cruz-Diez, Carlos, 112
Cubism and Abstract Art (exhibition), 2
Culture. See 1960s; Counterculture
Culture industry, 16, 60, 188, 191193
Cunningham, Merce, 4, 72, 140141, 182,
183, 184, 230n63
Cybernetics, 8
Cybernetic Serendipity (exhibition), 201n10,
Dance, 140143
Davenport, LaNoue, 240n48


Davis, Douglas, 136

The New Television, 228n45
Dean, Tacita, FILM, 194
De Bellis, Vincenzo, 235n37
Debord, Guy, 192
Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
(DARPA), 197
De Kooning, Elaine, 72, 182
DeMuth Steel, 75, 84
Deveroe, Kamaia, 35
Dewey, John, 40, 211n44
Art as Experience, 40
Dewey, Ken, 21, 23, 25, 26, 35, 36, 41, 195
Digital processes, 13, 34, 46, 147, 161, 194
Dine, Jim, 40
Documentation, of art works, 157158
Do-it-yourself (DIY) ethos, 11, 48, 74, 80, 136,
Dome shape and structure. See also Geodesic
counterculture and, 4849, 213n88
EATs Pavilion and, 158
Fuller and, 68, 7173, 156
widespread use of, 6869, 74
Dorner, Alexander, 232n3
Douglas, Stan, 193
Duberman, Martin, 70, 218n56
Durkee, Steve, 24
Eames, Charles and Ray, 4, 128, 233n20
Glimpses of the USA, 156157, 233n19
EAT. See Experiments in Art and Technology
Education. See also Civic and social concerns
of art
Black Mountain Colleges pedagogy, 40, 70,
Movie-Drome and, 4749, 52
pedagogy in 1950s and 1960s, 54, 57
Electric assemblage, 147
Elma Lewis School of Fine Arts, Boston, 62,
Emmons, Beverly, 140
Emshwiller, Ed, 19, 25, 5152, 137, 181

Entertainment, Expanded Cinema in relation

to, 11
Environments, Situations, Spaces (exhibition),
Enzensberger, Hans Magnus, 136
Ethos-cinema, 45
Exhibition design, 15, 150154, 156157
Expanded Arts Diagram (Maciunas), 28, 3, 7,
48, 97
Expanded Cinema. See also Movie-Drome
audience for, 910, 36, 39, 41, 4449, 135
and the avant-garde, 23, 38
characteristics of, 6, 9, 24
and communications systems, 8, 11, 15
and contemporary art, 9
critical character of, 1, 5, 9
criticisms of, 192
culture industry and, 16, 191
debates over, 14
defining and naming of, 8, 19, 2123, 35,
3839, 199n5
development of, 2122
diversity of, 6, 12, 2122, 2425, 37, 39, 193
and entertainment, 11
in Europe, 39
experience of, 910
film in relation to, 2324, 38
government, corporate, and cultural involvements of, 16, 193
historiography of, 10, 14, 2324
immersion in, 9697
and information, 15, 44, 149
in Maciunass Expanded Arts Diagram, 4, 6
media ecology of 1960s and, 134139
Movie-Drome compared to, 160
network typology applied to, 8
New York Film Festival and, 1925, 3142, 45
precedents for, 15, 150152
remediation and, 139147
responses to, 36
scholarship on, 22
significance of, 1, 9
technology of secondary importance to, 1, 8


in United States, 3839

VanDerBeek on, 39, 4142, 4546
venues and formats for, 4041, 129, 135
and visual art, 37, 204n30
Expanded Cinema Survey, 4244, 211n66
Experience machine, Movie-Drome as, 11, 14,
19, 45, 52, 75, 102
Experiments in Art and Technology (EAT),
129, 158, 166, 218n44, 235n5
9 Evenings: Theater and Engineering, 166, 183
Pavilion, Expo 70, 156, 158, 187
Exploding Plastic Inevitable, 129, 156, 159,
Explorations (exhibition), 6061, 69, 217n38
Explorations 8 (journal), 54, 57
Eyeconosphear (festival), 228n45
Fax technology, 60, 62, 6469
Federal Communications Commission, 135
in art, 1617, 61
defined, 61
in Violence Sonata, 138139
Fels Planetarium, Philadelphia, 159
Fetterman, William, 140
Fiber-optic cable, 1, 8, 196
as an art form, 2324
changing conceptions of, 3638
and cinematic apparatus, 38
Expanded Cinema in relation to, 2324, 38
Futurist conception of, 238n31
information and, 175
radicalism in, 191192
standardization of, 3738
VanDerBeek and, 175176
Film Culture (magazine), 2, 7, 25
Filmmakers Cinematheque, 42, 44
Film production, 16. See also Art production
Fiore, Quentin, 54, 57, 214n6
Five Photographers (Black Mountain College
publication), 114
Flusser, Vilm, 136

Fluxus, 2, 6, 9, 128
Flynt, Henry, 6
Ford Foundation, 28, 49, 207n23
Foresta, Don, 207n21
Form (journal), 180, 239n46
Forti, Simone, 3536
Foucault, Michel, 15, 149
Fourth New York Film Festival (1966), 14, 16,
1925, 3142, 45, 191192, 195
Frampton, Hollis, 136
Francis, Sam, 156
Franklin Furnace, 137, 196
French-American Festival, 139
Fuller, Matthew, 234n32
Fuller, R. Buckminster
at Black Mountain College, 7072, 183, 201n11
dome structures of, 6869, 7173, 156, 173,
Dymaxion Air-Ocean World map, 88
Dymaxion Dwelling Machine, 7275, 76, 77,
7778, 220n65
4D House, 73, 7778, 220n65
Geoscope, 8890
influence of, 9, 5760, 217n33
on intuition, 51
I Seem to Be a Verb, 57
reception of, 215n16
social and humanitarian concerns of, 47, 53,
57, 63
speaking style of, 57, 63, 216n18, 216n19,
system and environmental concerns of, 86,
Total Thinking, 219n56
VanDerBeek and, 63, 70, 7273, 90, 218n45
at Vision 65, 1415, 53, 57
and world man, 47, 8990
Futurism, 238n31
Gate Hill Artists Cooperative, Stony Point,
New York, 19, 29, 7071, 74, 82, 180181,
183184, 207n23, 240n48. See also Land
(artists co-op)


Geldzahler, Henry, 19, 21, 22, 41, 128

Geodesic domes, 6869, 7173, 156, 173,
202n15, 213n88. See also Dome shape and
Ghosts in the Machine (exhibition), 212n80
Giddens, Anthony, 196
Gillette, Frank, 136
Ginsberg, Allen, 206n17
Gioni, Massimiliano, 234n37
Global concerns
Expanded Cinema and, 47
Fuller and, 8890
McLuhan and, 92, 134
Movie-Drome and, 34, 134
photographs of Earth from space and, 90
universal humanity and, 47
Goodman, Percival and Paul, Communitas, 71,
Government funding of arts, 16, 26, 28
Graham, Dan, 13
Homes for America, 118
Graphic Design (journal), 187
Grau, Oliver, 15, 96
Green, Rene, 193
Greenberg, Clement, 46
Griffiths, Alison, 15, 97
Grooms, Red, 40
Gruen, John, 21, 4041
Grundmann, Roy, 212n76
Grusin, Richard, 229n57
Guild & Greyshkul, 203n22
Gulf of Tonkin incident, 4
Gysin, Brion, 4
Halprin, Anna, 4
Hamilton, Richard, 89
Happenings, 4, 9, 40, 48, 129, 157, 182
Harwood, Graham, 234n32
Hatfield, Jackie, 200n6
Hayes, Michael, 86, 8889
Hein, Birgit
Film im Underground, 12, 39, 199n4, 210n54
XSCREEN series, 12

Heller, Fran, 21, 24, 31, 33, 4748

Herzogenrath, Wulf, 136
Higgins, Dick, 4, 23, 179
Hirsch, Hy, 157
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden,
Washington, D.C., 194
Howard Wise Gallery, New York City, 201n10
Huhtamo, Erkki, 97
Iimura, Takahiko, 82, 222n84
Illusionism, in immersive experience, 9697, 133
Image transmission technology, 10, 13, 6162.
See also Fax technology
in Expanded Cinema, 9697
illusionism and, 9697, 133
in Movie-Drome, 15, 9597, 130, 132134,
perceptual characteristics of, 15, 96, 132
subjectivity and, 15, 9697, 132134,
Independent Group, 89
Information. See also Communication
arrangement of, 15, 149162
Expanded Cinema and, 15, 44, 149
filmmaking and, 175
images as, 149, 185
Movie-Drome and, 3334, 47, 49, 86, 88, 93,
Information (exhibition), 60
Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston, 179
Institutional critique, 40, 159
Intentional communities, 71, 74
Interdisciplinarity. See Cross-disciplinary
Interface, 14
Intermedia Systems Corporation, 25
International Center for the Typographic Arts,
Islam, Runa, 193
Jackson, Martha, 122
Jacobs, Henry, 157


Jarman, Mervin, 234n32

Jenkins, Henry, 10
Jeremijenko, Natalie, 158
Jewish Museum, New York City, 60
Jonas, Joan, 136
Johnson, Lyndon, 101
Johnson, Ray, 240n48
Jones, Caroline, 29
Joselit, David, 134
Joseph, Branden, 208n24, 212n76, 220n63,
Judson Church performances, 9
Judson Gallery, New York City, 127
Kaprow, Allan, 4, 13, 137, 138
Eighteen Happenings in Six Parts, 127
Karnes, Karen, 71, 183
Kelly, Ellsworth, 121
Kelman, Ken, 37
Kepes, Gyrgy, 58, 6061, 166, 169, 176
Khrushchev, Nikita, 116
Kiesler, Frederick, Spatial Theater, 15, 150, 152,
Kirby, Michael, 23, 35
Kirkeby, Per, 4
Kitchen (arts organization), 137, 196
Klver, Billy, 139, 166, 182
Knowles, Alison, 238n69
Knowlton, Ken, 13, 166, 167, 173175, 235n3
Kostelanetz, Richard, 23, 49, 99, 142, 176
Kosugi, Takehisa, 41
Kraynik, Ted, 61
Kubota, Shigeko, 136
Lama Foundation, 25
Land (artists co-op), 11, 82, 140, 184, 222n83.
See also Gate Hill Artists Cooperative,
Stony Point, New York
Land Art TV, 155
Landy, Elliot, 31
Lanier, Al, 70
Leary, Timothy, 206n17
Lee, Pamela, 202n19

LeGrice, Malcolm, 12, 200n8

Le Parc, Julio, 112
Levine, Les, 61
LeWitt, Sol, 59
Light pens, 166168, 168
Light shows, 156157
Lincoln Center, New York City, 140141
Lislegaard, Ann, 193
Lissitzky, El, Cabinet of Abstract Art, 15, 150
151, 232n3
Livingston, Jane, 136
Logos, 117
London, Barbara, 136
London Film-Makers Co-operative, 12
Lozano-Hemmer, Rafael, 194
Lucier, Alvin, 186
Lye, Len, 46, 182
Maciunas, George, Expanded Arts Diagram,
28, 3, 7, 48, 97
Malanga, Gerald, 233n29
Manupelli, George, 205n10
Manzoni, Piero, 37
Marks, Robert, 75, 216n19, 218n65
Martin, Reinhold, 215n16, 217n33
McCarthy, Paul, 13
McHale, John, 89
McLuhan, Marshall, 9, 11, 14, 15, 45, 53, 57,
58, 60, 63, 90, 9293, 142, 155, 214n6
The Medium is the Massage, 54
Understanding Media, 9293, 134
War and Peace in the Global Village, 214n6
McShine, Kynaston, 59, 60
Media. See also New media
communication techniques of, 23
media ecology of 1960s, 134139
remediation and, 139147
subjectivity associated with, 147
transformation of, 10
types of, 134136
Medium specificity, 3537, 41, 141. See also
Cross-disciplinary practices
Mekas, Adolfas, 2


Mekas, Jonas, 2, 41, 4344, 143, 152

Michelson, Annette, 19, 25, 26
Film and the Radical Aspiration, 16, 191
192, 195
Miller, Dana, 216n24
Minimalism, 59, 70, 129
Minimum House, 70, 74
Mitchell, Hugh, 35
Modularity, 16, 174
Mondloch, Kate, 205n8
Mongrel, 160161, 234n32
Monroe, Marilyn, 101
Moog, Robert, 139
Morellet, Franois, 112
Morris, Robert, 13
Site (with VanDerBeek and Schneemann),
129, 226n26
Morrison Planetarium, San Francisco, 157
Morrissey, Paul, 25
Motian, Paul, 162
Movement, in Expanded Cinema, 33, 4243
Movie-Drome. See also Expanded Cinema
accounts and documentation of, 31, 33,
alterations to original form and materials of,
audience experience and participation in, 31,
33, 7980, 9597, 129130, 132134, 147,
154, 157, 159160
and communication/information systems,
11, 15, 3335, 86, 88, 93, 139, 149162,
computer-generated films for, 16
construction of, 53, 7480, 7883,
creation of, 1, 11, 14, 25, 2829, 221n74
critical character of, 11
display techniques of, 1516, 54, 55, 56
dome structure of, 7374
entrance/exit for, 8485, 87, 95
equipment for, 29, 30, 31, 54
exhibition version of, 212n80
Expanded Cinema compared to, 160

as an experience machine, 11, 14, 19, 45, 52,

75, 102
ideas underlying, 1, 11, 19, 2829, 31, 33,
45, 74
image projection in, 31, 32, 33, 34, 7980,
8586, 88, 95, 129130, 132, 146147
images used in, 31, 98102, 100113, 106
114, 115126, 116119, 121123, 127, 146
as an interface, 14
legacy of, 196
location of, 29, 74, 80, 8283, 184, 207n23
(see also traveling installments of)
media ecology of 1960s and, 134139
naming of, 2829
perceptual conditions of, 15, 9596
photographs of, 26, 27, 32, 33, 7883, 86,
91, 146
Poemfields created for, 185
precedents for, 15, 150152
as prototype, 4849, 52, 53, 132
publicity about, 2425
reception of, 33
rehearsals for, 4244
remediation and, 146147
scholarship on, 202n15
sketches for, 5354, 55, 56, 79, 84, 8486,
87, 88
social and educational aims of, 4749, 52,
102105, 133134
sound in, 31, 95, 119
subjectivity associated with, 17, 9697, 132
134, 149
traveling installments of, 4849, 132,
two-dimensional model of, 9091, 92
unveiling of, 19, 24, 26, 2935
Moving image arts, 22
Mullin, Stephen, 216n18, 217n43
Multidisciplinary. See Cross-disciplinary
alternative terms for, 141
integration vs. juxtaposition in, 97


in Movie-Drome, 9798, 155

production of meaning through, 139, 142
remediation and, 139147
rock concerts and light shows, 158159
VanDerBeek and, 131, 161
Variations V, 140142
Multiscreen projection
large-scale, 22, 193194
Movie-Drome and, 42, 5354, 155156
precursors of, 1
VanDerBeek and, 4, 5, 42, 93, 98
Mumma, Gordon, 139, 186, 205n10
Beam, 186
Muschinski (later Oldenburg), Pat, 123
Museum of Modern Art, New York City, 60,
107112, 136, 151, 193
Mussman, Toby, 37, 41
Muybridge, Eadweard, 91

perceptual effects of, 4446

Youngbloods analysis of, 4647
Newsweek (magazine), 25
New York Film Festival. See Fourth New York
Film Festival (1966)
New York Herald-Tribune (newspaper), 82
New York State Council for the Arts, 26
Nico, 159, 234n29
art historical significance of, 6
cultural sensibility and references of, 5859,
102114, 119, 121123, 127, 134
media ecology of, 134139
92nd Street Y, New York City, 97, 183
Nixon, Richard, 28
Noll, Michael, 201n10
Norddeutscher Rundfunk, Hamburg, Germany, 143

Nakaya, Fujiko, 156

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), 28, 137, 193
National Endowment for the Arts, 26
Black Mountain College and, 201n11
Richards and, 240n52
scholarship on, 188
technology and, 9
VanDerBeek and, 5, 13, 129, 8
Networked audience, 158
New American Cinema, 1, 168, 236n13
New Cinema Festival One, 4244, 211n66
New cultural establishment, 52, 5860, 63,
216n24, 217n33
Newhall, Beaumont, 110
New media
contemporary art and, 138, 193
cultural role of, 197
dystopian view of, 11
history of, 10
Movie-Dromes anticipation of, 3335
origins of, 9

Ockman, Joan, 149, 232n3

OGrady, Gerald, 136, 228n45
Oiticica, Hlio, Parangols, 37
Oldenburg, Claes, 4, 13, 40, 127129
Birth of the American Flag (with VanDerBeek),
128, 226n25
Injun I & II, 127128
Nekropolis I & II, 127128
Ray Gun Specs, 128
Ray Gun Theater, 127128
The Store, 127
Store Days I & II, 127128
Voyages I & II, 127128
Worlds Fair I & II, 127128
Olson, Charles, 181
ONCE Group, 23, 205n10
Op art, 111113
Open Circuits: An International Conference
on the Future of Television, 136, 228n45
Originality, 49
Paik, Nam June, 6, 136, 139, 142, 243n17
Zen for Film, 155
Panoramas, 97


aesthetics of anticipation and, 131
in immersive experience, 15, 96, 132
in Movie-Drome, 15, 9596, 132
new medias effects on, 4446
transformations in, 206n12, 231n74
Perspecta 11 (journal), 90
Phillips, Christopher, 152
Photocopy technology, 61
Photomontage, 90
Piene, Otto, 61, 138
Pierre-Davis, Richard, 234n32
Planetariums, 132
Poetry, 163166, 179184
cable television and, 136
the Eameses Glimpses of the USA and,
Expanded Cinema and, 200n8
Pop Art, 89
Porte, Michael, 153
Price, Cedric, 49
Price and Rutzebeck, 68
Primary Structures (exhibition), 59
Process Art, 155
Programmable apparatus, 138
The Projected Image (exhibition), 173
Pseudotechnology, 68
Psychedelia, 46, 158159
Public concerns of art. See Civic and social
concerns of art
Radical Software (newsletter), 136137, 196
Raindance Corporation, 135, 228n43, 228n45
Rainer, Yvonne, 6, 13
Rauschenberg, Robert, 5, 6, 40, 166, 182
White Paintings, 155, 182
Reagan, Ronald, 119
Real-time transmission/production, 1, 8, 10,
16, 34, 47, 62, 63, 132, 183, 197
Reed, Lou, 157, 234n29
Reichardt, Jasia, 201n10, 216n27
Remediation, 139147, 230n57

Renan, Sheldon, 23, 3739, 42, 135

An Introduction to the American Underground
Film, 3738
The Responsive Eye (exhibition), 112
Reuben Gallery, New York City, 40
Revolution by design, 47, 63, 69, 218n44
Reynolds, Roger, 186
Richards, M. C., 9, 71, 180184, 240n52
Riley, Bridget, 112, 113
Road to Victory (exhibition), 151
Rock concerts, 158159. See also Exploding
Plastic Inevitable
Rockefeller Foundation, 28, 173, 187, 193
Rose, Barbara, 36, 166
Salons, arrangements of paintings in, 15,
Samaras, Lucas, 13, 35, 127
Satellite networks and transmissions, 1, 8, 11,
16, 3334, 132, 196
Satie, Erik, 182
Saul, Peter, 142
Saunders, Matt, 194
Scale and scalability, 15, 22, 63, 69, 88, 131,
135, 149150, 193194
Scheugl, Hans, and Ernst Schmidt Jr., Lexicon
des Avantgarde-Experimental und Underground
Films, 39
Schneemann, Carolee, 6, 13, 127, 199n5
Site (with VanDerBeek and Morris), 129,
Schum, Gerry, 155
Scott, Felicity, 74, 218n44
Seitz, William, 112
Seriality, 16, 120, 174
Serra, Richard, 136
Shamberg, Michael, Guerilla Television, 136, 196
Sharits, Paul, 4
Shirreff, Erin, 194
Sietsema, Paul, 194
Sillman, Si, 70
Simmons, Allison, The New Television, 228n45
Single Wing Turquoise Bird, 156, 233n25


Sitney, P. Adams, 37
Smith, Clifford, 35
Smith, Harry, 4
Smithson, Alison, 89
Smithson, Peter, 89
Smithson, Robert, 59
Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.,
Social concerns of art. See Civic and social concerns of art
Social imagistics, 130
Software: Information TechnologyIts New
Meaning for Art (exhibition), 60
Sonic Arts Union, 186
Sontag, Susan, 52, 5859, 60, 63, 102106,
112, 119, 123, 127, 191, 217n33, 242n1
SONY, 193
Sorkin, Jenni, 240n52
Soto, Jess, 112
Sound, 31, 95, 119, 142, 229n56, 231n71
Southern Illinois University, 52, 57, 89
Space Theatre, 205n10
Spectacle, 192
Stan VanDerBeek: The Culture Intercom (exhibition), 13
Steadman, Philip, 239n46
Steichen, Edward, 153
Stern, Gerd, 24, 137
Strobe lighting, 61
collage as metaphor for, 182
immersive, 15, 9697, 132134, 226n31
media effects on, 147
Movie-Drome and, 17, 9697, 132134, 149
Summers, Elaine, 42, 43, 211n68
Supree, Burt, 42
Synesthesia, 46
Systems-based processes, 60
Systems theory, 8
Szeemann, Harald, 136
Takis, 61
Tambellini, Aldo, 6, 138

Tanaka, Atsuko, Electric Dress, 37

Tange, Kenzo, 186
Taniguchi, Yoshio, 193
Tate Modern, London, 194
Taylor, Elizabeth, 114
Teach-ins, 54
Technological space, 15, 149
Telematic art, 201n12, 203n21
cable, 135136
contemporary art and, 243n17
VanDerBeek and, 9899, 137139
Tensionism, Kieslers principals of, 152, 157
Tesla, Nikola, 139, 229n55
Thompson, Emily, 229n56
Thorburn, David, 10
Tiffany and Company, 113114
Time-based art, 62, 139, 194195
Tomkins, Calvin, 57
Transparency of process, 1, 8
Tribe, Kerry, 194
Tucker, Marcia, 240n47
Tudor, David, 71, 140141, 180, 182, 184
Turing, Alan, Universal Machine, 139
Tworkov, Jack, 182
Tyler, Parker, 37
United Nations, 47
United States Department of State Art in Embassies program, 28
United States Information Agency, 28
United States Military Academy, West Point,
New York, 28
United States Navy, 52
University of Cincinnati, 143, 144, 154
University of Southern California, 143, 145
University of South Florida, 159
Uroskie, Andrew, 205n7, 242n7, 212n70
USCO, 2425, 41, 206n17, 218n44
VanDerBeek, August, 31, 82, 86
VanDerBeek, Johanna, 31, 33, 47, 82


VanDerBeek, Maximilian, 82, 86

VanDerBeek, Stan
artistic background of, 35, 52, 208n35
and communications networks, 9
death of, 13, 204n30
employment and working life of, 2526, 28,
52, 98, 113114, 137
estate of, 203n23
on Expanded Cinema, 39, 4142, 4546
experimental nature of the work of, 1213
health of, 240n51
home and studio of, 19, 20, 80, 8283, 86
identified as visual artist, 204n30
media ecology of 1960s and, 137
and multiscreen projection, 4, 5
and the neo-avant-garde, 5, 13, 29
photographs of, 26, 27, 33, 34, 82, 91, 130,
146, 167, 169
publications of, 45
and public television, 13
reception of, 13, 199n4, 203n23,
scholarship on, 13
speaking style of, 45, 51, 134
techniques and working methods of, 9899,
112114, 169170, 173176
university affiliations of, 13
VanDerBeek, Stan, works by. See also
Ad Infinitum, 173
A La Mode, 170, 170171
Birth of the American Flag (with Oldenburg),
128, 226n25
Breathdeath, 171
Cine Naps, 161
Collidoscope, 173
Computer Animation Art Series, 173
Danceworks #2, 137
Danceworks #3, 137
Feedback, 31, 143, 145, 146, 154
Feedback No. 1, 42, 44
films for Oldenburg, 127128
The History of Violence, 47, 122, 225n19

illustrated discussion, Poetry Center, 92nd

Street Y, New York City, 97, 183
images used in, 99102, 100113, 106114,
115126, 116119, 121123, 127
Man and His World, 173
Mankinda, 98
Move-Movies, 4243
Newsreel of Dreams, 28, 137
Panels for the Walls of the World, 60, 62,
Pastorale: et al., 42, 43
Poemfield No. 1No. 8, 13, 16, 166, 167, 171,
173176, 178180, 185, 187189, 188,
236n17, 240n47
Poemfield No. 1, 177, 179, 236n17, 237n27
Poemfield No. 2, 163, 163164, 165, 166, 178,
Poemfield No. 3, 236n17
Poemfield No. 7 (with Cage), 184185
poster of images from Poemfields and MovieDrome, 185, 186
Primitive Projection Wheel, 7879
Science Friction, 99, 170171, 171
See Saw Seams, 171, 172
Site (with Schneemann and Morris), 129,
Snapshots of the City, 128
Superimposition, 137
Symmetricks, 173
Variations V (with Cage, Cunningham,
Tudor, and Paik), 97, 140143, 144, 146,
146, 183, 230n63
Violence Sonata, 137, 138139, 228n49
Visioniii, 5
What Who How, 98
Wheeeeels No. 1, 99
Who Ho Rays, 173
VanDerBeek, Stan, writings by
Culture: Intercom and Expanded Cinema,
52, 53, 79, 84, 85, 93, 196, 199n5, 214n6,
on Expanded Cinema, 45


5 Difficulties: A Dialogue about Computer

Art, 189
1963 Program for Film Makers, 207n22
Re: Vision, 45, 109
style of, 134
Towards a Definition of Photography, 114,
Van Dyke, Willard, 137, 175
Varda, Agns, 19, 33
Variability, 11, 14, 16, 31, 63
Variations V, 97, 140143, 144, 146, 146, 183,
Vasarely, Victor, 112
Vaughn, David, 182
Vautier, Ben, 4
Velvet Underground, 156, 159, 234n29. See
also Exploding Plastic Inevitable
Vietnam War, 4, 11, 39, 121122, 183, 192
Village Voice (newspaper), 25
Virtual reality, 96, 133
Vision 65 (conference), 1415, 5258, 63, 90
Visual art. See also Civic and public concerns
of art
and communication theory, 41, 4445, 52
Expanded Cinema and, 37, 197, 204n30
information and, 149, 185
research in, 58
transformations in, 58, 123, 127
Visual communication, 166
Visual velocity, 15, 9596, 160
Vortex Concerts, 159, 161

Weaver, Mike, 240n46

Weber, Samuel, 158
Weinrib, David, 71, 183
Wellington, Fred, 26
WGBH-TV, 137139, 173
Whitman, Robert, 4, 21, 40, 41, 45, 164
American Moon, 3537, 127, 209n38, 209n44
Whitney, James, 46, 157, 174
Whitney, John, 46, 175
Wiener, Norbert, 9, 59, 60, 61, 201n11,
Wigley, Mark, 57
Williams, Paul, 7071, 184, 222n83
Williams, Vera, 29, 71, 184, 222n83
Wilson, Harold, 200n7, 200n8
Winky Dink and You (television show), 9899
Wood, Patsy Lynch, 240n48
Words and text, 176, 178180, 184
World Design Science Decade 19651975, 89
Wurlitzer, Rudy, 128
Xerographic photocopying, 61
Xerox Corporation, 61
Yalkut, Jud, 24
Yokokoji, Matsuko, 234n32
Yoshiaki, Tono, 186
Youngblood, Gene, 158
Expanded Cinema, 38, 4647
Yuasa, Joji, 185, 187
Zoetrope, 7879

Waldhauer, Fred, 164

Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 62
Warhol, Andy
and artists role, 127
attitude of, toward culture, 11
Exploding Plastic Inevitable and, 129, 156,
159, 234n29
filmmaking of, 41
influence of, 6
at Movie-Drome, 19, 25, 26, 33
violence as subject of, 123