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Studies in Perception: Early Computer Shorts


In the 1950s and 1960s, artists and animators turned the computer into an experimental tool as a means of altering perception and expanding consciousness. Works such as Norman McLaren and Evelyn Lambert’s oscilloscope film Around is Around and Pierre Hébert’s Around Perception are displays of overwhelmingly vivid geometric cutouts set against color fields, flicker patterns, and swirling vortices; James Whitney’s Lapis is a marvelous montage of kaleidoscopic mandalas; and John Stehura’s Cibernetik 5.3 is a mind-bending array of computer graphics, photography, and optical printing. 

The Incredible Machine 

Dir. Bell Labs, AT&T. 1968, 15 mins. Digital projection. 

Around Is Around 

Dir. Norman McLaren, Evelyn Lambert. 1951, 10 mins. Digibeta. Loan courtesy of producer, National Film Board of Canada. 


Dir. Mary Ellen Bute. 1952, 7 mins. Digital projection courtesy Center for Visual Music,   

Mood Contrasts   

Dir. Mary Ellen Bute. 1953, 7 mins. 16mm print courtesy Center for Visual Music,  |


Dir. James Whitney. 1966, 9 mins. Archival 16mm © Estate of John and James Whitney. 

Digital Experiments At Bell Labs 

Dir. Nam June Paik. 1966, 4 mins. Digital projection.

Poemfield No. 2 

Dirs. Stan VanDerBeek, Kenneth Knowlton. 1966, 6 mins. Digital projection.

Around Perception 

Dir. Pierre Hébert. 1966, 16 mins. Digibeta.

Computer Movie No. 2 

Dir. CTG. 1969, 8 mins. Digital projection.  

Cibernetik 5.3 

Dir. John Stehura. 1960–65, 8 mins., Digibeta courtesy Center for Visual Music,  


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