As visualists, the sad truth is we have a poorer sense of the history of our medium than musicians. Part of this is simply a lack of access. YouTube is a weak substitute, but it’s a start. In that spirit, Karl (Format K) sends us the minimal geometric machinations of pioneering electronic graphics artist and animator John Whitney. We’ve previous mentioned the role of Whitney and Larry Cuba in helping the modern computer graphics industry to be born – with a little help from a movie called Star Wars. Here, you get a real sense of an artist working within the restrictions of the technology to produce something beautiful. It’s a chance to recognize how we’re indebted to this kind of work. While the temptation may be to replicate effects like this with more modern tools, they also illustrate how you can focus on a technique within a tool – and perhaps there’s a digital equivalent of focusing on artistic limitations.

The musical score turns this into a dream collaboration, with the work of Terry Riley.

It’s nice to have access to this, but boy, would I love to have an HD-quality rendition of many of these films available for download or on a high-quality medium like Blu-Ray. Any chance a modern-day Voyager would re-release seminal visualist work from decades past?

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