Computer Age: Early Computer Movies, 1952–1987

November 15–17, 2013

Organized by guest curators Leo Goldsmith and Gregory Zinman

Before the clones attacked, before the Na’vi Hometree was destroyed, before Buzz Lightyear went to infinity and beyond, avant-garde film and video pioneers were expanding the bounds of the moving image by harnessing computer technology to create radical new ways of seeing. This program explores the genesis of our current media landscape by looking back at the early computer films that introduced new materials and methods of filmmaking—from oscilloscope experiments to computer-assisted psychedelia; formative digital advertising to music videos—spanning from the 1950s to the 1980s, provoking a fresh perspective on art, technology, and the emergence of computer-generated imagery.

Highlights include rarely seen experimental works by John Whitney, Larry Cuba, Stan VanDerBeek, Barbara Hammer, John Stehura, Pierre Hébert, Mary Ellen Bute, Norman McLaren, and Dean Winkler. Feature screenings of Demon Seed (1977), TRON (1982), and The Last Starfighter (1984) trace how these early experiments found their way into thrilling mainstream filmmaking.