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Googolplex (1972)

To a pulsing African field recording of beats and chants, Lillian Schwartz’s Googolplex explores sensory perception through stroboscopic choreography of black-and-white, computer-generated line and square patterns that pre-date contemporary pixel-parade digital works. Rapid inversions of opaque and static-filled foreground and background images fuse in time, creating the hypnotically kinetic, joyous pace of this binary cine-dance.

Googolplex is a pioneering computer animation stemming from traditions of visual music and abstract, absolute, experimental animation. The film bridges the formal concerns of both contemporary still and moving art forms: painting, design, sculpture, cinema, television with technological innovation. Googolplex represents a distinct period where computer experimentation struggled for acceptance as an authentic production tool for art-making, recalling the same ontological prospects and problems that once burdened the camera itself. This period also bred much fusion between artists and computer programmers. One of Schwartz’s many collaborations at Bell Labs with Kenneth Knowlton (a computer graphicist and programmer who previously worked with early computer animator, Stan VanDerBeek), Googolplex utilized Schwartz and Knowlton's self-developed graphical programming language EXPLOR to create the film’s imagery.

Lillian Schwartz is best known for her pioneering work in the use of computers for what has since become known as computer-generated art and computer-aided art analysis, including graphics, film, video, animation, special effects, Virtual Reality and Multimedia. Her work was recognized for its aesthetic success and was the first in this medium to be acquired by The Museum of Modern Art. Her contributions in starting a new field of endeavor in the arts, art analysis, and the field of virtual reality have been awarded Computer-World Smithsonian Awards.

Schwartz began her computer art career as an offshoot of her early artistic merger of art and technology, which culminated in the selection of her kinetic sculpture, Proxima Centauri, by the Museum of Modern Art for its epoch-making 1968 Machine Exhibition. She then expanded her work into the computer area, becoming a consultant at the AT&T Bell Laboratories, IBM's Thomas J. Watson Research Laboratory and at Lucent Technologies Bell Labs Innovations. On her own, and with leading scientists, engineers, physicists, and psychologists, she developed effective techniques for the use of the computer in film and animation.

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NYWIFT programs, screenings and events are supported, in part, by grants from New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature.

New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and New York State Council on the Arts