Stan VanDerBeek was plugged in to the tribal rhythms of McLuhan’s global village. Gene Youngblood, who coined the term “expanded cinema,” wrote that the artist possessed “visionary insight into the cultural and psychological implications of the Paleocybernetic Age.” He made most of his “Poemfield” films (1966-71) in collaboration with Ken Knowlton and other scientists at Bell Labs in New Jersey. They programmed an IBM 7094 to output psychedelic animations in which fragments of text appear amid pulsing mandalas and spiraling mazes. VanDerBeek filmed the computer’s monitor and later added color and superimposed live-action sequences over the pixelated graphics. Even after five decades of supposedly being bombarded by images all kinds, these works still offer a visual rush, especially as projected here on four walls of a gallery. The text in some of the films includes references to countdowns, free falls and “the end,” hinting at an undercurrent of awareness, evident throughout VanDerBeek’s work and writing, that the same technology promoting human interconnectedness also wired up the military-industrial complex.
Pictured: Installation view of Stan VanDerBeek’s “Poemfields”; at Andrea Rosen Gallery 2. Photo Lance Brewer. Courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery, New York.