<< preface

this blog is nina wenhart's collection of resources on the various histories of new media art. it consists mainly of non or very little edited material i found flaneuring on the net, sometimes with my own annotations and comments, sometimes it's also textparts i retyped from books that are out of print.

it is also meant to be an additional resource of information and recommended reading for my students of the prehystories of new media class that i teach at the school of the art institute of chicago in fall 2008.

the focus is on the time period from the beginning of the 20th century up to today.

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2008-06-25

>> Sten Vanderbeek and Ken Knowlton, Beflix

In this two-part demo, Sten Vanderbeek (at that time artist in residence at MIT) demonstrates the use of Beflix, a programming language especially designed for him by Ken Knowlton (from Bell Labs). With creating Beflix, Knowlton's goal was to invent an intuitive tool for artists.





"BEFLIX is the name of the first specialised computer animation language.
BEFLIX was invented by Kenneth C. Knowlton at Bell Telephone Laboratories, USA.
BEFLIX was invented in 1963.
BEFLIX is a corruption of "Bell Flicks".
BEFLIX produced images at a resolution of 252 x 184 in 8 shades of grey.
BEFLIX-generated films, created using an IBM 7094 computer and Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder, cost approximately $500 per minute of output.

Beflix-operations are:
Draw straight lines from dots
Draw curves
Copy region
Move region
Solid fill area
Zoom area


Jasia Reichardt in "The Computer in Art", 1971:
"The mosaic picture system devised by Kenneth C. Knowlton was used to produce both educational and research films. The other main programming language used was FORTRAN. Knowlton used the computer in two specific and distinct ways: always as a high-powered drafting machine and sometimes as a calculating machine which could determine the consequences of mathematical and logical statements.
With the mosaic system or BEFLIX (corruption of Bell Flicks) the pictures are made up of 252x184 arrays of spots of different shades of grea, or as numbers 0 to 7, indicating light intensity at that point. Pictures are built up and modified within the computer by appropriate manipulation of htese numbers. BEFLIX is not a complex language mathematically since it does things that could literally be done by hand, although it performs this task more easily (not to mention faster) since some of the patterns are 'logically simple' although graphically complex. The instructions in the BEFLIX language permit drawing straight lines consisting of dots, or drawing arcs and other curves, or copying one area with a solid shade of grey, or shifting the contents of one area up, down, right, or left, a specified number of raster positions. There are also operations for automatically filling an outline with a specific shade of grey, for enlarging part of a picture or a whole one, and for gradually dissolving one picture into another. The BEFLIX films were produced at approximately $500 per minute.
Apart from a film which demonstrated how the BEFLIX system works, Knowlton together with Stan Vanderbeek made a number of films for pleasure, with pulsating colours and intricate cascades of dots changing colour and position at a phenomenal speed. One of them Man and his World, was made for the World Fair in Montreal in 1967."
Dissolve image transition"
(from: Jasia Reichardt, The Computer in Art)

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... is a Media Art historian and independent researcher. She is currently writing on "speculative archiving && experimental preservation of Media Art" and graduated from Prof. Oliver Grau's Media Art Histories program at the Danube University in Krems, Austria with a Master Thesis on Descriptive Metadata for Media Arts. For many years, she has been working in the field of archiving/documenting Media Art, recently at the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute for Media.Art.Research and before as the head of the Ars Electronica Futurelab's videostudio, where she created their archives and primarily worked with the archival material. She was teaching the Prehystories of New Media Class at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) and in the Media Art Histories program at the Danube University Krems.