(Un)Wiring for the Evolution of Stars – Melvin L Prueitt’s PICTURE System (and its Rendering Errors)

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Two double spreads from Melvin L Prueitt’s Computer Graphics (1975) standout among the perfect parabolic topologies and wireframe nuclear spectra – a selection of graphical rendering errors, possibility some of the earliest examples of glitch art to appear in print. Looking like disjointed plots of a (dis)locative media project gone awry or poorly planned subway systems, the renderings present numerical malfunction as cryptic sign.

That Prueitt included them in his book is particularly interesting because they antithesize all that he was hoping to achieve with PICTURE, the program he designed to render them. The aim of PICTURE was eliminate common rendering errors (such as the hidden line problem) in 3-D visualisations of large datasets. That he deemed them worthy of inclusion, as aesthetically interesting counterparts to visualisations of stellar evolution and hypersonic wind flow, declares a curious sensibility to the attraction of accidental abstraction. He draws our attention the irreproducibility of these render errors in contrast to the others in the book whose precision forms can be redrawn perfectly, adfinitum, without ever surprising us.

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Prueitt’s explorations with his software increased his fascination with perceptual anomalies and optical effects in vision and computer rendering. In retrospect these stark wireframes, frozen at a single viewpoint for eternity, are necker-cube presentations of possible futures – either utopian or dystopian depending on your view. They were created at a time when increased computing power promised new glimpses into unseen worlds and their psychedelic palettes (when colour is used) remind us of the prevailing countercultural aesthetics of the time. But they were also made at Los Alamos National Laboratory initially organized during World War II as part of the Manhattan Project. Their pristine undulating topologies encode calculations for implosion-designs in nuclear weapons tests.

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Image: Fantastic Computer Numbers - Melvin L Prueitt from Popular Science February 1973from Fantastic Computer Numbers – Melvin L Prueitt from Popular Science [Feb 1973]

Melvin L Prueitt’s Computer Graphics is available for loan at archive.org, or if you are collector of such material you can grab an inexpensive copy online. The following series of images are scans from the book:

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Melvin L Prueitt - Computer Graphics

Related Posts:
John Whitney’s Digital Harmony – On the Complementarity of Music and Visual Art

One Response to “(Un)Wiring for the Evolution of Stars – Melvin L Prueitt’s PICTURE System (and its Rendering Errors)”

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