Pixillation – Lillian Schwartz and Ken Knowlton
Wednesday, 6 May 2009
Pixillation was one of the first collaborations between Lillian Schwartz and Ken Knowlton during their stint at Bell Labs using Knowlton’s self written computer animation language EXPLOR. Made in 1970 this 4 minute film crams in a spectacular amount of visual information, cutting from geometric sequences reminiscent of Cellular Automata to analogue sequences of organic forms – immersions of liquids and oils so favoured by the West Coast light show fanatacists around the same time. In fact the synergy and similarity between naturally occurring organic patterns and their isomorphic algorithmic counterparts seems to be the key message of this film. Pixillation presents us with forking paths of pixels in an alternating retort to footage of the formation of ice crystals. Schwartz and Knowlton’s work instinctively grasps the convergence between the the natural world and the world of computer simulation.
The film develops staccato modulations between microscopic network alignments and the systematic self-organisation principles derived from simple code – between data and nature. The film could be seen as an unintentional precursor to many of the ideas, experiments, simulations that underline the science of Emergence. Its cellular lattice growth systems perhaps cross reference John Conway’ s famed computational life simulations or perhaps even pre-date it, as both were made public in 1970.
The pace of the film, with its flickering montage, together with the experimental soundtrack by Gershon Kingsley further belies the interest in the perceptual and sensory aspects of the medium at this time.