Andrew Johnston will discuss a portion of his forthcoming book, Pulses of Abstraction: Episodes from a History of Animation, which traces the emergence of real-time computer graphics and animation in the 1970s. Focusing especially on a programming language developed through funding from the National Science Foundation and that language’s use at the art and engineering collective called the Circle Graphics Habitat at the University of Illinois, Chicago, this presentation provides an archaeology of how time and models of perception are coded within early digital graphics systems. The talk will show how animation was fundamental to the creation of these real-time systems, not only because filmmakers worked on the code and platforms that were used, but also because these technologies were built around understandings of time and action taken from cinema. Through an analysis of this history, the presentation argues that real-time computer graphics mark an epistemological shift around the interdependencies of film and other media as well as a broader transformation in the mid-twentieth century of how technologies were modeling perception.
Andrew Johnston is an Assistant Professor in the Film Studies Program, the Program in Communication, Rhetoric, and Digital Media, and the Department of English at North Carolina State University. His forthcoming book, Pulses of Abstraction: Episodes from a History of Animation (University of Minnesota Press), is a theoretical and historical investigation of abstract animation in cinema and computational media from the 1950s through the 1970s. His research on film history, aesthetic theory, media archaeology, and avant-garde film has appeared in books and journals such as Color and the Moving Image, Animating Film Theory, Animation: Behind the Silver Screen, Discourse: Journal for Theoretical Studies in Media and Culture, and The Moving Image. He is currently completing a series of articles about the historical development of Computer-Generated Imagery from the 1960s through the 1980s and methods of archiving and transcoding these works on contemporary platforms.