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Frames and Windows: Visual Space in Abstract Cinema

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Chapter Summary

This article features the precursors of electronic imaging who worked in avant-garde film and video. It looks at numbers and screen geometry in the early abstract work of Hans Richter and Viking Eggeling, agreeing with Malcolm Le Grice that Diagonal Symphony was the first programmable film. It traces this lineage through to Len Lye's abstract color montage in the 1930s and to the systematic permutation of words and images in the structural film during the 1970s. These are linked to the new digital abstraction explored by contemporary artist filmmakers in the US and Europe. The article argues for a tradition of frame-based thinking for the screen that anticipates the computer, to assert an independent experimental approach to the shapes and structures generated by the classic film avant-gardes.



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