Moirage, a film by Stan VanDerBeek

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Further proof that if you wait long enough (almost) everything turns up eventually. In 2011 I mentioned a fruitless search for Moirage (1970), a short film by Stan VanDerBeek, and here it is, in a rather scratched print at the Internet Archive. The film proves to be as I expected, an abstract work that animates the kinds of patterns that would have been deemed Op Art in the few years before LSD use became widespread, but which were unavoidably psychedelic by the time VanDerBeek came to make his film.

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The patterns were provided by Gerald Oster, a biophysicist who used his discoveries in photochemical research to create works of art. My Studio Vista guide to Op Art lists two Oster studies in its bibliography: a book, The Science of Moiré Patterns (1959), which included sheets of overlays for the reader to play with; and an article co-written with Yasunori Nishijima, Moiré Patterns, for Scientific American (May, 1963). (The magazine also had a moiré pattern as its cover illustration.) I was playing with moiré interference myself a few weeks ago so this discovery is a timely one. My experiments involved vector graphics, a much more versatile medium for creating these effects than the printed sheets that Oster and his colleagues had to create. I’d been thinking of using the patterns as part of a book design but haven’t decided yet whether they’re suitable.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Heavy-Light, a film by Adam K. Beckett
An Optical Poem by Oskar Fischinger
Moon 69, a film by Scott Bartlett
Us Down By The Riverside, a film by Jud Yalkut
Turn, Turn, Turn, a film by Jud Yalkut
Mothlight, a film by Stan Brakhage
Walter Ruttmann’s abstract cinema
7362, a film by Pat O’Neill
Here and There, a film by Andrzej Pawlowski
Power Spot by Michael Scroggins
Kusama’s Self-Obliteration, a film by Jud Yalkut
OffOn by Scott Bartlett
The Flow III
Science Friction by Stan VanDerBeek
Chris Parks
Len Lye
Matrix III by John Whitney
Symphonie Diagonale by Viking Eggeling
Mary Ellen Bute: Films 1934–1957
Norman McLaren
John Whitney’s Catalog
Arabesque by John Whitney
Moonlight in Glory
Jordan Belson on DVD
Ten films by Oskar Fischinger
Lapis by James Whitney

Science Friction by Stan VanDerBeek

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Ubuweb seems to have the best collection of films by experimental filmmaker Stan VanDerBeek (1927–1984) but not the one I was looking for, unfortunately, an abstract thing entitled Moirage. Searching around turned up Science Friction (1959), one of a number of collage animations VanDerBeek made in the 1950s. The juxtapositions of collage have always been good for comedy, and here they’re put to satirical effect in a comment on the Space Race and the tensions of the Cold War. When viewed today it’s impossible to ignore the resemblance to the later collage animation of Terry Gilliam. VanDerBeek wasn’t the only person doing this at the time—Walerian Borowczyk and Harry Smith also made collage films—but VanDerBeek’s sense of humour seems close enough to Gilliam’s to have given him ideas.

For more about the director there’s also Project Stan VanDerBeek.

Previously on { feuilleton }
Heaven and Earth Magic by Harry Smith
Gilliam’s shaver and Bovril by electrocution
Short films by Walerian Borowczyk