Vanderbeek, Stan

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Nationality: American. Born: New York City, 1927. Education: Studied painting. Family: Married, two children. Career: Began making collage-films, early 1960s; built dome-studio ("The Movie-Drome") in Stony Point, New York, mid-1960s; university lecturer and teacher, from mid-1960s; worked at Bell Telephone Laboratory, Murray Hill, New Jersey, on experiments in computer graphics, late 1960s. Awards: First Prize in Animation, Bergamo Festival, for Mankinda, 1960. Died: 19 September 1984.

Films as Director:


What Who How; Mankinda; Astral Man


One and Yet


Ala Mode; Wheeeeels No.1; Visioniii


Wheeeeels No. 2; Dance of the Looney Spoons; ScienceFriction; Achoo Mr. Keroochev; Street Meat (documentary, not completed)


Skullduggery; Blacks and Whites in Days and Nights


Snapshots of the City


Misc. Happenings (documentaries of Claus Oldenberg happenings); Summit


Breathdeath; Phenomenon No.1


The Human Face Is a Monument; Variations No.5; Feedback


Poem Field No.2


See, Saw, Seems; Poem Field No.1; Man and His World; Panels for the Walls of the World; Poem Field No.5; FreeFall; Spherical Space No.1; The History of Motion inMotion; T.V. Interview; Poem Field No.7


Newsreel of Dreams No.1; Vanderbeekiana; Oh; Super-Imposition; Will


Found Film No.1


Newsreel of Dreams No.2


Film Form No.1; Film Form No.2; Transforms


Symmetricks; Videospace; Who Ho Ray No.1; You Do, I Do,We Do


Computer Generation


Color Fields


Euclidean Illusions


Mirrored Reason; Plato's Cave Inn; Dreaming


After Laughter


By VANDERBEEK: articles—

"On Science Friction," in Film Culture (New York), Summer 1961.

"The Cinema Delimina: Films from the Underground," in FilmQuarterly (Berkeley), Summer 1961.

"If the Actor Is the Audience," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1962.

"Antidotes for Poisoned Movies," in Film Culture (New York), Summer 1962.

"Simple Syllogism," in Film Culture (New York), no. 29, 1963.

"Interview: Chapter One," in Film Culture (New York), no. 35, 1964/65.

"Compound Entendre," in Film: A Montage of Theories, edited by Richard MacCann, New York, 1966.

"Culture: Intercom and Expanded Cinema," in Film Culture (New York), Spring 1966.

"Re: Vision," in American Scholar (Washington, D.C.), Spring 1966.

"Disposable Art—Synthetic Media—and Artificial Intelligence," in Take One (Montreal), January/February 1969.

"Re Computerized Graphics," in Film Culture (New York), no. 48–49, 1970.

"Media (W)rap-around: Or a Man with No Close," in FilmmakersNewsletter (Ward Hill, Massachusetts), March 1971.

"Social-Imagistics: What the Future May Hold," in American FilmInstitute Report (Washington, D.C.), May 1973.

"Animation Retrospective," in Film Comment (New York), September/October 1977.


Hanhardt, John, and others, A History of the American Avant-Garde, exhibition catalogue, The American Federation of Arts, New York, 1976.

On VANDERBEEK: articles—

Christgau, Robert, "Vanderbeek: Master of Animation," in PopularPhotography (Boulder, Colorado), September 1965.

Manica, A., and W. Van Dyke, "Four Artists as Filmmakers," in Artin America (New York), January 1967.

"New Talent: the Computer," in Art in America (New York), January 1970.

Weiss, M.W., "VanDerBeek to Students: Take a High Risk," in Journal of the University Film Association (Carbondale), Spring 1982.

"Stan Vanderbeek Obituary," in Film Comment (New York), January/February 1985.

* * *

As was typical with a great number of experimental filmmakers, Stan Vanderbeek studied painting before actually beginning his film production. Indeed, his earliest films are animated collage pieces which embody his background in graphics (e.g., Breathdeath).

Vanderbeek's career spanned about a third of a century, a period of almost constant creativity with extraordinary amalgamations of media. As such, it is a difficult career to summarize, especially in light of the fact that no definitive list of his truly countless productions seems to exist. Vanderbeek appeared to exude creations at a rate that escaped even his own cataloguing.

Soon after Vanderbeek's early animation work, he focused upon a unique multi-projection apparatus of his own design. This "Movie-Drome" (at Stony Point, New York) provided the presentation of a number of "Vortex-Concerts," prototypes for a satellite-interconnected "Culture Intercom" that might allow better (and quicker) international communication. At the same time, he continued experiments with dance films, paintings, Polaroid photography, architecture, 195-degree cinematography, and intermedia events.

Vanderbeek's more recent explorations of computer-generated images and video graphics provide a clear contemporary perspective for his career. In addition, they signalled a technostructural metamorphosis which marks the ongoing evolution of that major genre generally known as the "experimental film." Experimental filmmakers of Vanderbeek's prestige and prominence have, at times, found the fortune of industry support. In the late 1960s, Vanderbeek came to collaborate with such computer specialists as Ken Knowlton of New Jersey's Bell Telephone Laboratories. The result was a number of cathode-ray-tube mosaics called Poem Fields. Today these early exercises with computer graphic possibilities still retain aesthetic power as transparent tapestries in electronic metamorphosis. Typically brief, non-narrative and abstract, the various Poem Fields often reveal subtle, stunning mandala patterns, strikingly similar to classic Asian meditative devices with their symmetrical concentricity.

Vanderbeek's final projects also address electronically constructed imagery. Some of his work (such as Color Fields) employs the same interest in abstraction which characterized Poem Fields. Others (Mirrored Reason, made in video and released in film) are more representational and narrative. Still others (After Laughter) recall the rapidly paced irony that marked Breathdeath and other examples of Vanderbeek's earliest animation.

This noteworthy quantity, quality, and extraordinary technological diversity of output resulted in exceptional institutional support for Vanderbeek throughout the years. He was artist-in-residence at USC, Colgate, WGBH-TV, and NASA. His work was presented on CBS, ABC, and such CATV showcases as Night Flight. His performances outside the United States took him to such cities as Berlin, Vienna, Tokyo, Paris, and Toronto; he has been a U.S.I.A. speaker in nations like Israel, Iran, Turkey, Greece, and England. His grants and awards are equally numerous and prestigious, and his academic recognition provided Vanderbeek not only with guest lectures and screenings throughout the United States, but faculty appointments at such schools as Columbia, Washington, and M.I.T.

—Edward S. Small

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