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Stan VanDerBeek, an influential pioneer of experimental filmmaking and expanded cinema, sought, in his own words, “the marriage between art and life… art and technology… art and its future” (1967). Through experimentations with computer-generated images, projection systems, and immersive cinema, VanDerBeek materialized his futuristic visions.
VanDerBeek’s Moirage (1967) is a study of the optical phenomenon “moiré effect,” a term coined by scientist Gerald Oster. The artwork shows a series of animated “moiré patterns” that generate the said phenomenon, while music by Paul Motion enhances the work’s psychedelic and oddly meditative qualities. The “moiré effect”—shifting patterns that could suggest volumes, produced when two simple, flat patterns in motion are superimposed—parallels the artist’s own efforts to “superimpose” art, technology, and humanity in anticipation of a higher dimension: the digital future. The artist’s motivating belief that the artist must “make use of the force of art… find ways to unite technology and the human condition,” as he wrote in his 1966 essay “Re: Vision,” reflects ideological trends that informed the ’60s countercultural movements–trends often founded on a newfound faith in collective power to transform the present and shape the future.
The artist’s positive employment of technology and optimistic prospects contrast with the disillusionment towards technology that is prevalent today, inviting nuanced questions such as: How has our relationship with technologies changed? What prompts shifts in our attitudes towards the future(s)? And what does it mean to examine the optimism of the psychedelic era?