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Expanded Cinema
Gene Youngblood
Studio Vista, 1970
460 pages
SBN: 0289701139

The book is out of print, but a pdf is available from Woody Vasulka's extensive website 4.6 Mb.

Studio Vista, founded in 1961, published a remarkable series of books about music, film, op-art, pop-art, early computer arts and architecture in the sixties and seventies before the company was sold several times. The many seminal publications include Andy Warhol, Theo van Doesburg, Oskar Fischinger, Cedric Price, among many others.

Expanded cinema was among the first on video art as a medium and helped establishing the disciplin of media arts together with Jasia Reichardt's "Cybernetic Serendipity" and Frank Popper's "Origins and development of Kinetic Art" both published two years earlier.

The original term “expanded cinema” can probably be attributed to Jonas Mekas and grew out of conversations between Brockman and Mekas while the former was organising 'Expanded Cinema" during the Bowery’s “Filmmaker Cinemateque” in 1965.

"Expanded Cinema" is describing state-of-the-art cinematic effects to speculate upon the immense emerging possibilities in cinema, video and video art.
It is written in a staccato style of self-evident sylogism that guides the reader through a vast and unthought of terrain of possibilities. At the same time it is a bitter acount of the failings of commercial television and Hollywood cinema. A visionary book far ahead of its time.

The term "expanded cinema" had been used four years before Youngblood's publication by John Brockman in an interview with the New York Times on September, 4th 19661. Brockman was then coordinating 'independent film' sessions of the New York Film Festival and speaks of the: "expanded cinema" world in which a film is not just a movie, but an Experience, an Event, an Environment. This is a humming electronic world, in which multiple films, tapes, amplifiers, kinetic sculpture, lights and live dancers or actors are combined to Involve Audiences in a Total Theater Experience. Unlike Happenings, which often involve audiences in complicated relationships with plastics, bottles, sacks, ropes and other objects, Intermedia Kinetic Experiences permit audiences simply to sit, stand, walk or lie down and allow their senses to be Saturated by Media. No Way Out : "You can't escape from an Intermedia Kinetic Environments the way you can from a play or any art form that reaches you through language,"
Brockman concludes: ""Their performances result from an awareness of the reality inherent in the new technologies.Their function is to make visible the perceptions of science. They use the environment as an art form, and have abandoned the notion of art as metaphor to deal with man in time and space." NYT, 01966/09/04

Introduction by Buckminster Fuller. An extraordinary text titled: "Revolution in Wombland".
Buckminster Fuller's differentiation of brain and mind:
"Brains are physical devices for storing and retrieving special case experience data.
Mind alone can discover and employ the generalized scientific principles found holding true in every special case experience."

Gene Youngblood has since then a long history of teaching and publishing on electronic media arts.
He is currently teaching at Moving Image Arts Department at College of Santa Fe, New Mexico.

"Expanded Cinema"

is about how technology can enhance cinema beyond the state the entertaining content we get from it today, where people enact a story somone made up. Youngblood is showing a world of possibilities that can give the audience a mind-altering and deeply moving experience on a level beyond words and thought: A high-tech visual poetry with transformative powers, changing us into more aware and self-conscious human beings.

In that respect the book seems aged with its idealism for visual effects we have numbed to today and its outdated rhetorics; it is a visionary book nevertheless, showing us the possibility of a parallel universe that never happened. Just as the "Star-gate Corridor" in "2001 A space odyssey" was a novel visual effect - and not opening up an unconscious pre-rational agency in our minds. Neither did slit-scan photography or holography ever developed a bigger success.
In that respect Expanded Cinema was like Brenda Laurel's "Computers as theater" too early. And too optimistic.
Many of the effects Youngblood anticipated have been incorporated into the mind-numbing visualeffects-race of commercial cinema as well as iMax cinema with its stereoscopic effects. There effect rules the content and certain scenes seem to be written for new Maya filters.

The idea to create cinematic experiences that move us beyond words that we can utter, that lead us to a next level of existence on a more visual, poetic and visceral level is very much alive today in the tools of laptop music and the DJ/VJ club scene and its mind altering substances. And perhaps in screen-savers that our computer hallucinate as they idle.

Gene Youngblood created a seminal research text that anticipates key factors of the digital production we experience today, only in other fields beyond cinema. It is a must read for anyone involved in digital media art or design because essentially it is about life imagery created with computers and at the core about interactivity. Before the personal computer has actually become available Youngblood anticipates that in the end it will not be a tool but a medium. In 1970.

Part One: The Audience and the Myth of Entertainment

Radical Evolution and Future Shock in the Paleocybernetic Age
The Intermedia Network as Nature
Popular Culture and the Noosphere
Art, Entertainment and Entropy
Retrospective Man and the Human Condition
The Artist as Design Scientist

Part Two: Synaesthetic Cinema: The End of Drama

Global Closed Circuit: The Earth as Software
Synaesthetic Synthesis: Simultaneous Perception of Harmonic Opposites
Syncretism and Metamorphosis: Montage as Collage
Evocation and Exposition: Towards Oceanic Consciousness
Synaesthetics and Kinaesthetics: The Way of all Experience
Mythopoeia: The End of Fiction
Synaesthetics and Synergy
Synaesthetic Cinema and Polymorphous Eroticism
Synaesthetic Cinema and Extra-Objective Reality
Image-Exchange and the Post-Mass Audience Age

Part Three: Towards Cosmic Consciousness

2001: The New Nostalgia
The Stargate Corridor
The Cosmic Cinema by Jordan Belson

Part Four: Cybernetic Cinema and Computer Films

The Technosphere: Man/Machine Symbiosis
The Human Bio-Computer and His Electronic Brainchild
Hardware and Software
The Aesthetic Machine
Cybernetic Cinema
Computer Films

Part Five: Television as a Creative Medium

The Videosphere
Cathode-Ray Tube Videotronics
Synaesthetic Videotapes
Videographic Cinema
Closed-Circuit Television and Teledynamic Environments

Part Six: Intermedia

The Artist as Ecologist
World Expositions and Nonordinary Reality
Cerebrum: Intermedia and Human Sensorium
Intermedia Theatre
Multiple-Projection Environments

Part Seven: Holographic Cinema: A New World

Wave-Front Reconstruction: Lensless Photography
Dr. Alex Jacobson: Holography in Motion
Limitations of Holographic Cinema
The Kinoform: Computer-Generated Holographic Movies
Technoanarchy: The Open Empire

unsorted quotes and notes

p. 47 "[...] commercial cinema or television, [...] is used to confirm the existing consciousness rather than to expand it.
Art is the language through which we perceive new relationships at work in the environment, both physical and metaphysical. Indeed, art is the essential instrument, in the very development of that consciousness."

"We see the whole earth and thus we see the illusion that has characterised life upon it."
"Change is the global institution."

p. 51 and sometimes he is wrong: In ten years from now there is "no need for programers, computers will program themselves."

p. 54 "The intermedia network of television, cinema, radio, magazines and books is our environment."
""World" now includes the microcosm of the atom and the macrocosm of the universe in one spectrum."

p. 55 "Just as water takes the shape of its container, so human nature is relative to its past and present conditioning."
"phenomenal absolutism"
p. 58 "We live in and age of hyper-awareness, our senses extend around the globe, but it's the case of aesthetic overload: our technical zeal has outstripped our psychic capacity to cope with the influx of information."
p. 62 "From the cinema we receive conceptual information (ideas) and design information (experiences). In concert they become one phenomenon (...) the experiential information of aesthetic conceptual design."
p. 72 "As a design-scientist the artist discovers and perfects language that corresponds more directly to experience; he develops hardware that embodies its own software as a conceptual tool for coping with reality."
p. 73 "Where beauty ends is where the artist begins" John Cage

p. 75 Slavko Vorkapich: "Most of the films made so for are examples not of creative use of motion-picture devices and techniques, but of their use as recording instruments only."
"It has taken more then seventy years for global man to come to terms with the cinematic medium: to liberate it form the theatre and literature. We had to wait until our consciousness caught up with our technology."
Perception = Sensation + Conceptualisation
Youngbloods methodology includes McLuhans view of "contemporary extremes" and B. Fuller's "observations on natural synergetics."
p. 78 "Television is the software of the earth"

p. 84 "Syncretism is the combination of many different forms into one whole form!
p. 88 "Brakhage is merely presenting us with images orchestrated in such a way that a new reality arises out of them.
[...] it is not an invitation to interpret meaning (into), but rather an occasion to experience our own involuntary and inarticulate associations."
p. 92 "oceanic consciousness"
"Freud spoke of oceanic consciousness as that in which we feel our individual existence lost in mystic union with the universe. Nothing could be more appropriate to contemporary experience, when for the first time man has left the boundaries of this globe. The oceanic effect of synaesthetic cinema is similar to the mystical allure of the natural elements: we stare in mindless wonder at the ocean or a lake or river. We are drawn almost hypnotically to fire, gazing as though spellbound. We see cathedrals in clouds, not thinking anything in particular but feeling somehow secure and content. It is similar to the concept of no-mindedness in Zen, which also is the state of mantra and mandala consciousness, the widest range of consciousness."

expository mode ~ passive viewer
evocation ~ creative effort

p. 93 Hesse quote on creativity and nature:
"The surrender to nature's irrational, strangely confused formations produces in us a feeling of inner harmony with the force responsible for these phenomena... the boundaries separating us from nature begin to quiver and dissolve... we are unable to decide whether the images on our retina are the result of impressions coming from without or from within... we discover to what extent we are creative, to what extent our soul partakes of the constant creation of the world.''
Hermann Hesse, "Demian"

p. 95 On synaesthetic films:
"creating overwhelmingly emotional impact almost exclusively from cinematique technique, not thematic content. [...] "transforming spontaneous unstylized reality into unearthly poetic visions"
"We are not asked to suspend our disbelief." Perhaps this is the first time it is mentioned?

p. 110 [...] synaesthetic synergy does not tend toward greater complexity, but rather produces an effect that in physics is known as elegant simplicity. An elegantly simple construction accomplishes that which previously required many different mechanisms, either physical or metaphysical.
(Emphasis by Youngblood)

aesthetic ~ the manner of experiencing something"
kinaesthesia ~ the experience of sensory perception???
New tools generate new images.

p. 111 Herbert Read's four styles of human consciousness: thought, intuition,
emotion, and sensation.

"one is made aware of the process lf one's own perception; thus one invests the experience with may by exerting conscious control over the conversion of sight impressions into images."

So it is a mix of context (gallery, not living room TV) and content + resolution/bandwidth/senses covered that enable a critical distance + exploration. In the moment video and audio create communication this "critical, analytical distance cannot exist any more.

"The emotional content of synaesthetic cinema exists in direct relation to the degree of counscious awareness of the act of perceiving, and is thus seldom predictable."

p. 114"technology is the only thing that keeps man human"
p. 115 Bob Dylan "One must live outside the law of the honest."

p. 116"The art and technology of expanded cinema will provide a framework within which contemporary man, who does not trust his own senses, may leave to study his values empirically and thus arrive at a better understanding of himself." The only understanding mid is the creative mind."

"John Dewey reminds us that when art is removed from daily experience the collective aesthetic hunger turns toward the cheap and the vulgar." > Rudofsky?? aesthetic has disappeared from daily manual work like cooking. There is nothing artful.

p. 126 "There is no illusion in painting or sculpture" What about OP-Art??? Things seem to move - but the do not. What about Escher objects??

p. 127 "Extra-objective art replaces object-consciousness with metaphysical relation-consciousness. Romance is born in the space between events."

p. 129 FM Radio: "... "two-way" or "conversation" radio and television are evidence that we're feeling more comfortable with our extensions. Soon we'll converse as intimately over television and radio as we do now over telephones."

"The increasing number of twenty-four-hour all-news radio stations is a symptom of humanity's growing awareness of the monitor function of the media ..."

"The mass-audience, mass-consumption era is beginning to dis-
integrate ..."

p. 130 "In a very real sense we can now show both our experiences and our emotions to one another, rather than attempting to explain them in verbally abstracted language. There's no semantic problem in a photographic image.

p. 131 "live broadcast television will be free to move information of a metabolic, homeostatic, interplanetary, nerve-system function."
It has become the "glue" that keeps our gobalised media-democracies and (post-)consumption-societies together.

It is not about sending images or sound - it is about connecting people and creating a virtual "commons."

p. 135 Towards cosmic consciousness
"If you look back in history you'll find that the artist and the scientist are inseparable. In many ways the artist's work is identical with scientific exploration. The artist is able to focus more in the area of consciousness, but with the same scientific zeal. Yet cosmic consciousness is not limited to the scientist. In fact scientists are sometimes the last to know."

"We could say that art isn't truly contemporary until it relates to the world of cybernetics, game theory, the DNA molecule, Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, theories of antimatter, transistorization, the breeder reactor, genocidal weaponry, the laser, pre-experiencing alternative futures.
"As Louis Pauwels has observed: "We are living at a time when science has entered the spiritual universe. It has transformed the mind of the observer himself, raising it to a plane which is no longer that of scientific intelligence, now proved to be inadequate.'' Man no longer is earthbound. We move now in sidereal time."

p. 146 "As we unlearn the past, we unlearn ourselves."
Just what Jean Luc Godard said about children.

"The Cybernetic Age is the new Romantic Age. Nature once again has become an open empire as it was in the days when man thought of the earth as flat and extending on to infinity. When science revealed the earth as spherical, and thus a closed system, we were able to speak of parameters and romance was demystified into Existentialism."

p. 149 Arthur C. Clarke: "Mainstream literature is part of sf (science fiction) because sf is about everything."
Clarke: "The goal of the future is unemployment, so we can play. That's why we have to destroy the present polito-economic system."

"The computer is the LSD of the business world. It absolutely guarantees the elimination of all the business it is now being brought to serve."

p. 189 The aesthetic machine
"Aesthesic application of technology is the only means of achieving new consciousness to match our new environment. We certainly are not going to love computers that guide SAC missiles. We surely do not feel warmth toward machines that analyze marketing trends. But perhaps we can learn to understand the beauty of a machine that produces the kind of visions we see in expanded cinema. "

"It is quite clear in what direction man's symbiotic relation to the computer is headed: if the first computer was the abacus, the ultimate computer will be the sublime aesthetic device: a parapsychological instrument for the direct projection of thoughts and emotions."
This is a typical sixties psychedelic Glasperlenspiel desire ...

p.191 "... the chisel, brush, and canvas are passive media whereas the computer is an active participant in the creative process."

Computer participation in the creative process after Robert Mallary (artforum 1969)
- "proposals and variants for the artist's consideration"
- "indispensable component in the production of an art that would be impossible without it"
- "autonomous decisions on alternative possibilities"
- "decisions not anticipated by the artist" (Like the warcraft plague of September 02005)
- "artist no longer needed"
- "pure, disembodied energy"

p. 192 "Traditionally, artists have looked upon science as being more important to mankind than art, whereas scientists have believed the reverse. Thus in the confluence of art and science the art world is understandably delighted to find itself suddenly in the company of science. For the first time, the artist is in a position to deal directly with fundamental scientific concepts of the twentieth century. He can now enter the world of the scientist and examine those laws that
describe a physical reality. However, there is a tendency to regard any computer-generated art as highly significant—even the most simplistic line drawing, which would be meaningless if rendered by
hand. Conversely, the scientific community could not be more pleased with its new artistic image, interpreting it as an occasion to relax customary scientific disciplines and accept anything random as art."

p. 193 "Though much emphasis currently is placed on collaboration between artists and technologists, the real trend is more toward one man who is both artistically and technologically conversant."
We can almost let this stand by itself. I think this has massively changed. Projects have become so complex and e.g. if i want sound in a piece i need an expert.

p. 193 A.M. Noll: "artists in general find it extremely difficult to verbalize the images and ideas they have in their minds. Hence the communication of the artist's ideas to the technologist is very poor indeed. What I do envision is a new breed of artist... a man who is extremely competent in both technology and the arts."

"Thus Robert Mallary speaks of an evolving "science of art... because programming requires logic, precision and powers of analysis as well as a thorough knowledge of the subject matter and
a clear idea of the goals of the program... technical developments in programming and hardware will proceed hand in glove with a steady increase in the theoretical knowledge of art, as distinct from the
intuitive and pragmatic procedures which have characterized the creative process up to now.""

p. 207 Burnham "Scientists and technicians are not converted into artists, rather the artist becomes a symptom of the schism between art and technics. Progressively, the need to make ultrasensitive judgments as to the uses of technology and scientific information becomes 'art' in the most literal sense."
Jack Burnham, "Systems Esthetics," Artforum (September, 1968), pp. 30-35.

p. 214 John Whitney: "[...] people are doing something like an infant pounding on the keys of a piano."
Or using a microscope to pound a nail into the wall? :)

p. 215 Cinema as a new communicative mode ... ??

p. 216 Jack Citron: "There should be something like a scientific curriculum for artists."

... a long passage where "Polar Crystal" or better "Liquid Crystal" screens are explained in detail.

p. 220 the color organ, Da Vinci and Remmingtion

p. 222 "attempts to aproximate mindforms." Whitney??

p. 236 GENE: "Do you think of the future in connection with computers?"
JOHN (Whitney): "Well let's divorce the future from technology and talk about
human values."

p. 238 JOHN: "The use of the realist image is just a basis, a starting point. Working with optical scanning you transform the images, and this seems to be a key to bringing nonobjective and realist imagery together. And why bring them together? Because it may lead to new insights and new experience."

The future of psychology:
"I believe the analyst is serving a function now which won't be needed in the future. Everything we know now in the "rational" world will be subsumed in the new knowledge or wisdom of the future. I think parapsychology, extrasensory perception, and related phenomena certainly cannot be ignored as possibilities. So in terms of our film work, the only way it may have some relevance to future consciousness is through problems of formal design. Not the technical things we're doing, just the design problems. In other words, sparking an inner revolution through exterior manipulation.
The high state we achieve through LSD or marijuana today is insightful to the extent that it may be similar to what man will feel on a daily basis in the future without exterior manipulation. This state has already happened in the East—not in the Occident because it's not part of our heritage— but it has happened with the Yogis and so on, and it's coming to the West through technology. "

Endless pages with descriptions of elaborate visual effects, like explaining screensavers.
Detailed conceptual comments about program structure.
Comments about programming and what sounds like OOP-models.
Very systemic approach.

p. 252 "Conscious or unconsciously we invent the future."

p. 258 "Television like the computer is a sleeping giant."
Well, it all came different, this is exactly what the advertising industry found out as well.

p. 258-259 Lutz Becker: "A new art form is not only the result of new technologies, but also the result of new thinking and the discovery of new orders."
Robert Hutchins: "A country that is chiefly interested in turning out consumers and producers is not
likely to be much concerned with setting minds free; for the connection between selling, manufacturing, and free minds cannot be established. Such a country will transform new opportunities for education into means of turning out producers and consumers. This has been the fate of television in the United States. It could have been used for educational purposes, but not in a commercial culture.
The use of television, as it was employed in the United States in the 1960's, can be put in its proper light by supposing that Gutenberg's great invention had been directed almost entirely to the publication of comic books.''

p. 259 Peter Ferdinand Drucker: "Few messages are as carefully designed and as clearly communicated as the thirty-second television commerical... Few teachers spend in their entire careers as much time or thought on preparing their classes as is invested in the many months of writing, drawing, acting, filming, and editing of one thirty-second television commercial."

p. 261 "After some twenty-five years of public television, we are just now developing a sense of global unity that is defined to affect directly the life of each individual before this decade is past."

p. 262 "Large communication conglomerats [...] are now planning net-works of planet analysis that will result in television as a constant source of global metabolic and homeostatic information."

p. 264 Scott Bartlett: "There's a whole new story to be told, thanks to the new techniques. We must find out what we have to say because of our new technologies."
It all sounds much what Blogs and "I am the media" have become now.

p. 284-285 Brice Howard: "The television studio is affected architecturally by the influences of theatre and radio. For example, the audiometrics—the acoustical character of that situation—is very much influenced by microphones which preceded television. And how sound pickup sources affect the order of masses, planes, volumes, compositions, so on. Very frequently the imposition of
that technology, which has nothing to do with the experience you're seeking at the moment, is there nonetheless and has to be taken into consideration, forcing certain kinds of compromises. For example there's no reason that an omni-directional acoustical transducer cannot be devised to pick up all the sound in all the 360-degrees of cubic space within the studio. But there isn't one.
And that's partly a factor of radio and partly a factor of film. The architectural space itself is very close to theatre, from which film derived its basis, etcetera, etcetera. And indeed in a conventional studio, ask a so-called set designer, stage designer, television art director (all those terms apply to the same man in television; all those terms are used in television), you ask that man to fix you an environment and more frequently than not he'll fix you an environment that looks like it's on a stage. Indeed you can almost see the proscenium arch. Now the cubic space with which you are dealing in this newer mode of television is of a different order entirely. The only space which is valid is the space on the surface of that monitor. Whether or not one wants to argue about the word "space" is irrelevant as long as you understand the intent. I'm saying that it isn't in the studio, it's in the monitor. Now, the monitor screen has some remarkable characteristics. Among other things, it itself is information irrespective of anything you put in it— sign, symbol, rhythm, duration, or anything. It is delicious all by itself, if you want to enjoy it, though its matter is apparently of a totally random character. It is different, for example, from the reflective surface, which is a movie screen, off which light bounces with the image intact. But television is an electronic surface whose very motion is affecting the motion that you're putting into it. And what is really the richest part of television, less its technology, less its cubist nature, less its incredible colorations and shapes and motions and excitements—it's now, it's capturing the damned actual with all of its aberrations. Television will help us become more human. It will lead us closer to ourselves.

p. 291 "When you watch television you only know what's going on in television. That is all your really find out." Biofeedback??

p. 291 Loren Sears "Any medium can be transformed by the user.The paradigm for it all is music. There's the music of the medium, which means it also has a muse. We can learn from it. Television has been used as an attraction, a come-on, an effect. Nothing used for effect is an art."

"Just as in his synaesthetic cinema, Sears merged aesthetic and technique. There are no effects when form and content are one."

Otto Piene: "Light Planets"??

p. 303 Paik: "science is more beauty then logic."

p. 316 Eric Siegel biofeedback loop visuals.
"Teledynamic Systems"

It is all about technology and exploring the technology, to expand the mind. Visual effects. Closed circuit and teledynamic environments.

p. 337 "Television is neither an object nor a "content" "Television is the art of communication" "television controls the movement of information"
(JFK knew that.)
not primarily an aesthetic medium.

"The artist is concerned not so much what is being communicated as with how it is communicated and the awareness of the process."

p. 339 Les Levine "All of television, even broadcast television, is to some degree showing the human race to itself as a working model. It's a reflection of society, and it shows society what society looks like. It renders the social and psychological condition of the environment visible to that environment."
But wasn't the result that live is immitating TV now - and not vice versa??

p. 340 Les Levine "Contact is a system that synthesizes man with his technology. In this system, the people are the software. It relies totally on the image and sensibility of the viewer for its life. It is a responsive mechanism and its personality reflects the attitudes of its viewers. If they are angry, the piece looks angry. Contact is made not only between you and your image, but how you feel about your image, and how you feel about that image in relationship to the things around you. The circuit is open."

p. 342 "The most important function was to integrate the audience into the information" ... ??

p. 348 !!! "For some time now it has been clear that intermedia art is trending toward that point at which all the phenomena of life on earth will constitute the artist's palette. It is the purpose of this chapter to illuminate the direction of that trend and to cite a few pertinent examples. As with all other Paleocybernetic phenomena, the direction is simultaneously toward inner and outer space, the microcosm and the macrocosm. On the one hand, intermedia environments turn the participant inward upon himself, providing a matrix for psychic exploration, perceptual, censorial, and intellectual awareness; on the other hand technology has advanced to the point at which the whole earth itself becomes the "content" of aesthetic activity."

p. 350-351 "All media ... relate us to whatever else it is we are doing."

p. 358 Some neat speculations on the eye-phone, earphone, by Thompson.
"Black Gate Electromedia Theatre, NYC" ???

p. 399 Best telematic joke of all times:
"Someday you will be able to go to a party and be the only one there." Andy Warhol

p. 410 holographic films, technical problems ...

p. 418 technoanarchy! "Technology is the only thing that keeps man human."

p. 419 "Through the art of expanced cinema we shall create heavan right here on earth."


1966 The New York Times clipping of Brockman's statements regarding "expanding cinema" and (IKE) Intermedia Kinetic Environments:

last update: 1/21/02012 17:58

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