DER Documentary

Screening Room with John Whitney Sr.

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From the Screening Room series
by Robert Gardner
color, 68 min, 1972/2005

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This DVD is also available as part of the Screening Room series Animation Collection.

Abstract computer animator, inventor and digital pioneer John Whitney, Sr. (1917-1995) is widely considered the "father of Computer Graphics." Whitney's films reveal his deep interest in technology as a means to art, as well as in the links he saw between music and visual forms. A resident at MIT's Center for Advanced Visual Studies, and later on the faculty at UCLA and the California Institute of Technology, Whitney experimented with early computer graphic systems and worked alongside IBM programmers to expand the computer's graphic capabilities. He has received many awards. Originally working with his brother, James, Whitney leaves a legacy of image making in his three sons, John Jr., Mark, and Michael, who are also filmmakers.

John Whitney was a guest on the inaugural episode of Screening Room in November, 1972. He showed and discussed Permutations, 1-2-3-Osaka, Matrix, Matrix III and a film by his son, John Whitney Jr., called Terminal Self.

“The foremost computer-filmmaker in the world, John Whitney has for more than thirty years sought new language through technological resources beyond human capacity. He has, however, remained resolutely "humanist" in his approach, constantly striving to reach deep emotional awarenesses through a medium essentially austere and clinical.” — Gene Younggblood

About the Screening Room series
In the early 1970s a group of idealistic artists, lawyers, doctors and teachers saw an opportunity to change commercial television in Boston and the surrounding area. It would require years of litigation up to and including the Supreme Court, but the case was won and the Channel 5 license was given to WCVB-TV. Screening Room was one of several programs offered in an effort to provide alternative television viewing. The idea behind Screening Room was to give independent filmmakers an opportunity to discuss their work and show it to a large urban audience. Nearly 100 ninety-minute programs were produced and aired between 1973 and 1980.

Screening Room was developed and hosted by filmmaker Robert Gardner, who at the time, was Director of Harvard's Visual Arts Center and Chairman of its Visual and Environmental Studies Department. His own films include Dead Birds (1964), and Forest of Bliss (1986).

Other films from the Screening Room series
Bruce Baillie
Les Blank
Robert Breer
James Broughton
Emile de Antonio
Ed Emshwiller
Hollis Frampton
Robert Fulton
George Griffin
Hillary Harris
John & Faith Hubley
Peter Hutton
Derek Lamb
Standish Lawder & Stanley Cavell
Ricky Leacock
Caroline Leaf & Mary Beams
Jan Lenica
Alan Lomax
Jonas Mekas
Suzan Pitt
Yvonne Rainer
Richard P. Rogers
Jean Rouch
Michael Snow

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