Matrix III

John Whitney

8 March 1972

16mm (colour, sound) film transferred to HD video, 11’ © 2015 Digital Editions, LLC

John Whitney (Pasadena, California, 1917 – Los Angeles, 1995) is the father of computer-generated graphic animation. During the 1950s Whitney explored the visual and audio potential of different devices which he developed himself. Imitating the functioning of an analogue computer used during the Second World War to fight against air raids, he started to create his first visual effects which he would later develop using the Whitney-Reed RDTD (Radius-Differential Theta Differential) program he had invented. Whitney was awarded IBM’s first artist-in-residence position.

Matrix III foreshadowed many of the futurist animations of the 1980s. The music by Terry Riley, an extract from his Rainbow in Curved Air, from 1969, accompanies a poem revolving around a series of geometric patterns: dots, triangles, squares and hexagons which, in a formal succession connected by what’s known as a Lissajous curve, are transformed into other more complex figures with a three-dimensional appearance. In this way, the abstraction of mathematical formulas is expressed like a virtual architecture that, in certain arrangements, takes on a physical appearance.