People Behind the Pixels

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Ken Knowlton

  • All
  • animation
  • research
  • art
  • Computer Scientist
  • researcher
  • pioneer
  • artist
  • Ken Knowlton says that he's "been there, done that": he has been a farmhand, student, teacher, advisor, speaker, reader, mathematician, physicist, electron microscopist, computer scientist, chimes player, mountain climber, researcher, inventor, author, artist, critic, son, sibling, father, husband, grandfather, peace and civil rights activist, agnostic, retiree, liberal, cynic and realistic pessimist. Retired from scientific/technical agitation, he is trying to spend the final quarter of his life doing no harm: writing essays and memoirs, and using his own computer-assisted methods for planning his artwork, most of which are mosaic portraits. [ need exact birthdate ]

  • With Lillian Schwartz, between 1968 and 1974 Ken made 10 films, created mostly with variations of Knowlton's language EXPLOR (pictures based on EXplicit Patterns, Local Operations and Randomness): PIXILLATION, OLYMPIAD, UFOS, ENIGMA, GOOGOLPLEX (B/W), APOTHEOSIS, AFFINITIES, KINESIS, ALAE, METAMORPHOSIS. These films were shown in 30+ film festivals throughout the 1970's.

  • Pioneering computer artist

    With Lillian Schwartz, between 1968 and 1974 Ken made 10 films, created mostly with variations of Knowlton's language EXPLOR (pictures based on EXplicit Patterns, Local Operations and Randomness): PIXILLATION, OLYMPIAD, UFOS, ENIGMA, GOOGOLPLEX (B/W), APOTHEOSIS, AFFINITIES, KINESIS, ALAE, METAMORPHOSIS. These films were shown in 30+ film festivals throughout the 1970's.

  • The EXPLOR language, which generates designs from 'Ex'-plicit 2-D 'P'-atterns, 'L'-ocal 'O'-perations, and 'R'-andomness, has been useful not only in providing the computer novice with graphic output; it has also been a vehicle for introducing many other basic computational notions: algorithms, nested loops, sorting, heuristics and search, cellular automata, Monte Carlo calculations, finite state machines.

  • EXPLOR

    The EXPLOR language, which generates designs from 'Ex'-plicit 2-D 'P'-atterns, 'L'-ocal 'O'-perations, and 'R'-andomness, has been useful not only in providing the computer novice with graphic output; it has also been a vehicle for introducing many other basic computational notions: algorithms, nested loops, sorting, heuristics and search, cellular automata, Monte Carlo calculations, finite state machines.

  • Pixillation was one of the first collaborations between Lillian Schwartz and Ken Knowlton during their stint at Bell Labs using Knowlton’s self written computer animation language EXPLOR. Made in 1970 this 4 minute film crams in a spectacular amount of visual information, cutting from geometric sequences reminiscent of Cellular Automata to analogue sequences of organic forms – immersions of liquids and oils so favoured by the West Coast light show fanatacists around the same time. In fact the synergy and …

  • Pixillation - story

    Pixillation was one of the first collaborations between Lillian Schwartz and Ken Knowlton during their stint at Bell Labs using Knowlton’s self written computer animation language EXPLOR. Made in 1970 this 4 minute film crams in a spectacular amount of visual information, cutting from geometric sequences reminiscent of Cellular Automata to analogue sequences of organic forms – immersions of liquids and oils so favoured by the West Coast light show fanatacists around the same time. In fact the synergy and similarity between naturally occurring organic patterns and their isomorphic algorithmic counterparts seems to be the key message of this film. Pixillation presents us with forking paths of pixels in an alternating retort to footage of the formation of ice crystals. Schwartz and Knowlton’s work instinctively grasps the convergence between the the natural world and the world of computer simulation. The film develops staccato modulations between microscopic network alignments and the systematic self-organisation principles derived from simple code – between data and nature. The film could be seen as an unintentional precursor to many of the ideas, experiments, simulations that underline the science of Emergence. Its cellular lattice growth systems perhaps cross reference John Conway’ s famed computational life simulations or perhaps even pre-date it, as both were made public in 1970. The pace of the film, with its flickering montage, together with the experimental soundtrack by Gershon Kingsley further belies the interest in the perceptual and sensory aspects of the medium at this time.

  • [ 1963] I had a set of subroutines someone dubbed BEFLIX, acronym for "Bell Flicks," arguably the first computer language specifically for bitmap movie making. (I have also been called the inventor of the pixel, which is a bit of a reach, though I might claim independent discovery.)

  • BEFLIX language

    [ 1963] I had a set of subroutines someone dubbed BEFLIX, acronym for "Bell Flicks," arguably the first computer language specifically for bitmap movie making. (I have also been called the inventor of the pixel, which is a bit of a reach, though I might claim independent discovery.)

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