Oct 29, 2010

Googolplex (1972) by Lillian Schwartz

Of filmmaker, digital artist, and computer pioneer Lillian Feldman Schwartz, filmmaker Jodie Mack (Helen Hill Award recipient and Dartmouth professor) recently wrote (on Facebook): "Love her long time."

In September 2010, Walter Forsberg (filmmaker and NYU Library Research Fellow) introduced me to Lillian Schwartz's work, and to Lillian herself, who we met for a lunch and Orphans talk. Delightful.

She talked about her work with computers, avant garde composers, kinetic sculpture, experimental video at WNET, and of course her 16mm films. Lillian also encouraged us to follow-up with Walter's idea of preserving some of that work. Fortunately, she has kept all the work safe at Ohio State University's Rare Books and Manuscripts Library, home of the Lillian Feldman Schwartz Collection. There, Lisa Iacobellis has been supervising inspection of the many film and audio elements; now Walter and Alice Moscoso (NYU Library preservation department) has have begun to prepare some of them for film to film preservation at Colorlab. The library's finding aid says:

The collection contains correspondence, journals, catalogs, awards, financial records, scripts, publicity materials, clippings, books and articles by or about her, stills, film and video masters, outtakes, and notes on computer-generated films. Correspondents include Nobel Prize winners, famous scientists, musicians, artists, and curators and others still unknown to the general public but who also had a tremendous impact on culture and technology. The collection also includes drawings, computer graphics, and sculptures, as well as sketchbooks, artworks, and drawings going back to when she was a child.

Several Schwartz films are on YouTube. This one, Googolplex (1972), is indicative of the work that emerged from her collaborations with computer scientist Ken Knowlton while she was artist in residence at Bell Labs.

The 1971 film UFOs, by Lillian Schwartz and Ken Knowlton, is one we plan to include on the forthcoming DVD compilation from the Orphan Film Project.


Final note: the short documentary The Artist and the Computer (1976, AT&T) is a profile of Lillian at work.