The Artist that invented Computer Animation
by Aapo Saask
On an island aptly named Magnetic Island off the coast of Australia, a Swedish artist lives in exile. Just like so many others in today's media-landscape, he was first praised and then brought to dust. However, he has left a lasting imprint on the world. As early as the 1960's, he made the first electronic animation. Had he been an inventor, he would have been celebrated as a genius today, but because he is a predecessor in the world of art, things are different. In that world, the great ones often have to die before they are recognized.
We all know how Disney's famous cartoons were made: thousands of drawings, filmed in sequence. Even today some films are made this way. However, electronic animation has opened up a new world within the film industry and it has also made computer games and countless graphic solutions possible in business and science.
Pixar, which used to be part of Lucasfilm and then sold to Steve Jobs in the lat 1980's, made the first completely computer animated film called "Andre and Wally B" in 1983. The first feature length fully animated movie was Toy Story from 1995. It was made by Pixar and distributed by Disney. Disney had already started to use computer animation in Little Mermaid from 1989, and then on through Aladdin, Lion King, Pocahontas, etc In those fantastic movies the pictures were however first drawn on paper and then scanned into computers for painting and cleanup and superimposition over painted backgrounds.
Decades earlier, in 1963 Nam June Paik Paik and Wolf Vostell presented the earliest experiments with distorted TV-images. They placed thirteen televisions prepared for the distortion of images on the floor among many other objects at the Parnass Gallery in Wuppertal. This "event" is retrospectively identified as the beginning of video art.
From 1965-1968, Nam June Paik and Yud Yalkut work with the first experimental creation of electronic images, based on the manipulation of transistors and resistors of a television set, with what was called a video synthesizer. These abstract images - waving, and swinging and changing colour, surging forth at random as a result of maladjustment show that a monitor can also be an instrument and not just a simple receiver of images. Their esperiments were first shown in 1971. Already in 1965, Ture Sjolanders electronically manipulated images were broadcasted by the Swedish Television (SVT) and later by other TV-stations in Europe. Among other things, Ture Sjolander was experimenting with the question of how much the portrait of a person could be changed before it was unrecognizable, something which has pioneered the amazing morph-technique that is used today.
Gene Youngblood, who, alongside with Marshall McLuchan, is the most celebrated media-philosopher of the era, devoted a whole chapter in his book Expanded Cinema, 1970, (Pre face by Buckminster-Fuller) to the experiments of the SVT. Expanded cinema means transgression of conventions as well as mind-expanding transgressions and new definitions. Sjolanders broadcasts were not technically sophisticated, but they were ground-breaking.
The film mentioned by Youngblood is "Monument" (1968) by Ture Sjolander and Lars Weck. The other televised pioneering animations were "TIME" (1965/66) by Ture Sjolander and Bror Wikstrom and "Space In the Brain" (1969) by Ture Sjolander, Bror Wikstrom, Sven Hoglund and Lasse Svanberg. Whereas most of the modern-day artists fade into oblivion, Ture Sjolander has found his place in the art history by the making of those films.
Ture, a lad from the northern city of Sundsvall, had instant success with his opening exhibition at the Sundsvalls Museum 1961. He moved to Stockholm in the beginning of the 1960's. At an exhibition in 1964 at Karlsson Gallery his imagery upset the public so much that the gallery immediately became the trendiest place for young artists in Stockholm.
In 1968, he created another scandal, when the film "Monument" was televised in most European countries. For a couple of years, Ture Sjolander was celebrated in France, Italy, Great Britain and the USA. In Sweden there was a lot of jealousy. The Museum of Modern Art and the National Gallery of Sweden, to name a few, bought his works, but the techniques he worked with were expensive and after a few years, he found himself without resources. Instead he started to work with celebrities such as Charlie Chaplin and Greta Garbo. They taught him that exile mental and/or physical - is the only way to escape destruction for a creative genius. He moved to Australia.
Ture Sjolander's works include photos, films, books, articles, textiles, tv-programs, video-installations, happenings, sculptures and paintings all scattered around the Globe. Tracing will be a challenging and exciting task for a future detective/biographer and web-archaeologist's.
But mostly, his work consists of a life of questioning and creation. This is what sets him aside as one of the great artists of the 20th century.
Another forerunner in the art world, the internationally celebrated Swedish composer Ralph Lundsten, says in an interview in the magazine SEX, 5, 2004: "In those days (the 19th century), a painting could create a revolution. Today people look idly at all the thousands of exhibitions that there are. Hmm. Oh, really. How clever he is, and they yawn If I were a visual artist, and if my ambition was to create something new, I would devote myself to the possibilities of the computer."
In 1974, Sherman Price of Rutt Electrophysics, wrote to the Swedish Television Company (SVT): "Video Synthesis is becoming a prominent technique in TV production here in the United States, and I think it will be interesting to give credit to your broadcasting system and personnel for achieving this historic invention."
He was referring to Ture Sjolander's revolutionary work in the 1960's. No one at the SVT could at that time imagine the importance that this innovation would have for television, and Sweden therefore lost a lead position in the computer-development (later called IT) business.
Amongst the younger generation of computer animators, few know that they have a Swedish predecessor. Many engineers were probably working away in their cellars in those days, trying to do the same thing, but Sjolander was the first person to show his results on the air. If any of you would like to have a look at the Godfather of animation, you can find a good glimpse of him by googling. Today, he has a fascinating web-presence.
He did not seek to patent his inventions and he has made no money from it. However, he has made it to the history books as one of the great precursors of art - and perhaps also of technology - of the 20th century.
After a couple of decades of silence, in the spring of 2004, Sjolander's groundbreaking work was shown at Fylkingen, an avant guard media and music hide out in Stockholm
In September/October 2004, some of his recent paintings are to be exhibited at the Gallery Svenshog outside of Lund, Sweden. This was to commemorate the forty years that have gone by since his last (scandalous) exhibition at Lunds Konsthall. Many artists take a pleasure in provoking the established art world. Ture Sjolander also provokes the rest of the world.
1981 - 1982.
Elected Secretary and Member of the Board of the National Association of Professional Swedish Visual Artists - K.R.O - Konstnärernas Riks Organisation Stockholm - with over 6.000 members.
1979 - 1986.
Elected as the first Director and Chairperson of the Board, while Curator/ Administrator of the former Swedish National Artist Organisation, VIDEO-NU, Stockholm, an Art Laboratory for new electronic technology financially assisted by the Swedish Government and the Stockholm City Council ( 200 individual and 15 corporate members)
Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm, Sweden.
National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden.
Gothenburg's Art Museum, Gothenburg, Sweden.
Sundsvalls Museum, Sundvall, Sweden.
Family of Charles Chaplins private collection Switzerland.
Swedish National Television collection Stockholm, Sweden.
The Australian Embassy in Beijing, China.
The City Council of Changchun, China.
James Cooks University, North Queensland, Australia
Qingdao Municipal Museum, China. Sculptures:
'97 China Changchun City, International Invitation Exhibition of Sculpture - Permanent installation of two-of-a kind, 3 meters marble-sculptures, at the Culture Square.
Alvdalens County collection, Sweden. Stone of Alvdalskvartsit.
County Council, Falun City, Sweden. Stone of kvartsit.
Thirty public artworks in Sweden and in addition; international corporate and private
Collections in USA, Australia,Europe and China.
AWARDS AND GRANTS;
The Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts - Top Project Grant 1975 for pioneering elec-
tronic Artworks since 1966 and for the development of art&technology, 'video-art'.The Ministry for the Arts, Development Grant, Oueensland State Government, Australia, 1992.
The Royal Fund for Swedish Culture - Video&Television installation/experiment, 1966.
The Swedish Government Ministry for Arts, Project Grant for New Media Experiment1962.
Stockholm City Council, Department for Arts, Project Grant - experimental photo- graphics - lightpainting, 1962.
Expanded Cinema by Gene Yomgblood - Published by Studio Vista Ltd 1970. Pages; 331 - 334. Introductionen by R. Buckminster Fuller.
"Digitala Pionjarer", byGary Svensson, Linkopings Studies in Arts and Science, Linkopings University, Sweden. Publisher: Carlsson Bokforlag, 2000.ISBN 91 72 03 992 2. ISSN 0282-9800.211 pages. Sjolander pages: 64-65, 104- 113, 129.
"New Media in Late 20th-Century Art", by Dr.Michael Rush, Harward University, Thames&Hudson , Publisher 1999. Pp. 92 -93 of 224 pages. ISBN 0-500-20329-
The Collection Of The Qingdao International Art Exhibiton - China 1999. Catalogue; pp. 11, 296, 316. Published by Chinese Artist's Organisation. ISBN 7-5305-1101-7
Art and Australia ( June 1992 Winter/issue, 3 full pages ) - Fine Art Press Pty Ltd. Australia.
The Courier Mail, Queensland, Australia. Saturday, January 25, 1992; 'Artist to fine tune the relevance of art', by Sonia Ulliana.
Essere (Vol. 4 1968) by Pierrluigi Albertoni.Tribunale di Milan, 'La Mec-Art' by Pierre Restany (pp. 13, 15 17, 64, 65)
Video (Monthly Magazine - January 1979) Linkhouse Publication Group Pty Ltd. UK, 'Video Art at New Castle' by Mandy McIntyre (pp.32-33)
Konstrevy (Volume 1) 1963 'Photographic Development' by Kurt Bergengren. (Pp. 10 - 13, and original cover art: 'Ready Maid/Pop Art'. Publisher; Bonniers Bokforlag Sweden.
National Swedish Encyclopaedia - ( 'Focus' ) 1967, Publisher; Bonniers Sweden. See 'S' for, Sjölander Ture.
An innumerable number of articles in Europe, Australia, China and USA have been published as well as radio and television programs (e.g. catalogue text for installations/exhibitions) by writers as: Pierre Restany, Paris, Öivind Fahlström, N.Y., Kristian Romare, Belgium, Prof. Björn Hallström, Stockholm, Pontus Hulten, Bonn, etc. etc.
Available upon request.
Sundsvalls Museum, 1961, (regional Art Gallery Sweden) - Light paintings. Debut. Solo
Exhibition. Catalogue foreword by Oyvind Fahlstrom.
White Chapel Art Gallery - London, UK. 1963. Light paintings. Selected group exhibition.
Lunds Konsthall (famous Regional Fine Art Gallery in South Sweden, Lund City) 1965.
Simultaneously installation of an outdoor exhibition in Stockholm on billboard space of Monumental size. Solo installations.
The 5th Biennale of Paris, France 1967. Selected group exhibition. Catalogue foreword by Pierre Restany.
Gallerie Apollinaire - Milan, Italy 1968, Invited to exhibit with contemporary all-
Italian artists. Selected group exhibition.
Serpentine Gallery, London, UK. 1975. Selected group exhibition
The Galleries, Biddick Farm Arts Center, Washington Tyne and Wear, New Castle. UK. 1976 and 1979. Selected group exhibition/installation incl. Bill Viola, Ed Emshwiller etc.
Museum of Modern Art, Stockholm Sweden, 1981. Electronic Art, International Exhibition incl. seminars. Selected group exhibition.
International Video Art exhibition KULTURHUSET Stockholm Sweden 1982. Selected
group exhibition incl. Nam June Paik, Bill Viola, etc etc
Museum of Modern Art - Stockholm Sweden, 1985. 'Swedish Contemporary Art' - Six months exhibition. Selected group exhibition.
Ethnographic Museum, Stockholm, Sweden, 1987 and 1988. Video/multimedia installa-tion; 'Body Paintings Papua New Guinea' - 'The South Pacific Festival of Art', Solo installation.
Gallery Umbrella, North Queensland, Australia, 1991. 'Space - the Image of Wealth 1'.
1997 - China International Sculpture Invitation Exhibition in Changchun, Jilin province. 'Peace, Friendship and Spring'
Group exhibition. Foreign artists from 10 nations. Permanent installations of stone sculptures at the Culture Square in the City of Changchun.
1999, CHINA, Qingdao, " Trancentury China International Masterpieces Exhibition '99, August. Paintings. Qingdao Municipal Museum.
Paris - France
October 31, 1968
Catalogue text for Ture Sjolander
MONUMENT: UN NOUVEL HUMANISME
" Je ne connais pasTure Sjolander. En automne 1967 un long voyage en Amerique du Sud ne m'a permis de visiter la 5 `eme Biennale de Paris, ou il exposait, qu'a l'extreme fin de la manifestation. Mieux vaut tard que jamais. J'ai ete frappe par les oeuvres de Sjolander. Par leur esprit vraiment moderne. Par soon instinct sur, son usage poetigue des donnees technologiques des mass media: une liberation iconographique au niveau de la technologie de l'information, du langage de la communication de masse…
Elle nous concerne tous, elle est plus historique que l'histoire, plus sexuelle que le sexe, plus criminelle que le crime, plus objective que n'importe quel processus d'objectivation. On atteint la notion d'une super-
Expressivite de synthese, liee aux phenomenes d'alteration et de transformation des structures visuelles initiales. Cette alchimie de la vision a trouve sa pierre philosophale. Le plomb des definitions theorigues et standard de l'image animee s'est mue en vif-argent: le mercure des distorsion libres.
En creant une distance optique par rapport au phenomene mental
d'enregistrement de l'image, l'enterprise deTure Sjolander apparait comme un magistrature, le cure d'hygiene de la vision. Elle bouleverse nos habitudes de perception reflexe, elle stimule notre conscience et notre gout, elle nous associe au destin structurel de l'image animee.
Dans une societe en plein mutation, ou le peril majeur consiste sans doute dans la mecanisation des esprits et la generalisation d'une passivite sensorielle, d'un modernisme-reflexe saturant l'individu, l'enterprise collective deTure Sjolander, associant l'art et la technique dans le but d'assurer la survie poetique de notre vision, est une enterprise pleinement humaine, que dis-je, humaniste au sens le plus moderne du terme "
Pierre Restany, Paris, oct. 1968
In the short history of video animation the Swedish artists TURE SJOLANDER and BROR WIKSTROM are the pioneers. Their television art programme ' TIME ' (1965 - 1966) seems to be the first distortion of video-scan-line rasters achieved by applying tones from wave form generators.
For almost ten years they have been using electronic image-making equipment for a non-traditional statement. It must be kept in mind, however that SJOLANDER and WIKSTROM have a traditional and solid artistic background. Howard Klein likens the relationship between the video artist and his hardware to that between Ingres and the graphite pencil. It should be added that real artists like SJOLANDER and WIKSTROM have a natural relationship to any image-making equipment. In that respect they differ from most cameramen and tape makers and they may come back some day as pioneers in other fields of art.
In fact they have already surpassed the limits of video and TV using the electronic hardware to produce pictures which can be applied as prints, wall paintings and tapestries.
They have generously provided new possibilities to other artists, they are not working alone on a monument of their own.
It is significant that the Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Arts has decided to support SJOLANDER and WIKSTROM financially.
Royal Swedish Academy of Fine Art.
Stockholm - 1976
Fahlstrom about Sjolander - 1961
We live at a time when borders between the art forms are constantly being redrawn or abolished. Poets arrange their poems as pictorial compositions or record spoken sequences of sound which can hardly be distinguished from musique concrète. Composers are able to build a complete composition around the manipulation of a spoken voice. Artists sometimes create pictures by striking off newspaper photographs or mixing conglomerates of discarded objects and painted areas into something which is neither picture nor sculpture. Puppet theatre is performed by setting mobiles in motion in the constantly changing light effects on a stage.
The border between photography and painting is no longer clear, either, and it is easy to understand why this is so. Tinguély, the creator of mobiles, started out by making a form of reliefs with moving parts, powered by a machine placed at the back of them. After a while Tinguély began to wonder why he could not equally well show the play of cog wheels and driving belts at the rear and let "machine" and "shapes" become a united whole.
Similarly, some photographers have asked themselves why the action of light on photo paper and the development baths could not become a creative process comparable with the exposure of a motif — why camera work and darkroom work could not become one.
Among those photographers we find Ture Sjölander. Among those photo graphic artists, as he calls them, who feel dissatisfied with the dialectic of the traditional photographer’s relationship to his motif: when he searches for his motif, he is the sovereign master of it, choosing and rejecting it —. At the very moment that he touches the trigger, he has become enslaved to the motif, without any possibility (other than in terms of light gradation) to do what a painter does — reshape, exclude, and emphasize in the motif.
This subjection to the motif does not have to be disrupted by eliminating the motif. The photographer simply needs to remove the limits to what is permitted and what is not allowed. To let the copy of a photo remain in the water bath for an hour is allowed (if you want to keep the motif). But leaving it there for a couple of days is the right thing as well (if you want to let the motif diffuse into deformations soft and silky as fur). Scratching with a needle or a razor blade is making accidents with scratches into a virtue — and so on.
In addition, there is the chance of manipulating a figurative or non-figurative motif by copying different pictorial elements into it, by enlargements which elevate previously imperceptible structures to the visible level, even up to monumental dimensions. The tension between scratching lines of light into a developed (black) negative the size of a matchbox and enlarging it on the Agfa papers the size of a bed sheet. This is where the photographer has at his command tricks of his art which the painter lacks, or at any rate seldom uses.
But on the other hand, is the photographer able freely to experiment with the colour? Yes, he is — if he brushes paint on to the negative and makes a colour copy.
He may also, like Ture Sjölander, brush, pour, draw etc. on a photo paper — possibly with a background copied on to it — with water, developing or fixing sodium thiosulphite solutions, ferrocyanide of potassium and other liquids. In that case the result is a single, once-only, art work. In this way he is able to achieve a tempered and melting colour scale of white, sepia, ochre, thunder cloud grey, verdigris, silver and possibly also certain blue and red tones.
In this area, however, it seems everything still remains to be done — but one single photographer’s resources are not enough for the experiments to be conducted widely and in depth. Sweden has recently inaugurated its first studio of electronic music. When will photographers and painters be given the opportunity to explore this no-man’s-land between their time-honoured frontlines?
But can photography, in principle, be equal to painting? Is not the glossy, non-handmade character of the photo an obstacle? People have argued in a similar way about enamel work, but that technique is now recognised as totally and completely of a kind with the painted picture. If we adjust the focus of the "conventional painting concept" when we are looking at photo painting, we will perchance discover that in its singular immaterial quality it can possess new and suggestive value.
Translation from Swedish by Birgitta Sharpe
"VIDEOART" ELECTRONIC PAINTINGS - TELEVISED 1966 - 1967 - 1969.
"Man at the Moon". is the name of the LP Record.
RUTT ELECTROPHYSICS, NY, USA.
Letter from: RUTT ELECTROPHYSICS, 21-29 West 4th Street, New Yourk,N.Y., 10012. March 12, 1974.
Signed by Sherman Price.
To: International Section of Swedish National Television, Stockholm, Sweden.
"I am writing a detailed magazine article about the history of video animation.
From literature avaiable I gather that a videofilm program, "MONUMENT", broadcast in Stockholm in January, 1968, was the first distortion of video scan-line rasters achieved by applying tones from wave form generators.
This is of such great importance - historically - that I would like to obtain more detailed documentation of the program and of the electronic circuitry employed to manipulate the video images.
I understand from your New York office that there may have been a brochure or booklet published about the program.
I will be happy to pay any expense for publications, photcopies or other documents about the program and its production -particulary with regard to the method of modulating the deflection voltage in the flying-spot telecine used.
"Video synthesis" is becoming a prominent technique in TV production here in the United States, and I think it will be interesting to give credit to your broadcasting system and personal for achieving this historic innovation."
( A number of authentic documents/letters from this communications is avaliable)
No "detailed article" or even magazine was never reported or later presented after receiving the vital information from the Swedish Broadcating Company, by Rutt Electrophysics)
Letter from the Manager of
THE PINK FLOYD.
Stockholm, Septembre 11th 1967.
Dear Messrs Sjolander & Weck,
Having seen your interesting Stockholm exhibition of portraits of the King of Sweden made with advanced electronic techniques I have been struck by the connection between this new type of image creating and the music-and-light art presented by The Pink Floyd.
I think that your work could and should be linked with the music of The Pink Floyd in a television production, and I would like to suggest that we start arranging the practical details for such a production immedialtely. With all his experiences from filming in the USA and elsewhere I also feel that Mr. Lars Swanberg is the ideal man tp help us made the film.
Please get in touch as soon as possible.
following text was written by
the Swedish Art writer
electronic painting 1968byTURE SJOLANDER/LARS WECK
We create pictures. We form conceptions of all the objects of our experience. When talking to each other our conversation emerges in the form of descriptions. In that way we understand one another.
Instantaneous communication in all directions. Our world in television! The world in image and the image in the world: at the same moment, in the consciousness and in the eyes of millions.
The true multi-images is not substance but process-interplay between people.
"Photography freed us from old concepts", said the artist Matisse. For the first time it showed us the object freed from emotion.
Likewise satellites showed us for the first time the image of the earth from the outside. Art abandoned representation for the transformational and constructional process of depiction, and Marcel Duchamp shifted our attention to the image-observer relation.
That, too, was perhaps like viewing a planet from the outside. Meta-art: observing art from the outside. That awareness has been driven further. The function of an artist is more and more becoming like that of a creative revisor, investigator and transformer of communication and our awareness of them.
Multi-art was an attempt to widen the circulation of artist's individual pictures. But a radical multi-art should not, of course, stop the mass production of works of art: it should proceed towards an artistic development of the mass-image.
MONUMENT is such a step. What has compelled TURE SJOLANDER and LARS WECK is not so much a technical curiosity as a need to develop a widened, pictorially communicative awareness.
They can advance the effort further in other directions. But here they have manipulated the electronic transformations of the telecine and the identifications triggered in us by well-known faces, our monuments. They are focal points. Every translation influences our perception. In our vision the optical image is rectified by inversion. The electronic translation represented by the television image contains numerous deformations, which the technicians with their instruments and the viewers by adjusting their sets usually collaborate in rendering unnoticeable.
MONUMENT makes these visible, uses them as instruments, renders the television image itself visible in a new way. And suddenly there is an image-generator, which - fully exploited - would be able to fill galleries and supply entire pattern factories with fantastic visual abstractions and ornaments.
Utterly beyond human imagination.
SJOLANDER and WECK have made silkscreen pictures from film frames. These stills are visual. But with television, screen images move and effect us as mimics, gestures, convultions. With remarkable pleasure we sense pulse and breathing in the electronic movement. The images become irradiated reliefs and contours, ever changing as they are traced by the electronic finger of the telecine.
With their production, MONUMENT, SJOLANDER and WECK have demonstrated what has also been main-tained by Marshall McLuhan: that the medium of television is tactile and sculptural.
The Foundation for MONUMENT was the fact that television, as no other medium, draws the viewers into an intimate co-creativity. A maximum of identification - the Swedish King, The Beatles, Chaplin, Picasso, Hitler etc, - and a maximum of deformation.
A language that engages our total instinct for abstraction and recognition.
Vital and new graphic communication. A television Art.
Kristian Romare, Sweden 1968