Gene Youngblood

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Gene Youngblood lecturing at BIM, Buenos Aires, October 31, 2012

Gene Youngblood (May 30, 1942 – April 6, 2021) was an American theorist of media arts and politics, and a respected scholar in the history and theory of alternative cinemas. His best known book, Expanded Cinema, was the first to consider video as an art form and has been credited with helping to legitimate the fields of computer art and media arts.


Expanded Cinema, 1970[edit]

  • When we say expanded cinema we actually mean expanded consciousness. Expanded cinema does not mean computer films, video phosphors, atomic light, or spherical projections. Expanded cinema isn't a movie at all: like life it's a process of becoming, man's ongoing historical drive to manifest his consciousness outside of his mind, in front of his eyes. One no longer can specialize in a single discipline and hope truthfully to express a clear picture of its relationships in the environment. This is especially true in the case of the intermedia network of cinema and television, which now functions as nothing less than the nervous system of mankind.
    • Preface
  • We live in and age of hyper-awareness, our senses extend around the globe, but it's the case of aesthetic overload: our technical zeal has outstripped our psychic capacity to cope with the influx of information.
    • p. 58
  • The intermedia network has made all of us artists by proxy. A decade of television-watching is equal to a comprehensive course in dramatic acting, writing, and filming... the mystique is gone - we could almost do it ourselves. Unfortunately too many of us do just that: hence the glut of sub-mediocre talent in the entertainment industry.
    • p. 58
  • As a design-scientist the artist discovers and perfects language that corresponds more directly to experience; he develops hardware that embodies its own software as a conceptual tool for coping with reality.
    • p. 72
  • Freud spoke of oceanic consciousness as that in which we feel our individual existence lost in mystic union with the universe. Nothing could be more appropriate to contemporary experience, when for the first time man has left the boundaries of this globe. The oceanic effect of synaesthetic cinema is similar to the mystical allure of the natural elements: we stare in mindless wonder at the ocean or a lake or river. We are drawn almost hypnotically to fire, gazing as though spellbound. We see cathedrals in clouds, not thinking anything in particular but feeling somehow secure and content. It is similar to the concept of no-mindedness in Zen, which also is the state of mantra and mandala consciousness, the widest range of consciousness.
  • For some years now the activity of the artist in our society has been trending more toward the function of the ecologist: one who deals with environmental relationships. Ecology is defined as the totality or pattern of relations between organisms and their environment. Thus the act of creation for the new artist is not so much the invention of new objects as the revelation of previously unrecognized relation- ships between existing phenomena, both physical and metaphysical. So we find that ecology is art in the most fundamental and pragmatic sense, expanding our apprehension of reality.
    • p. 346; The Artist as Ecologist; Partly cited in: Derek Owens. Composition and Sustainability: Teaching for a Threatened Generation. National Council of Teachers of English, 1 jan. 2001
  • For some time now it has been clear that intermedia art is trending toward that point at which all the phenomena of life on earth will constitute the artist’s palette. It is the purpose of this chapter to illuminate the direction of that trend and to cite a few pertinent examples. As with all other Paleocybernetic phenomena, the direction is simultaneously toward inner and outer space, the microcosm and the macrocosm. On the one hand, intermedia environments turn the participant inward upon himself, providing a matrix for psychic exploration, perceptual, censorial, and intellectual awareness; on the other hand technology has advanced to the point at which the whole earth itself becomes the “content” of aesthetic activity. The term “light show” must now be expanded virtually to include the aurora borealis, since hemispherical lumia displays are possible in the creation of artificial plasma clouds in space (see color plates), the launching of rockets to generate atmospherical events, or urban environmental generators such as Nicholas Schoffer’s monumental Cybernetic Light Tower, which transforms the skies of Paris into panoramic fantasias of color.

Quotes about Gene Youngblood[edit]

  • Anyone who looks at the historical record of the juncture of art and technology finds you nearly unaccompanied when it comes to documenting this historical record between the years of the late-1960's up to the early 1990s. Basically there is you, Jack Burnham's book Beyond Modern Sculpture (1968), and Gene Youngblood's reference work Expanded Cinema (1970). Specifically, your (Frank Popper's) books Origins and Development of Kinetic Art (1968), Art, Action and Participation (1975) and Art of the Electronic Age (1993) are indispensable research tools in helping us figure out how art got to where it is today - in your terms virtualized.

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