Subversive Cinema: John Whitney’s Permutations by Klax
John Whitney was an experimental animator and composer. He is widely considered to be one of the fathers of computer animation.
After studying music composition in Paris, he returned to the U.S. and began collaborating with his brother, James, to produce abstract animations. Their work, Five Film Exercises (1940-45) was awarded first prize at the First International Experimental Film Competition in 1949. By 1950, he was creating animation sequences for television.
In 1958, he collaborated with title-sequence pioneer, Saul Bass, on the spirographic opening of Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo. In 1966, he was awarded IBM’s first artist-in-residency. Until the 1970s, most of Whitney’s animations made use of a complex analog computer. By the mid-1970s his animations were made completely with digital technologies. His work often uses self-composed music that explored mystical or Native-American themes. He continued making films until his death in 1995.
“In PERMUTATIONS, each point moves at a different speed and moves in a direction independent according to natural laws’ quite as valid as those of Pythagoras, while moving in their circular field. Their action produces a phenomenon more or less equivalent to the musical harmonies. When the points reach certain relationships (harmonic) numerical to other parameters of the equation, they form elementary figures.”- John Whitney