VanDerBeek’s ironic compositions were created very much in the spirit of the surreal and dadaist collages on Max Ernst, but with a wild, rough informality more akin to the expressionism of the Beat Generation. In the 1960s, VanDerBeek began working with the likes of Claes Oldenburg and Allan Kaprow, as well as representatives of modern dance, such as Merce Cunningham and Yvonne Rainer. Building his Movie Drome theater at Stony Point, New York, at just about the same time, he designed shows using multiple projectors. These presentations contained a very great number of random image sequences and continuities, with the result that none of the performances were alike.
His desire for the utopian led him to work with Ken Knowlton in a co-operation at Bell Labs, where dozens of computer animated films and holographic experiments were created by the end of the 1960s. Between 1964 and 1967 Vanderbeek created Poem Field, a series of 8 computer-generated animations with Ken Knowlton.
During the same period, he taught at many universities, researching new methods of representation, from the steam projections at the Guggenheim Museum to the interactive television transmissions of his Violence Sonata broadcast on several channels in 1970. He ran the University of Maryland, Baltimore County visual arts program until his death.
Kenneth C. Knowlton is a computer graphics pioneer, artist, mosaicist and portraitist, who worked at Bell Labs.
In 1963, Knowlton developed the BEFLIX (Bell Flicks) programming language for bitmap computer-produced movies, created using an IBM 7094 computer and a Stromberg-Carlson 4020 microfilm recorder. Each frame contained eight shades of grey and a resolution of 252 x 184. Knowlton worked with artists including Michael Noll, Lillian Schwartz and Stan VanDerBeek. He and VanDerBeek created the Poem Field animations. Knowlton also created another programming language named EXPLOR (EXplicit Patterns, Local Operations and Randomness).
In 1966, Knowlton and Leon Harmon were experimenting with photomosaic, creating large prints from collections small symbols or images. In Studies in Perception I they created an image of a reclining nude (the dancer Deborah Hay), by scanning a photograph with a camera and converting the analog voltages to binary numbers which were assigned typographic symbols based on halftone densities. It was printed in The New York Times on 11 October 1967, and exhibited at one of the earliest computer art exhibitions, The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age, held Museum of Modern Art in New York City from November 25, 1968 through February 9, 1969.