MoMA is actually where [Lillian Schwartz] — a member of Experiments in Art and Technology — was first exposed to computer art, as she says in “The Artist and the Computer,” a short 1976 documentary that provides an overview of her work. The video, on view in the gallery, recalls those you might watch in drivers ed or a high school health class: it’s educational but cheesy, scored by campy music, reminding the contemporary viewer just how new a concept computer art was to the public at the time. In it, a bespectacled Schwartz explains how computer scientist Ken Knowlton‘s work in MoMA’s 1968 exhibition The Machine as Seen at the End of the Mechanical Age caught her attention.
Also included in that show was her own kinetic sculpture “Proxima Centauri” (1968), which in turn fascinated the visual perception expert Leon Harmon. He invited Schwartz to join Bell Labs, and it was there that she really began experimenting with the screen, finding novel editing techniques and creating expressive, animated artworks.