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3 weeks ago
p3k dots

Rebecca Allen

Once in a while this funky synth tune pops back into my head, the intriguing bass line with these high notes, the chant “it’s you, only you”, the chorus “make it habit, make it happen” – and then I’m again searching for the video of the song “Adventures in Success” by Will Powers…

In the early 19-8Ts I heard and saw it for the first time, no clue what it’s actually about, neither getting the reference, nor the parody. And of course I did not have the slightest idea who was behind Will Powers, some music group obviously – suffice to say there was nobody knowledgable around to enlighten me, either.

Fast forward 30 years and the web gives me all the information I could not even dream of as a teenager. The name is Lynn Goldsmith, a photographer, singer, artist, and the song and the album of the same name are one part of her story.

A story that needs to be told another time, though, because this is about the video, one of the earliest incarnations of computer-generated three-dimensional moving images in a music video, if not at all in pop culture.

The first time I have seen “Adventures in Success” (which most likely was not on MTV because that was not a thing before 1987 in Germany, and my parents did not even have satellite TV, anyway) I was mesmerized by the hollow-mask illusion of the 3D faces and the perfect, shiny shapes of the musical symbols floating on the screen.

Some years later, I should have a similar mesmerizing effect seeing Kraftwerk’s “Musique Non Stop“ video. Goosebumps!

In my memory, the creative process of this video was always connected to something like NASA or MIT, a faceless(!) organisation.

What a delight to finally find out after all these years this was either a false memory or one of the myths those white privileged men tell you all the time in case the glorious maker wasn’t one of their kind – both videos were made by Rebecca Allen, and she just as well established methods and tools for digitizing and processing the visual information to make it come alive on the screen.

Back then, it was a very crafted process. I would have to put little pieces of tape over the models.... Then you put it in this reference cube, and then point by point you'd digitize.
— Meet Kraftwerk’s Original 3-D Animator, Rebecca Allen

To think of her art school almost sabotating her interests I can only be glad she remained determined and did not let this narrow-mindedness interfere in her path:

I asked if I could take an independent study in computer animation and interestingly enough when I asked the art school if I could do that, they said no. Computers and artists? No.
Neon Lights: The Digital Art Of Rebecca Allen

Thank you for all the mesmerizing, Rebecca Allen.

Relevant: The History of Computer-Animated Music Videos.