Jim Pallas


A native Detroiter, I awoke to the possibilities while attending a state university in Detroit. Before I graduated in 1965 with a M.F.A., I was blessed with a day job to which I gratefully clung for thirty-eight years, teaching the boomers and their kids at a local community college.

I began creating responsive, content laden kinetic sculpture in the 1960's.
It was after hours in 1964, in the basement of the physics department at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, that I first laid eyes on a computer and had my mind boggled by its reality.  A friend in Detroit was working there with a team on a secret project for the U.S. Defense Department, (DARPA?).   I was told to come to the backdoor of the physics building after 9:30 PM - it would be unlocked - and enter the second door on the left. There I found myself in the rear of a large low-ceilinged room packed with humming rows of gray refrigerator size cabinets, lights blinking, tape spooling.  
My friend led me to a small round table with a nine inch cathode readout tube embedded in its surface.    Small intensly glowing phosphor shapes were revolving around a small asterisk in the center.  He whispered that the young technician hunched over the console was engaged in something called "SPACEWAR" with a guy online in Berkeley.  By besting other players at various universities, he had earned the right to challenge the higher ranked Berkely player.  Both controlled  little triangular space crafts that fired "photon torpedoes" into the gravitational tug of a spinning asterisk "sun."  The California Ace deftly laid a barrage of missiles into solar orbit that were whipped around by the star's gravity and quickly dispatched his Ann Arbor opponent.
Electronic games and electronic warfare were birthed together.
The web is a result of the some of the potential that was present in the amalgam of those cross-country phone lines, the glowing blue phosphor tube and that kid in Ann Arbor matching skill with the fellow in Berkeley.
I soon discovered the joy of TTL logic devices and the graphic expression of printed circuit boards. My first choice for a programming language became solder.   In 1976 I participated in a week long workshop by Ken Knowlton and in 1978 began work on the Century of Light, the first large public sculpture to employ a microprocessor (6502) in its operation.
Jim and Janet Laur,who became his wife 1962. 

Art should be free.   I did a telephone project in 1974 where anyone could call an announcing machine and get a "phonevent". I then solicited tapes from artists and changed them every two weeks. No charge. Nobody made any money. Nobody was supposed to make any money. We did it to ask the question " Can the telephone" be art?'. 10,000 calls in a two week period was common. It was popular enough that, once, the volume of calls shut down three exchanges. The telephone company was not impressed.

Generally, my artworks are interactive performing sculptures that depend on a combination of electronic logic and environmental stimuli to produce behaviors of movement, sound, light, or other phenomena. They often represent creatures or personages. I've been called a surrealist.


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