Light Shows/Multimedia Shows

Multimedia shows entailed the simultaneous mobilization of several media, especially music, light, and forms of dance, challenging the modernist drive toward medium specificity in the arts. Light shows, a form of cinema that involved the spontaneous real-time composition of light and film in concert with music, were culturally the most significant of such multimedia spectacles. Though light shows were anticipated by attempts, dating from the eighteenth century, to create color organs, and by early pioneers of cinematic multimedia, including Charles and Ray Eames, Stan VanDerBeek, and USCO, in the mid-1960s they gained new importance in their accompaniment of live rock 'n' roll performances. The most important light-show artists originated in San Francisco — among them Chet Helms, Glenn McKay, Jerry Abrams, and Ben Van Meter — but almost immediately similar light shows were created in Los Angeles (the Single Wing Turquoise Bird), in New York (Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable and the Joshua Light Show), and in London (Boyle Family, Electric Light Garden). Light shows declined in the 1970s, but developments in electronic dance music in the mid-1980s led to their revival in rave culture.