Science Friction

1959, 9:46 min, color, sound, 16 mm film on HD video

Stan Vanderbeek creates a satirical portrait of the Cold War-era space race in this exemplary film from his early collage animation period. Combining magazine/newspaper cutouts, direct animation, found footage, Oskar Fischinger-esque abstractions, and a smattering of live footage of the artist himself as a mad-scientist, Science Friction offers a gonzo vision of leaders, scientists, and bureaucrats locked a fevered contest to be the first on the moon. Vanderbeek situates this competition within a manic environment of mass communication, consumption, entertainment, hubris, and political bluster, skewering Moscow and Washington alike with appearances by Kurschev and Eisenhower alongside Frankenstein and Coca-Cola. With a playfully grim conclusion that predates fatalistic countercultural satire of Dr. Strangelove, Science Friction suggests that no matter who wins, we’re all eventually cooked.