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View of Experiments in Art and Technology’s Children and Communication, 1971, American Foundation on Automation and Employment, Automation House, New York. Photo: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

Robert Whitman

View of Experiments in Art and Technology’s Children and Communication, 1971, American Foundation on Automation and Employment, Automation House, New York. Photo: Shunk-Kender © Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.

I’VE ALWAYS FELT that rather than learn how to, say, program a computer, it’s better to find a programmer and say, “Can you do this?” And sometimes if you find the right person, the answer is, “You know, we could do that”—something you might not have asked for.

I was working on projects that had to do with reflection and perception and the transmission of light with John Forkner, the optical engineer I collaborated with for the “Art and Technology” exhibition at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1971. I wanted to find a way to reverse spatial relationships, such that what was near would appear far and vice versa. So John went home and reinvented a nineteenth-century instrument called the Wheatstone pseudoscope. Then he moved on to make another invention using tiny optical devices called corner reflectors. It’s difficult to describe how John’s device worked. But basically,

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