Peter Halley (b. 1953)
Exploding Cell (1983)

Peter Halley’s Exploding Cell, 1983 is an early computer animation, created before the advent of the desktop computer. Exploding Cell was edited over many hours at a small production studio in New York City—a process which today might only take minutes. Its indelicate pixilation and fidgety action reflect the animation techniques of the time and call to mind culture-defining videogames like Atari and Pac-Man. The work imagines the explosive destruction of the cell, which is more usually an icon of stability in Halley’s work. The creeping animation depicts a mysterious substance being pumped into the cell through a conduit, causing the structure to rapidly heat up and explode. This narrative was later revisited in several prints on paper. The video, which runs 7 minutes and 47 seconds long, also includes a series of chromatic experiments, reflecting the exploration of color that is foundational to Halley’s practice.