Episode 2 : Exploding Cell

Peter Halley, Exploding Cell (1983). Copyright Peter Halley Studio.

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. 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.