Charles Dockum began creating cameraless devices for projecting abstract color plays in the 1930s, after attending a Wilfred lumia recital in Waco, Texas. Like so many of his contemporaries, Dockum’s work was informed by a disjointed mysticism comprised of equal parts theosophy, Buddhism, and Kabbalah (absorbed from his best friend, artist Peter Krasnow).
Dockum gave his first performances on his Mobilcolor device in 1936 as part of “An Evening of Modern Art” at the Monday Club in Prescott, Arizona, where he had been living under doctor’s orders due to respiratory problems. As the title indicates, Dockum’s performances fell under the rubric of “modern art” rather than film. The end results were series of color fields of varying designs; thin streams of interlocking light, streaking points, and clusters of light; and even three-dimensional effects achieved via the manipulation of additional lenses. Dockum went on to develop five more Mobilcolor models, and he performed at New York’s Museum of Non-Objective Painting in 1942, and again at the renamed Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in 1952. An unrealized Mobilcolor model—Mobilcolor VI—was to have been computerized “as part of its composing and performing systems.”
For more information, see Center for Visual Music’s extensive collection of Dockum materials: