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April 23, 2012

Anthony McCall's Line Describing a Cone

Special Event Tickets $12 - Introduction by Ernie Gehr
Monday April 23 at 7pm

Line Describing a Cone

Directed by Anthony McCall
USA 1973, 16mm, b/w, silent, 30 min

Line Describing a Cone is what I term a solid light film. It is dealing with the projected light-beam itself, rather than treating the light-beam as a mere carrier of coded information, which is decoded when it strikes a flat surface (the screen). The film exists only in the present: the moment of projection. It refers to nothing beyond this real time. The form of attention required on the part of the viewer is unprecedented. No longer is one viewing position as good as any other. For this film every viewing position presents a different aspect. The view therefore has a participatory role in apprehending the event: he or she can – indeed needs to move around, relative to the emerging light-form.
– Anthony McCall

British artist and filmmaker Anthony McCall (b.1946) created perhaps the most miraculously succinct inverse of the cinematic experience in his illustrious Line Describing a Cone. As a simple circle completes itself on film, the two-dimensional drawing becomes a sculpture. Collapsing dimensions, the projector’s beam of light transforms from invisible carrier of cinematic messages to the subject itself. Likewise, the audience converts from passive watchers into active participants, both screeners and screens. Capable of existing on its own without narrative drive, the now visible beam forms a hollow ray that does not spotlight a single screen, but incorporates all equally within the space.

An elegant, playful alliance of the minimalist sculpture, site-specific installation, experimental performance and expanded cinema movements, Line Describing a Cone effectively summarizes the array of expansive artistic explorations with which McCall was involved at the time of its creation. As a member of the London Film-Makers Co-operative in its 70s heyday, he frequently worked with shifting the dynamics of time, space, process and audience within film, photography, sculpture, drawing and performance. McCall’s focus on activating the participants and the site transcended the medium and pared the artistic process and concept down to its paradoxical and essential crux.

After twenty years away from this type of work, a recent resurgence of interest in McCall’s solid-light installations has providentially brought the artist and his work back into the public eye. In fact, his latest work will take shape at the 2012 London Olympics in the form of a spinning cloud column rising from the water to the sky. The earliest manifestation of McCall’s ephemeral light forms, Line Describing a Cone continues to strike precise chords within the ever-changing spaces of art and cinema today. We are pleased to join the exceptional circle of venues to offer this rare phenomenon to audiences for one magical evening. – Brittany Gravely



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