Magazine article Artforum International

Anthony McCall: Talks about His "Solid Light" Films

Magazine article Artforum International

Anthony McCall: Talks about His "Solid Light" Films

Article excerpt

More than thirty years after British-born artist Anthony McCall created his now-legendary Line Describing a Cone, the first of his "solid light" films, the elegantly simple 1973 work--a projected white dot that slowly grows over thirty minutes into a circular line on the facing wall, eventually filling the dark space with a conical "volume" whose vivid corporality is a beguiling trick of light and atmosphere--remains one of postwar art's signal explorations of perceptual boundary states. Light and dark, stasis and movement, substance and immateriality, cinema and sculpture: As with all McCall's early projections, Line Describing a Cone tests the thresholds between these essential conditions. Like the post-Minimalist program within which they are conceptually situated, the "solid light" works--at once emphatically filmic and ineffably sculptural--recalibrate the relationships between audience, space, and "object," immersing the viewer in an activated matrix that foregrounds movement, duration, and participation. McCall stopped making art for two decades following the "solid light" films but, happily, in recent years has returned to his practice. This year's Whitney Biennial included Doubling Back, 2003, an installation featuring two projected traveling waves engaged in a graceful curvilinear dance with each other in the darkened gallery space. And the artist's early work is also again receiving well-deserved attention. In October, the Centre Georges Pompidou will show the entire suite of "solid light" films, and later this autumn McCall's six-hour installation, Long Film for Four Projectors, 1974, tours to Tate Britain in London, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and MOMA in New York.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

I began making the "solid light" films in 1973, but my work as an artist began earlier, with sculptural performances involving rectilinear grids of small fires. My first film, Landscape for Fire, 1972, was an attempt to describe one of these pieces. But after completing it, my attention pulled back from events in front of the camera and became engaged by the possibility of a film that could exist only in the moment of projection with an audience, without reference to an "elsewhere." The thirty-minute Line Describing a Cone, made soon after I moved to New York from London in 1973, took the form of the gradual coming-into-being in midair of a complete, hollow cone of light. The proportions of this projection vary, but the scale is large. The base of the cone, an emerging circle of light projected onto the wall, is tall enough, at between eight and eleven feet, to fully incorporate several spectators, and the length of the beam may be anything from thirty to sixty feet. This three-dimensional object, like sculpture, calls for a mobile, participating spectator, and, like film, it takes time. To fully see the emerging form it is necessary to move around and through it, to look at it from the inside and from the outside.

Over the course of the following year, 1974, I made three additional "cone" films--Partial Cone, Cone of Variable Volume, and Conical Solid--each investigating different ways to render and modulate this single volumetric object. Later the same year, I made the large-scale installation Long Film for Four Projectors. Instead of a single object that you can walk toward or around, or turn away from, here there is an active field defined by four projected, flat, interpenetrating blades of light that repeatedly sweep through their individual arcs of space and through one another. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.