Re-enact, repeat, reiterate, re-perform – a practitioner’s chat

Join us for an afternoon’s discussion about re-enactment and related practices at Westspace, Melbourne Saturday 9 July 2-4 pm

If you make work or think about work that connects with re-enactment, repetition, reiteration and re-performance, or you’re just curious, please come along.

Last November in Brisbane a group of artists, curators and academics spent an afternoon talking re-enactment, repetition and the like as part of an art history conference (more about that in an earlier post on this blog). Several of us will be in Melbourne to listen in at PSi#22, the international performance studies conference and we plan a follow-up chat to discuss our work further, mull over new thoughts and generally reflect on these ideas as we work with them in our practices. We welcome new participants to our conversation.

Continue reading ‘Re-enact, repeat, reiterate, re-perform – a practitioner’s chat’

Laura Hindmarsh and Man/(Wo)Man With Mirror

Last week Laura and I got together for our inaugural chat about using the user’s manual for (Wo)Man With Mirror. Laura’s participation has been a long time coming, started in 2014 with an unsuccessful TLC grant application. That project proposed putting the user’s manual to work with a group of artists in different cities and regions. As preparation for this current work with Laura has unfolded, that idea with multiple artists and locations was ambitious! The work for one artist alone is ample!

So what’s the plan for this work with Laura? Below is the logistics email sent out this week, some changes of course.

So to get back to Laura and I getting together last Tues … our purpose was to measure her up for a mirror, to fill her in about my PhD which hovers unsubtlely behind her using the user’s manual (her re-enacting our re-enactment is excellent data for my tending the archive project) and for me to learn more about what she’s up to on her PhotoAccess residency.

I discovered a lot in our hour. Critically, Laura is considerably smaller than I am – her wing span measures 142 cm.

Measuring Laura 02

Fortunately I had a small spare mirror made for my mum in c. 2010. On Wednesday, I took this to the glass shop in Tuggeranong and got it cut down. It looks tiny but seeing it in Laura’s grip today, we think it’s right.

To return to Tuesday’s get together, I understood better how repetition and its slippage are themes in her work so I see why she is intrigued by using the User’s Manual. Anyway, after about an hour, we reigned in our conversation, agreeing to hold off on the musings until we are underway with the whole contingent (Lucas, Diana the anthropologist and a little later, Peter the cinematographer). At this point I tasked Laura not to prepare, thinking that Lucas and I would effectively ‘teach’ Laura the piece. We discussed our thoughts that there was little point in us all being together if she (Laura) was just to work from the user’s manual – she could do this on her own in London. We wound up our chat in favour of food and Austin Buckett in concert.

Louise and Laura consult the user’s manual in Laura’s studio at Gorman House.

Consulting user's manual

Of course since our meeting, life has intervened and we will have a slightly tighter schedule than originally planned. So yesterday I called Laura and asked her to take the reigns and get herself prepared enough to be ready to film on Sat (20 March). She sounded quite relieved on the phone to have the opportunity to study Guy’s version and look closely at what we have online. I took her mirror over to her this morning. It was very wet which put me off adding a fresh coat of white to the back – Laura has enthusiastically taken care of this.

So now it looks like Laura will work predominantly from the user’s manual. I’m imagining the role for Lucas and I becomes one of ‘coach’ or just the pragmatic passing on of information, as Guy did with us. What we have done so far is to set up the infrastructure for the work (maybe hospitality is a better word) – the mirror, the stock, the camera and cinematographer (our friend Pete Humble) and I suppose a conducive environment by us all making the effort to come together – quite major as Laura had to re-book her ticket, Lucas and Pete are travelling from interstate, there is a coterie of child minding arrangements behind freeing up three adults this weekend.

Some other notes from Laura and Louise meeting 10 March

Laura’s PhotoAccess work so far includes beautifully processed Tri-x in pos – greatly exciting for me and my super 8 enthusiasms (Tri-x is the standard Kodak B&W positive product offering which I cross-process to neg). She talked me through her contact printing experiments, involving swinging a large format enlarger onto the floor onto 16mm strips laid out down there. You get the gist, physical film adventures par excellence …

And my PhD, well that’s about things that are prone to disappearance and how keeping them alive calls for a kind of ‘tending’. It uses TLC works as case studies. Tending applied to this setting came up in work Lucas and I did on our Performance Matters article on Horror Film 1. My recent angles of inquiry have been into Indigenous knowledge management and ecosystems post climate change – novel ecosystems and the end of pristine wilderness and all that. Behind this lies my hunch that keeping stuff is a chancy business at best and there’s some adaptation in our thinking away from the binary of access and preservation that can help us through this and it’s a lot to do with linking knowledge to its source and keeping that connection alive. This work of Laura’s will hopefully contribute to my dataset as will Diana’s study of us at work.

Here’s the email about logistics from earlier this week:

On Tue, Mar 15, 2016 at 9:29 PM, L Curham <> wrote:

Hi all

Just confirming we’re all go this weekend. Please chime in if I’ve overlooked something.

I’ve organised the Urambi community centre as our work space. I used it on Monday for another project and it is just fantastic for this kind of work … great having the kitchen and plenty of room, extra tables etc. We had a fabulous sit-down pizza lunch on Monday. I’ll make you one on Sat.

So here’s a 25 words or less on what we’re up to:

Our task this weekend is to shoot Laura’s footage using the User’s Manual as our guide. In the first week of April, Lucas, Laura and I will then get together to work on the performance side of things.

Here’s a schedule:

1-7 March – Laura and Louise get together briefly. Laura receives (Wo)Man With Mirror users’ manual. Louise measures Laura’s ‘wingspan’ and organises mirror.
Fri 18 March – Lucas arrives, intro afternoon, dinner together
Sat 19 March – studio day, drive around location options, rehearse ‘choreography’
Sun 20 March – Pete Humble joins us as cameraman. We shoot Laura’s footage.
Weather contingency – if forecast is terrible, we may have to be ready to shoot on Sat. Current forecast is mostly sunny Sat and Sun, tops of 22 and 23 degrees, 20% chance of rain on Sunday. I’d say we’ll be fine to plan to shoot on Sunday.

Over this Fri, Sat, Sun ethnographer Diana Glazebrook also joins us intermittently to do a small ‘ethnography’ of our work. Di is a good friend of mine and an anthropologist who specialises in displaced people in Papua. She is intrigued to make a study of us at work.

Mon 21 Mar – film goes off to Nanolab, returns later that week.
Fri 25 Mar – LC reviews footage (with Laura if you want to do that)
Tues 5 April – Wed 6 April – studio days. Task is to put the work together with projectors and the film.
Cover days if needed: Mon 4 April – if first lot of film is NG (no good), we need this day to re-shoot. Soonest we could get footage back would be Thurs 7 April, so studio days are then Thurs 7 April and Fri 8 April.

And here’s an equipment list
S8 camera – Pete is bringing
Manfrotto stills tripod – LC
Super 8 colour pos – LC (have 3+ rolls)
Mirror – I have ordered as Laura’s wingspan smaller than the mirrors I have
Projectors, tripods, film, mirrors of TLC version LC (if needed).
Documentation devices – LC
Laura’s DSLR
Lucas’s zoom

Best, LC

AAANZ Conference Brisbane 2015 – Re-enactment discussions

We had a terrific time with our six presenters at the AAANZ conference in Brisbane this week.

We’ve posted a document over here which outlines the theme of the discussions, as well as how we divided up the conversation, and the abstracts from our presenters.

Thanks to presenters Sandy Gibbs, Steven Ball, Georgia Banks, Greer Honeywill, Elizabeth Pulie, and Simone Hine.


Lucas Ihlein and Louise Curham

Re-enactment / Repetition / Reiteration / Re-performance as embodied research

The following is a call for contributions to a session at the AAANZ conference in November, in Brisbane.

This panel explores the widespread phenomenon of re-enactment as a tactic of embodied research in performance art history.

Performance re-enactment (or “re-performance”) has emerged since the turn of the century as an arena of practice and scholarship, an embodied means of “doing” historical research as well as a way of critically reflecting on ephemeral artworks from the past.

Recent texts have begun to unpick the multiple layers of mediation that produce, and emerge from, re-enactment practices (Jones and Heathfield 2012; Santone 2008). Reenactment inevitably raises questions about authenticity and the primacy of “unmediated” experience versus the role of documentation. As Jonathan Walley writes, the motivation for carrying out a re-enactment may begin with a desire to access an “authentic” experience of a past work of ephemeral art, but the physical-material practice of actually executing a re-enactment can prove unpredictably generative of insights that go far
beyond the historical (Walley 2013).

Contributions are invited for this panel involving (but not limited to):

  • Description and analysis of specific re-enactment projects as creative practicebased
  • Discussion of the phenomenon of re-enactment as it has developed in recent
  • Exploration of intergenerational connections in re-enactment processes;
  • Analysis of the “event score” as a tool for codifying performance practices;
  • Theoretical investigations into iteration, repetition and difference triggered by
    a consideration of re-enactment;
  • Enquiry into the impact of and on archives when re-enactment is used as a
    tool for historical research;
  • Exploration of specific contributions to this field from Australia and New

We also invite non-traditional and performative presentations which physically enact or re-enact as their creative / scholarly contributions to this panel (pending technical feasibility and approval of the AAANZ conference convenors).

Proposals should be sent to the convenors:

Dr Lucas Ihlein (University of Wollongong) and Louise Curham (University of

Due: 28th August 2015

Proposals should consist of the following:

1. Completed session participation proposal form, or an email that provides the
required information.
2. An abstract of the proposed paper, of no more than 400 words.
3. A brief biographical statement outlining any institutional affiliation/s and area/s of

Review of Line Describing a Cone, 2005

A review of our Perth presentation of Line Describing a Cone, 2005.

Anne-Marie Archer – Line Describing a Cone (written 01 June 2005) at State of the Arts (now no longer online):

The idea of walking into a smoke filled room to be part of an event is quickly becoming a thing of the past. However, Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone demands such an environment to truly appreciate the impact of his innovative work from the ’70s.

Entering the room was an unusual experience as the crowd disappeared beyond the fog and a single beam of projected light captured not only the attention, but also the fingertips and hands of the audience as they played with the medium.

The half hour evolution of the cone’s arc lit the faces of many Western Australian art identities and enthusiasts who had taken the opportunity to witness and engage in this three-dimensional, unique participant-driven experience.

Artist Lucas Ihlein, instrumental in the event and its delivery, described his passion for ‘Expanded Cinema’, designed to extend and expose the cinematic apparatuses to create a live experience for the audience.

Throughout the film, the crowd roamed around, within and into the projected physical space. Aside from fellow attendees, there were no images or theatrics to distract you from the raw and abstract understanding of cinematic projection. Yet there was still a climax in the film as the two streams of light drew closer to finally complete the cone.

The projector becomes the source, yet it was the audience’s management and manipulation of the projected light that was most fascinating and the Bakery Artrage Complex provided the ideal space to explore this light sculpture phenomenon from every vantage point.

Take advantage of the rare opportunity to see this work, as it evokes elements of your personality that respond to an external stimulus that is both inviting and memorable.

– Anne-Marie Archer

Review of Line Describing a Cone

The following review was originally posted on a blog called File Thirteen, back in 2001. We linked to it in 2005 when we organised our first Australian tour of Line Describing a Cone. The File Thirteen blog doesn’t seem to be online any more – the review is on the Internet Archive, but we’ll re-post it here for an extra backup, and because we think it’s a nice piece of writing.

Line Describing a Cone (1973)
Perhaps the most original performance art film ever created, Anthony McCall’s ground-breaking 1973 “Line Describing a Cone” can be summed up pretty basically. McCall uses a projector to create a light beam that runs through a space filled with smoke. His 30 minute film begins with solid black; soon a single point appears, causing a shaft of light to be emitted across the room. Finally, the dot builds, becoming a line, than an arc, then semi-circle, before finally being completed as a circle projected on a black. This process takes about 30 minutes. When finished, the light beam emitted from the projector, through the black film with circle drawn upon it, shown across a smokey room, appears to be in the shape of a cone with tip at projector’s lens and base at the wall on which the light beam is projected.

The curious thing about this film is that the audience is urge, in fact expected, to not simply sit and watch the film, but to move about the room (where there are no chairs) and inspect and play with the light beam. This becomes fascinating as the projected light beam can be interesting when viewed from different angles about the room. Also, the audience playing in the light beam can create myriad interesting visual images. It’s rather astounding for something so seemingly simplistic.

By creating a film, and determining the space and manner in which it should be projected, McCall creates a “performance film.” “Line Describing a Sphere” is perhaps the first (and only?) avant-garde “audience participation film” as well. Watching the film, in a pitch black space, one initially moves through the space with trepidation, afraid that they will run into another audience member. Recollections of bathhouses and adult book stores struck me in this early period of the film. But as the light beam projected grows and eyes become adjusted to the space, one begins to move more comfortably around the room and experiment with the context of the piece. The blackened room becomes a playground where our imaginations and creativity are allowed to flow. It is interesting to note that if this film was shown to children, they would play quite freely in the space and with the projected lights. But adults are far more restrained and aware of others’ “personal space.” We are curious yet cautious, experimental yet apprehensive. We don’t want to diminish the experience for the others in our “audience.” So, sadly, we don’t play as freely… at least initially.

But as the film unwinds during it’s 30 minute running, we become more free and more relaxed. Eventually, everyone begins to play in the light and often the experience of seeing someone else playing in the light is as amusing, interesting, and surprising as our own self-revelations. The audience becomes more than simply just a group of strangers. We become “audience” sharing an experience. Because the film is silent, we become more relaxed about speaking out or laughing or showing awe verbally while as a group. It becomes a heightened “shared” experience. It brings a sort of “togetherness” to the group. It’s very “70’s” and very communal.

“Line Describing a Cone” is beautiful in it’s simplicity. It’s amazing it took someone over 8 decades after film was invented to create such a piece. But the beauty of the film is it’s ability to incite imagination and curiosity and experimentation in a group of random viewers who all happen to be sharing the same cinematic and artistic experience.

This is as much a film as a statement on film. The piece shares many common bonds with more traditional films. It takes film to a more basic level where audience interacts more exactly with film. Like all film, it requires no live physical person to represent the film at it’s viewing (except perhaps, like all film, the projectionist). It requires only film, projector, projector operator and audience. And like all film, the audience often has shared reactions to the playing out of the film. There is shared moments of laughter, awe and interest, even if we are strangers at the event, even if we all arrive and depart separately, even if all of our perspectives are different.

And, after all, isn’t that one of the greatest magics film has to offer?

Line Describing a Cone – Projection Specifications

The following info is copied across from Canyon Cinema’s website:

Line Describing a Cone, Anthony McCall | 1973 | 30 minutes | B&W | SILENT
Rental Format(s): 16mm film, 24 fps

Note: Special projection requirements – see below.

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 viewer 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’s LINE DESCRIBING A CONE [is] a film which demanded to be looked at, not on the screen, but in the space of the auditorium. What was at issue was the establishment of a cone of light between the projector and the screen, out of what was initially one pencil-like beam of light. I consider it the most brilliant case of an observation on the essentially sculptural quality of every cinematic situation.” – P. Adams Sitney, Artforum

Please note: there is, obviously, especially for one-time showings, a certain necessary improvisatory spirit. So these specifications should be taken as guidelines rather than imperatives. However, I can say that the most successful showings that I have witnessed have been reasonably close to these recommended conditions.
-Anthony McCall

  1. That projector should be inside the viewing space, not inside a projection booth.
  2. The projection space should be entirely empty of chairs or other furniture.
  3. The projection space must be absolutely pitch-dark. Owing to the delicate nature of light, even a slight spillage of ambient light from poorly masked windows or doors can seriously affect the film’s visibility. A five or six-inch-wide strip of thin black card loosely looped over the top of the projector casing to minimize light spillage from the heat vents up onto the ceiling, can also help.
  4. Whenever possible, use a 16mm projector with a 350 watt Xenon lamp (and this would be essential for the longer projection throws). The Xenon lamp is significantly brighter than that of a standard projector.
  5. The projector should stand on a plinth of about 4-5′ in height (the ideal height would place the lens of the projector at approximately half the height of the projected image). [Metric: 1m – 1.5m]
  6. The ideal projection distance between projector lens and wall is between 30′ and 50′ feet. The ideal frame height at the wall is between 7′ and 11′ (ie giving an ideal ratio between beam length and frame height of between 4.5 and 5 to 1). The base of the frame should be about 1′ from the floor. [Metric: 9m – 17m throw, 2m – 3.5m frame height, 30cm from floor]
  7. The light of the beam is visible through its contact with tiny particles in the air, be they from dust, humidity or smoke. The most effective and controllable method of ensuring visibility is by hiring or borrowing a “Hazer”. These can usually be rented by the day from theatrical or lighting supply firms. See, for example, the Martin/Jem ZR24/7 Hazer. A Hazer fills the projection space with a safe, odorless haze similar in appearance to a sea mist, which is extremely effective in rendering the beam of light palpable and visible.

TLC re-enactment of Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1 – documentation

From Canberra Contemporary Artspace, June 2014. Performer is Louise Curham.

Performance Matters Journal: Re-enactment of Malcolm Le Grice’s “Horror Film 1”

horror film 1 - TLC re-enactment louise curham

Performance Matters is a new journal published by the Simon Fraser University (Canada). The journal is especially interested in:

work that focuses on the materiality and the consequentiality of performance: the objects that comprise it, the labour that goes into it, the physical sites that give shape to it, as well as the effects it has — what, in short, performance does, and why that is meaningful.

Teaching and Learning Cinema has contributed an article to the first edition of the journal which is themed “Archiving Performance”, and edited by Peter Dickinson.

Our contribution is entitled “Reaching Through to the Object: Reenacting Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1“. The article begins like this:

In July 2014 Teaching and Learning Cinema, an Australian artist group coordinated by Louise Curham and Lucas Ihlein, presented a reenactment of Malcolm Le Grice’s Horror Film 1 (1971) at Canberra Contemporary Art Space. A key work of Expanded Cinema, Horror Film 1 involves a live performer playing with shadows, interacting with the overlapping beams of three 16mm film projectors. Our reenactment was the first time in the work’s 40 year lifespan that it had been performed by anyone other than Le Grice himself. In this paper we offer some reflections on the process of making our reenactment, which we regard as ontologically double: simultaneously “the original object” and an entirely new entity. We discuss our methodology of tending the archive–an activist strategy for operating at the borders of archival and artistic practice. And we suggest that reenactment, as a creative practice, can be a way of “reaching through to the object” which sheds new light on the artwork and its cultural-technological context.

You can read the whole article online at Performance Matters Journal.

Line Describing a Cone in 2015

line describing a cone in kandos - photo by alex wisser

[Anthony McCall’s “Line Describing a Cone”, presented by Teaching and Learning Cinema in Kandos in April 2015, as part of CEMENTA festival. Photo by Alex Wisser]

* * *

Louise Curham and I first “met” Anthony McCall’s Line Describing a Cone in 2005, when we took it on an Australian tour to Kellerberrin, Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

For me, that tour was characterised by great anxiety and great joy:

anxiety sparked by a technical mishap at our first scheduled screening in Kellerberrin (a tiny town 3 hours drive from Perth) which left us with a blown bulb, a derelict cinema full of artificial haze, and an assembled group of quizzical sheep-n-wheat farmers who I’d cajoled into coming along to see this amazing piece of 1970s avant-garde cinema;

…and joy arising from every subsequent presentation of Line Describing a Cone, which never failed to delight those in attendance.

Ten years later, we’re in the process of presenting our second “tour” of the Cone. We brought the 16mm print out from LUX in London to show at the CEMENTA festival in Kandos (about 4 hours inland from Sydney). Perhaps this was to some extent an effort to exorcise the demons of that failed Kellerberrin screening. Both Kandos and Kellerberrin are small towns a long way from any sort of projector spare parts; both places are unfamiliar with the experience of expanded cinema.
Continue reading ‘Line Describing a Cone in 2015’