Archive for the 'Anthony McCall' Category

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

SPECIFICATIONS FOR THE PROJECTION OF “LINE DESCRIBING A CONE” TO AN AUDIENCE
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.

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’

TLC’s Anthony McCall project in Perform Repeat Record

perform repeat record

A chapter I wrote about our 2007 re-enactment of Anthony McCall’s Long Film for Ambient Light has been included in the book Perform Repeat Record: Live Art in History, edited by Amelia Jones and Adrian Heathfield.

You can check out the book here.

Louise Curham and I were really pleased to be involved in this publishing project, which places the work that we are doing with “researching Expanded Cinema via live action” alongside many other attempts by artists and curators to revisit performative works of the recent past.

A review, written by Caroline Wake, was published in Realtime.

You can read the chapter as a pdf file here.

-Lucas Ihlein

Chris Fleming on Long Film

9pm in long film
[above: the light at 9pm on Friday during Long Film For Ambient Light]

[The following is a short series of excerpts from an interview with Chris Fleming, recorded by Lucas, Friday 16th March 2007, 9pm. These quotes are cut from a longer conversation. You can also read a short note he wrote after the event, here.]

There’s something about the scale of it. When I first came in here I felt my eyes almost felt pulled on…because I’d been in my office all day… so it was really… I just kind of switched off…

LI: You’d said you were zoning oout?

CF: what does zoning out mean? Like a feeling that I didn’t know I was there but I knew I had been there. It’s really strange.

LI: how much time passed do you think in that period?

CF: five minutes? I don’t know.

Also this being framed by something that happened previously. It almost felt like an anchor. I found something vaguely comforting about the fact that something like that was being re-created.

The fact that it was done in the past lent it some weight?

CF – weight’s not the right word. Reassuring. It felt nice there was some continuity of tradition. Tradition’s not the right word, either, dignification. I really don’t know. My whole brain’s just switched off…

9pm outside long film
[continued, now outside the space]

It also felt a bit naughty coming in there…I was running out of the house. I’d been paralysed by wasting time, I could go in there and switch off without wasting time, there was a guiltless non-doing about it that I really enjoyed. The scale of it just shifts. The change in physicality. Like when you stand on somewhere really tall and you feel your stomach just move. That caused a shift in me that kicked something off, just the scale of it, it was big and enclosed, that was a defamiliarisation effect.

Anne Walton on Long Film

long film 2pm
[above: the light at 2pm on Friday during Long Film For Ambient Light]

[The following is a short series of excerpts from an interview with Anne Walton, recorded by Lucas, Friday 16th March 2007, 2pm. These quotes are cut from a longer conversation. The full transcript will be more interesting!]

I felt a smoothness… like I was entering into something very smooth […] the light has something to do with it. And all the grey tones in this place. […] A slightly clinical feel. […] I couldn’t help noticing the curtains. Some kind of notion of theatre. Although I quickly realised they were just here, already a part of the space. I felt myself a part of the structure. […] As far as this being an event […] the physical structure and the structure that you… that this event is… it resonates with the notion of intervals and spaces.

When there isn’t much that’s been put here, I start to want to look at what’s been put here already… The little dotted recesses… in the concrete…

I quickly felt some kind of a longing – to be here, for much longer. … It’s a long film, and I’m only here for just a quick glimpse. So I feel…regretful.

[If I stayed longer] I imagine some of the initial romance and positive feelings would start to be challenged…

I started wondering whether lots of conversations will happen – is it a social space? A meditative space? Conversation can be great way to pass the time.

I feel as though if I stayed here longer… I’d do a lot of writing… from a state of relative emptiness… not useful writing, just a flowing writing…

The lightbulb … it is very electric… the thingness of it is very strong… it is a very sharp point in the centre of the space. It’s really crackling…

The time chart and the statement – made me feel supported in being here… they’re a kind of explanation. It helps to frame the experience for me… and give…not clues, but it reinforces…particularly the long scroll…somehow preparatory for my time here…

It’s quite zen …very zen … just attending to the present moment … I can imagine, having been I’m going to go away and take it with me…a consciousness of this slice of time in the space has been carved out, and it’s here, and I entered it for a brief moment, it’s almost like I dipped my toe into a stream and when I go away I know the stream’s there and others are going to come to the spot that’s been carved out for getting right into it … immersion…

Louise was struck by the austerity of this…I said yes, although for me austerity has a harshness about it, I don’t feel yet… There’s more of a sense of generosity in this space…

I’m glad to see it at this time, when it’s still pristine and unspoiled by human … habitation …

THIS TIME: TLC Screening at SYDNEY

tlc this time flyer

The Teaching & Learning Cinema invites you to “THIS TIME“, a film screening this Sunday, April 1st, 2007 6.30pm for a 7pm start at ˜Sydney”, Cleveland St (next to Fatima’s) (see http://officialsydney.com)
The screening follows along from a residency that Lucas Ihlein and Louise Curham have been doing in the majestic Track 12 at Performance Space’s new home at Carriageworks.
Continue reading ‘THIS TIME: TLC Screening at SYDNEY’

Mike L: notes from Long Film

long film image from mike L

A few folks who we invited to experience our private “screening” of Long Film for Ambient Light have begun to filter back with their thoughts after the event.

Mike and Deborah visited in its last half hour, late Saturday morning the 17th of March.

Mike sent us these thoughts: Continue reading ‘Mike L: notes from Long Film’

Flemo: notes from Long Film

lucas and flemo
[Lucas and Flemo about 9pm on Friday 16 March, photo by Peter Shaw taken from outside Track 12]

A few folks who we invited to experience our private “screening” of Long Film for Ambient Light have begun to filter back with their thoughts after the event. First cab off the rank is Flemo.

Thanks for the invite to say something, although – at this stage – I’m unsure I have anything to say except thanks for the invite to say something. I was serious, by the way, about the idea of a “natural screensaver.” As much as applications have progressed, screensavers are still about the most interesting things computers do. Arriving late at night (-or late for me, a confirmed father and nerd), didn’t seem to bear out the screen-saver intuition. Perhaps this would have been different were I to have come during the day. So what of the film(ing), as I saw it? The experience of being in the space seemed to have an almost-sedating effect on me: there was something chruch-like – simply in the size of the space, the darkness I found quietening (and provided a kind of ‘cover’: a way of being non-selfconsciously alone with other people present); there was, I think, a kind of alteration of time and space that I can’t quite describe… or perhaps I don’t have the patience, now
mindful of having to leave my computer and get somewhere else soon.
Continue reading ‘Flemo: notes from Long Film’