Long Film for Ambient Light

long film for ambient light timelapse

[View a timelapse video documenting Long Film for Ambient Light shot at the Performance Space March 16-17 2007. Click on the above image to open or download the mp4 video file.]

On 16-17 March 2007, artists Lucas Ihlein and Louise Curham (Teaching and Learning Cinema) hosted a private event at the Performance Space, Sydney, in which they re-created the conditions for Anthony McCall’s Long Film for Ambient Light (1975). Long Film came at the end of a series of films in which McCall was stripping back cinema to its absolute minimum – light, time, and human experience/perception.

The “film” consists of an empty room with a bare lightbulb, and windows covered with a translucent material, for a duration of 24 hours. It is not necessary for visitors to stay for the entire duration – they can come and go as they please. However, it’s clear that the decisions you make as “audience” will determine the kind of experience you have. We were excited about this work as we read various historical documents, and McCall’s artist statements – but we wanted to see what it was like for ourselves. Specifically, we wanted our experience of the work to contribute to an updated understanding of “what the piece was really like”. Much analysis has been made of the work as a gesture within the history of avant-garde art (specifically minimalism and a critique of the apparatus of cinema) but little has been reported on the experiences of particular visitors who came along to McCall’s original screenings in the 1970s.

We kept diaries of the planning for the event, as well as copious notes during and after the Long Film. With the assistance of audience-experience specialist Lizzie Muller, we conducted audio interviews with invited visitors to gauge their expectations, feelings, sensations and thoughts during their time spent with the piece. This has generated a wealth of material which will be gradually processed and made available here (scroll to the bottom of this page to download the full interviews).

In the meantime, view the timelapse video, read reports from Chris Fleming and Mike Leggett, or visit the blog for notes Louise and Lucas made in preparation for the Long Film.

This re-creation of Long Film for Ambient Light was not an official “screening” authorised by Anthony McCall, although we have been communicating with him and he is interested in our historical appraisal from a distance of 32 years (and a geographical span of New York to Sydney). We will be compiling a box of documentary material to contribute to McCall’s archives, and in time, these will also be available via the Performance Space, Sydney.


You can now read all of the interviews that were conducted during our re-enactment of Long Film for Ambient Light. The transcriptions were done by Liz Pulie. Here are the links to individual PDF files:

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_01_Friday_1400_Lucas_Ihlein__Anne_Walton

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_02_Friday_1440_Louise_Curham_Lucas_Ihlein

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_03_Friday_1640_Lucas_Ihlein_Pete_Volich_Katie_Dyer_Brian_Fuata

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_04_Friday_1900_Lizzie_Muller_Sam_James_Lucas_Ihlein

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_05_Friday_2100_Lucas_Ihlein_Chris_Fleming

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_06_Friday_2200_Lizzie_Muller_Vanessa_Berry_Tim_Wright_Lucas_Ihlein

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_07_Friday_2300_Lizzie_Muller_George_Khut_Lucas_Ihlein

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_08_Saturday_840_Lizzie_Muller_Chris_Fortescue_Lucas_Ihlein

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_09_Saturday_0910_Lizzie_Muller_Bob_Percival

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_10_Saturday_1000_Lucas_Ihlein_Lizzie_Muller

Anthony_McCall_LFAL_Interview_11_Saturday_1145_Lizzie_Muller_Fiona_Winning


**update November 28 2007. Lucas recently visited NYC and handed the archive box to Anthony McCall. It was a marvellous meeting, conversation ranged wildly between thinking about the work of Allan Kaprow, what Anthony was doing in the years following Long Film for Ambient Light, and his thoughts on being an artist now. The photo below, on the right, shows a drawing Anthony did to demonstrate a recent version of LFFAL executed in an art museum in a castle in Europe. More on that soon…

mccall LFFAL archive box       anthony mccall with archive box

**update June 2012. An article by Lucas Ihlein, entitled “Attending to Anthony McCall’s Long Film for Ambient Light“, has been published in Perform Repeat Record: Live Art in History, edited by Adrian Heathfield and Amelia Jones. Find out more here, or download the pdf of the article here.

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