Light Spill

Gibson + Recoder

Gibson + Recoder, Light Spill

Modified 16mm projector, film, installation view

USA 2005


“[...] a 16mm projector without a takeup reel spills thousands of feet of celluloid – films recently de-commissioned by local schools and libraries – onto the floor. The size of the pile depends on the duration of the installation, but it gets big quickly, unspooling in long, graceful loops around the legs of the table on which the projector sits." (Walley 2011: 241)


Light Spill, which spills the film onto the floor, creating a mound of celluloid, is about the failure of projection, the uselessness of film. The movement of a reel of celluloid through the projector is what is compelling, not any projected image. The film is not held by the gate or lined up with the projector’s beam of light; rather it turns that light into ‘available light’ that spills onto the screen as the celluloid itself falls to the ground, where it accumulates as reel after reel are run through the projectors. Light Spill negates the power of the cinematic through its codified languages and returns us to the elemental experience of light and celluloid. Like ancient linotype machines that sit in museums, or vacant factories that once produced and developed films, Gibson and Recoder’s work is a reflection of what something was but is barely anymore. The film spills and shafts of light emanate from silenced projectors, reminding us of what our world once was. Like the lost art of medieval stained glass, the cinema lives on in the imagination and in its magical apparatus. The cinema’s ‘dream factory’ is closing and reopening as something else.” (Hanhardt 2016: 101–102)


Sandra Gibson (born 1968) and Luis Recoder (born 1971), live and work in New York, USA.



Susan Felleman, “Coda: Returning the Favor (A Short History of Film Becoming Sculpture),” in Steven Jacobs, Susan Felleman, Vito Adriaensens, and Lisa Colpaert, Screening Statues: Sculpture and Cinema (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2017), pp. 156–167 (download here).

John Hanhardt, “The End(s) of Film,” in Celluloid: Tacita Dean, João Maria Gusmão & Pedro Paiva, Rosa Barba, Sandra Gibson & Luis Recoder, eds. Marente Bloemheuvel and Jaap Guldemond (Amsterdam: EYE Filmmuseum, nai010 publishers, 2016), pp. 99–102.

Jonathan Walley, “‘Not an Image of the Death of Film’: Contemporary Expanded Cinema and Experimental Film,” in Expanded Cinema. Art, Performance, Film, eds. A.L. Rees, Duncan White, Steven Ball and David Curtis (London: Tate, 2011), pp. 241–251.

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