Line Describing a Cone
30 minutes, 16mm film installation
Image above: Anthony McCall, Line Describing a Cone (1973), during the twenty-fourth minute. Installation view, "Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art 1964-1977,” Whitney Museum of American Art, 2001. Photograph by Hank Graber.
“In the minimalist expanded cinema work Line Describing a Cone, Anthony McCall explores one of the basic conditions of film: the projection of light. In a completely darkened room, a line of light develops into a complete, hollow cone of light over a period of about thirty minutes. This tunnel-like, seemingly solid volume, surrounds viewers who walk into it. McCall’s work combines a multiplicity of media, using drawing as its point of departure, film as its means of realization, and sculpture as its result. The animation technique used by the artist is a very simple one. The photographic prototype consists of a fine line that gradually completes itself into a circle. In a second step, the line is photographed little by little. For each exposure, the prototype is shifted into the next, slightly altered position, until finally the completed circle appears. The film strip then serves as a template for projection: light passes only through the line, which in the space itself is perceptible only in the presence of matter; in the case of Line Describing a Cone, it consists of tiny particles of dust or moisture. Audience members are encouraged to come and go, to interact, and through their mere presence to intensify the compactness of the light body. Mc Call’s film is particularly innovative in its mode of presentation: rather than directing the audience’s gaze towards a screen, McCall does away with the latter entirely and declares the projector beam and its source to be the primary attraction.” (Jutz 2016: 108)
Anthony McCall, born 1946 in St Paul’s Cray, UK, lives and works in New York, NY, USA.
1. Anthony McCall, Line Describing a Cone (1973). Frame from the twenty-fourth minute.
2. Anthony McCall, Line Describing a Cone (1973). Installation view. Artists Space, New York, on February 15, 1974. Photograph: Peter Moore ©The Estate of Peter Moore/VAGA, NYC.
3. Anthony McCall, Line Describing a Cone (1973), during the twenty-fourth minute. Installation view, Musee de Rochechouart, 2007. Photograph by Freddy Le Saux.
Gabriele Jutz, “Anthony McCall,” in Open Spaces, Secret Places. Works from the Sammlung Verbund, Vienna, ed. Gabriele Schor (Brussels: BOZAR Books and Vienna: Sammlung Verbund, 2016), p. 108.
Jonathan Walley, “The Material of Film and the Idea of Cinema: Contrasting Practices in Sixties and Seventies Avant-Garde Film,” October, no. 103 (2003), pp. 15–30.
Anthony McCall, Film Installations, ed. Helen Legg (Warwick: Mead Gallery, 2004).