Anthony McCall: Light Describing a Cone

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Microscope is very pleased to present Anthony McCall’s groundbreaking piece “Light Describing a Cone” (1973) as part of its series of imageless film performances and other works in connection and collaboration with the current series “Imageless Films” at Anthology Film Archives. The expanded cinema work will be presented one time from start to finish as it was originally shown until the early 2000s when it began to be exhibited as a looped installation — most notably in “Into the Light: The Projected Image in American Art, 1964-1977” at the Whitney Museum in 2001.

Artist in person — Q&A follows

Line Describing a Cone from 1973 is McCall’s first “solid light film,” a work that “deals with the projected light beam itself,” in which light is objectified and assumes minimal geometric shapes. The film consists of an animation of an expanding white line slowly forming a circle, which by virtue of the nature of film projection in space translates into a line outlining a cone.

The work’s three-dimensionality was originally created through the reflection of light on incidental dust and smoke particles. For later performances, McCall began to employ fog machines and more recently water-based hazers. As an ethereal sculpture of light, the work is released from the necessity of traditional theatrical elements such as the film screen and the fixed seating to allow for the work to be more fully experienced by the audience.

Light Describing a Cone debuted in 1973 at the Fylkingen Society for Contemporary Music and Arts in Stockholm as a last-minute addition to a program of live performances by McCall and Carolee Schneemann. In 1974 it was shown in New York at Artists Space, the Clocktower, Millennium Film Workshop, and Film Forum jointly with the Collective for Living Cinema. Line Describing a Cone was presented at Anthology Film Archives in 1990 along with other works by McCall.

Anthony McCall will be in attendance and a Q&A with the artist will follow the performance.

Advance tickets here

General Admission $15
Member Admission $12
Please note: Masks are required for entry to our events at this time.

Line Describing a Cone (1973)
By Anthony McCall, 16mm film, black & white, silent, 30 minutes, with hazers
Dimensions variable

“Line Describing a Cone” is what I term a solid light film. It deals 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. It is projected in the normal way, on a 16mm film projector. Though inevitably there will be a wall that limits the length of the beam, a screen is not necessary. The viewer watches the film by standing with his or her back toward what would normally be the screen, and looking along the beam towards the projector itself. The film begins as a coherent pencil of light, like a laser beam, and develops through 30 minutes into a complete, hollow cone. Line Describing a Cone deals with one of the irreducible, necessary conditions of film: projected light. It deals with this phenomenon directly, independent of any other consideration. It is the first film to exist solely in real, three-dimensional space. This film exists only in the present: the moment of
projection. It refers to nothing beyond this real time. It contains no illusion. It is a primary experience, not secondary: i.e. the space is real, not referential; the time is real, not referential. 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 slowly emerging light form. — Anthony McCall, 1974

Anthony McCall (b. St Paul’s Cray, London, England, 1946) lives and works in New York City. Occupying a space between sculpture, cinema and drawing, his work’s historical importance has been recognized in such exhibitions as “Into the Light: the Projected Image in American Art 1964-77,” Whitney Museum of American Art (2001-2); “The Expanded Screen: Actions and Installations of the Sixties and Seventies,” Museum Moderner Kunst, Vienna (2003-4); “The Expanded Eye,” Kunsthaus Zurich (2006); “Beyond Cinema: the Art of Projection,” Hamburger Bahnhof, Berlin (2006-7); “The Cinema Effect: Illusion, Reality and the Projected Image,” Hirshhorn Museum, Washington DC (2008); and “On Line,” Museum of Modern Art (2010-11). In the past year he has mounted solo exhibitions at The Hepworth Wakefield, Pioneer Works, Sean Kelly Gallery, Albright Knox Art Gallery, and Galeria Cayon.

[Image: Anthony McCall, “Line Describing a Cone” (1973) during projection at the Whitney Museum in 2001. Photo: Hank Graber]


Microscope Gallery - New York, United States


Friday, June 3, 2022 - 19:30



Friday, June 3, 2022 - 19:30
  • 525 West 29th
    2nd Floor
    10001   New York, New York
    United States
    Phone: +1 347 925 1433
    40° 45' 7.776" N, 74° 0' 9.648" W