Anthony McCall - Masterclass at EYE

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At the occasion of Anthony McCall's first solo show in the Netherlands, EYE and sonic arts associated to set up a masterclass. This allowed people to get more of an insight into the artist's work and to discuss it, after having experienced some of his solid light sculpture as a preamble.

During my preparation research for the masterclass I encountered this quote from the experimental film maker of the 20's, Henri Chomette:

« Considérons un film quelconque, imaginons que nous puissions le distiller dans un alambic idéal, capable d’éliminer les éléments « idéologiques » (intentions du scénario, expression des acteurs, signification du décor, etc) il me semble qu’une telle expérience aboutirait à isoler la substance mouvante qui pourrait bien être l’essence même du cinéma»

I think this sentence is a very good lead-in for McCall's primary work. This, not just because McCall's “5 minutes of pure sculpture” is a pun on Chomette's “ 5 minutes of pure cinema”[1], but also because of the emphasis put on the essence of cinema.

When you experience the Solid Light sculptures, you tend to forget about cinema as an intentional closed circuited work. We are generally more accustomed to films which exclude the viewer and following its very own inner logic, pace of time, which is not the time of the viewer. Usually a lot of events, internal to the film, have to fit into the time scale for its viewing. With McCall's work, the film occurs in the context of its projection, and follows the same circadian clock as the viewer. The cinematic space unites with the audience's space.

Anthony McCall cites John Cage as a major influence to his work. Interestingly, the material properties of both sound and light are slightly similar as they can both be viewed in waveforms. Similarities in the medium's characteristics imply comparable behaviors.

“Music, like architecture, is time and space.”
Le Corbusier

Analogies which can be made with music here seem very relevant to me, especially after seeing the preparatory drawings which can look like music sheets, regular as clockwork. I think that what these waves have in common is the property to provide a subject with indications on space, maybe like data that can be sensorially interpreted, by eye or ear. As a consequence, I think that MacCall's work is strongly linked with architecture, as it utilises built environments and structures.

Music is also an art of mathematics, dealing with cycles, with patterns, communicated in an algorithmic way. Music is also very sensitive to the space it appears in, just as light. So patterns and loops are just the same in theory but under the influence of constant infrastructural alterations, in practice.

The question of rhythm has been evoked during the masterclass, especially the importance of the accordance of rhythms between the environment and McCall's work. I guess that this is why “Crossing the Hudson” reminded me of Nancy Holt's “Sun tunnels” [2]. The artistic intervention comes to integrate the whole surrounding space by adapting to the very same pace for existing. This also meaning that the work has a certain level of autonomy.

There is a very obvious connection to be made with the “Conical Intersect” of Matta-Clark from 1975 [3]. In some way, McCall's “Line Describing a Cone” could be considered to add to the space while Matta-Clark works in an opposing, reductive manner. In both cases, the works are created in large-scale environments meaning that the work of art cannot be measured on our human body scale but the scale of our surrounding realm.

All of his recent public commissions are set up in old industrial buildings, silo, bridge, and military buildings. Therefore, it seems like the works are also considering the manmade infrastructure they are going to insert themselves into and thus they acquire a new purpose.

This appeals to my interests as I like Art when it consists in an intervention that affects the whole infrastructure around it and therefore modifying our experience within.