et al. 2020 | Au Sow Yee on Anthony McCall & Hito Steyerl | A Line, A Cone, In Free Fall

Anthony McCall, Line Describing a Cone, 1973. Installation view at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in 2017. Photography by Frank Sperling. Image courtesy of Julia Stoschek Foundation e. V. and Sprüth Magers.
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In between.
Between images.
Between fractions of time. 
Between the horizontal and the vertical.
In between, and more.

 

In 1999, at 800 Chestnut Street, San Francisco, I saw a dot slowly forming a horizontal line
on a pitch-black wall in a studio. The line gradually evolved into a curved plane and finally into a cone, only partially visible. The sound of the 16mm film projector and film reel passing through could be heard.

It was a mysterious and enigmatic night, and left me feeling stunned, wondering
what I had just experienced. Was it a film? Was it a beam of light? Was it a sculpture, visible yet untouchable? Or was it something undefinable, something in between?

Anthony McCall, the artist who had created Line Describing a Cone, described it as follows: “The first film to exist in real, three- dimensional space: 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… 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.”

Line Describing a Cone was first shown in 1973. The experience in 1999 brings to mind a song by The Three Degrees, released also in 1973:

When will I see you again?
When will we share precious moments?
Will I have to wait forever?

The song was as if a prophecy, of not being able to see and to share the experiential moments of line describing a cone again since the night
in 1999.

In between.
Between images.
Between fractions of time.
Between the horizontal and the vertical.
In between, and more.

Line Describing a Cone seems like a statement or an explanation of a phenomenon, possessing an urge towards visible yet illusory solidity. However, it is also a quest towards the construction of an alternative spatial and temporal form and sensory experience. It
 is the opposite of the linear narrative of a conventional moving image.

 

Anthony McCall, Line Describing a Cone, 1973. Installation view at KW Institute for Contemporary Art in 2017. Photography by Frank Sperling. Image courtesy of Julia Stoschek Foundation e. V. and Sprüth Magers.

 

In the words of German filmmaker and artist Hito Steyerl: “Imagine you are falling. But there is
no ground.” While constantly creating dialectical ground for images that are visible or invisible, Hito Steyerl’s 2011 e-flux essay “In Free Fall: A Thought Experiment on Vertical Perspective,” created a composition. The composition places the horizontal view and its relation to an observer in its historical context. It also investigates vertical perspective in relation to the illusory stable ground, satellite views, Google Maps and surveillance panoramas.

“Imagine you are falling. But there is no ground.” This is a password into a dialectical expedition in image politics, be it an argument about horizontal and vertical perspectives
or the humorous/heavy question of how
not to be seen in today’s militarized world
of contemporary surveillance. This theme
is investigated by Steyerl in her 2013 video work How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File.

At the end of Steyerl’s work in 2013, the song released in 1973 by The Three Degrees emerged again.

The enigmatic experience in 1999 opened up my perception to a core question on “what is moving image,” and I came to see that moving image is not restricted to a two- dimensional screen but exists within a space. Line Describing a Cone for me is a work that also questions the illusory representation of projected image. As time moves, 15 years later, the world has drastically changed
as we transition from the end of an analog age into an era of ever-transfiguring digital images. Encountering Steyerl’s How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational .MOV File in 2013 further struck me to re-think the very essence of moving images, of politics hidden behind or even politics living in various forms of imaging devices. The two works by two artists active in different times working on different forms and thoughts on moving images left inspiring marks in my artistic voyage.

From digitized image-making to the joyous When Will I See You Again, sung by The Three Degrees in 1973, Line Describing a Cone and How Not to be Seen: A Fucking Didactic Educational. MOV File finally meet, linked by 1973. Perhaps Anthony McCall and Hito Steyerl, two figures whose thoughts on moving images or images in general were so inspirational, planted a secret code in different stages of my life. Some day we all might cross paths, in free fall.

 

Anthony McCall is a New York-based artist known for his “solid-light” installations.

Hito Steyerl is a German filmmaker, moving image artist, writer and innovator of the essay documentary. Her principle topics of interest are media, technology and the global dissemination of images.

 

 

 
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