English-born and New York City based artist Anthony McCall’s latest exhibition, “Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture” – which opened at the Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin on Friday – is his largest to date, containing seven visceral light projection pieces. He spoke to Wonderland about the curious new experiment.
The title, says McCall, refers to the “length of time people spend looking at the [displays] and the fact that they are three-dimensional sculptural objects, that are undergoing changes of their own. They are unstable, they are cinematic objects that are structured in time”. The reference to purity was appropriated from Henri Chomette‘s 1926 film Five Minutes of Pure Cinema – the work, he claims, can be understood as both sculpture and cinema, dynamic and undefinable at once.
In the Bahnhoff’s giant hall and submerged in complete darkness, are pillars of light, that on closer inspection are animated drawings. The vertical and horizontal projections create tunnels that visitors can walk underneath and around, creating a purely cerebral and immersive art experience. The drawings are computer animations that are programmed algorithms, with cycle times ranging from 10 to 30 minutes.
“Essentially the sculptures are abstract objects,” he explains. “But I am interested in the possibility of representing the body. The titles “Coupling”, “You”, “I Horizontal” and “Between you and I” refer to the body but do not represent bodies in any pictoral sense. It is up to the viewer to delineate the context and define what the work represents in reference to themselves.”
Currently McCall collaborates with programmers for projects, but earlier in his career, he animated them himself. Beginning earlier still with live performances, he would go about making films of the performances. The idea was to explore “the possibility of making a film that only existed in the moment of projection”. In 1973, the artist relocated to New York City to pursue his interest in the Happening movement with fellow experimental figureheads John Cage and Robert Whitman. It was there he began exploring the possibility of “solid light” sculptures. The rest, as they say, is history – but it’s best see it unfold for yourself.
Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture runs until August 12th
Words: Irina Makarova