The Tanks At Tate Modern – Art In Action

tanks foyer

The Tanks at the Tate modern, are the world’s first museum galleries permanently dedicated to exhibiting live art, performance, installation and film works.

Line Describing a Cone 1973 by Anthony McCall born 1946

Anthony McCallLine, Describing a Cone 1973

Line Describing a Cone is made from a beam of white light emitted from a film projector positioned at one end of a darkened room. Passing through the projector is an animated film of a thin, arcing line that, frame by frame, gradually joins up to become a complete circle. Over the course of thirty minutes this line of light traces the circumference of the circle as a projection on the far wall while the beam takes the form of a three-dimensional hollow cone. Mist from smoke machines gives the beam of light a greater density, making it appear almost tangible.

By encouraging viewers to move around and in front of the projection, McCall allows for the line of light to be sliced momentarily by a passing body or limb. The fact that viewers can interact with the work challenges the passive, motionless viewing experience of conventional cinema, while the contingency of movement in the gallery space contrasts with the pre-determined geometry of the line of light. As a result, the emerging cone can be seen as either convex or concave depending not only on where the viewers stand but also on when they enter the space and on how long they spend there. Despite or because of this relativity, Line Describing a Cone focuses attention on the de facto conditions of the viewing experience – time and space – and thus on the essential dimensions of film itself. As McCall remarked in 1974: ‘The film exists only in the present: the moment of projection. It refers to nothing beyond this real time … the space is real, not referential; the time is real, not referential.’ (McCall 1974, p.250.)

Line Describing a Cone probes the boundaries between film and sculpture, light and dark, materiality and immateriality. By avoiding conventional narrative content it demonstrates film to be, in its simplest form, a durational process, which, coupled with an activation of the viewing experience, liberates the medium from the confines of cinema while foregrounding the temporal as well as spatial conditions of sculpture.

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Light Music is formed from two projections facing one another, creating an immersive environment of sound and light. The work is Rhodes’s response to what she perceived as the lack of attention paid to women composers in European music.

She composed a ‘score’ comprised of drawings that form abstract patterns of black and white lines on screen. The drawings are printed onto the optical edge of the filmstrip. As the bands of light and dark pass through the projector they are ‘read’ as audio, creating an intense soundtrack and a direct relationship between the sonic and the visual.

What one hears is the aural equivalent to the flickering patterns on the screens.

Light Music is projected into a hazy room – the beams that traverse one another in the space between the two projections become ethereal sculptural forms comprised of light, shadow
and theatrical smoke. This format is designed to encourage viewers to move between the screens, directly engaging with the projection beams.


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