Photo credit: Windell H. Oskay,
on creative engineering and new media art

Line Describing a Cone (1973)

March 30th, 2009


Light installation  (?) by Anthony McCall (1973)

A 16mm projector is projecting a movie on the wall. At first, the movie seems to be just a white point on a black background. Very slowly, it starts expanding, first to an arc, and after 30 minutes, a circle. The magic happens not on the screen (or wall), but in mid-air. Shown either in a naturally dusty area, or with the help of a haze machine, the line from the projector to the dot becomes a cone, visible in air.

Anthony McCall made this piece in 1973, well before the digital revolution, and it was made using 16mm film. In the Tate paper he discusses how 16mm film differs from digital media – both have their peculiarities; analog film has dust and scratches, digital is pixel-based (eloquently but obscure: “digital planes of light carry longitudinal striations which radiate from lens to wall”).

Below are two very readable articles about McCall and his work.

>> Anthony McCall talks about his “solid light” films. (Jeffrey Kastner, in ArtForum 2004, at

>> Anthony McCall’s Line Describing A Cone (Tate Papers 2007)