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Film Installations
Helen Legg's introduction to the catalogue for Anthony McCall, Film Installations at the Mead Gallery, Warwick 2004

In January 1973 Anthony McCall conceived his first "solid light" film, Line Describing a Cone. Shown for the first time in Stockholm later that year, McCall's film is an extraordinarily sensual meditation on the medium of film and the politics of the audience's physical and conceptual relationship with it. Some thirty years later we are delighted to present this work again within an exhibition focusing on McCall's exploration of the, solid light film between 1973 and 1975.

A characteristic of McCall's films of this period is the balance maintained between the rigorous, methodical structure of the work and the astounding nature of the physical and visual experience. First-hand accounts of the work -even written accounts- seem to take on hushed tones; indeed, McCall's own outline of the first projection of Line testifies to this: "All that I'd expected seemed less important than what was going on in the room: the physical event seemed bigger than the idea." The primacy granted to experience is appro- priate, developing, as Line did, out of a critical response to the spectacular imagery of representational film and the constraints of cinema architecture: A critique that has renewed urgency today.

The reception of McCall's work has been, until recently, almost totally confined to the sphere of avant-garde film. It is perhaps only now, after a decade in which film and video have dominated contemporary art practice and exhibition, that we can begin to recognise, retrospectively, the significance of these earlier experiments and explorations.

In recent years a number of institutions and independent curators have endeavoured to excavate the rich history of experimental filmmaking of the late sixties and seventies. These timely and scholarly projects have succeeded in raising a greater awareness and understanding of the contribution made by this work and have begun to argue for its formative influence on what we recognise as the mainstream art world. Yet for whatever reason-the admirable emphasis placed on the collective rather than the individual in Film-Makers' Cooperatives in London and New York; the ultimate failure of distribution methods to provide adequate economic support for practitioners; or the temporary, performance based nature and material fragility of much of the work - our picture of the specific achievements of individual artists remains obscured.

The main impetus behind this exhibition has been to re-present McCall's works to an audience unlikely to have encountered them before and in so doing to stimulate a reassessment of his practice. We are concerned to reconsider both the work's radicalism at the time it was made and its continued relevance today. McCall's democratisation of the space of projection, embrace of the spectator, relational approach, and foregrounding of visual and experiential pleasure have much to say to a younger generation of artists.

The task of reassessment has been begun admirably by the close and perceptive readings of McCall's work made by George Baker and Lisa Le Feuvre in this catalogue. George Baker's analysis draws together the early performance based works, film installations, and later, more overtly political projects, positioning them within a broader post-minimal trajectory. Lisa Le Feuvre has focussed her attention on the significance of duration in McCall's work, looking back to the influence of Gertrude Stein and John Cage, and forwards to works by Gordon Matta-Clark and Pierre Huyghe. We are, hugely indebted to both of them and to John Bernstein for the elegant design of the catalogue in which they sit. We must also thank David Leister for his indispensable technical advice and expertise. Most importantly we thank Anthony McCall, whose sustained precision and focus, as well as his imaginative approach to this project have mirrored his remarkable works.

Helen Legg
Anthony McCall: Film Installations, Mead Gallery, University of Warwick 2004
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