In an article published in artforum last summer, artist Anthony McCall recalled a question he was often asked in regards to his work: "Are you making sculpture or are you making films?" Last Saturday, Bruce McClure's performance of his four part series, Crib and Sift, elicited just this question. Using four projectors, modified for each 14 minute section of the performance by using a combination of plates and focal points, McClure layered four identical, simultaneously projected films to create densely textured fields of light and shadow. The imagery itself was not created with a camera, but, as McClure describes, by using "an original ink sneeze printed four times on a technological substrate (16 mm. film) and developed into an importune register of film events." All but one film were accompanied by droning soundtracks created with similar regard for nonlinear composition.
McClure's work had more to do with transcendental installations like LaMonte Young and Marion Zazeela's light and sound environment, Dreamhouse, than with most experimental films I've seen, which tend to rely on heavy editing and obscure imagery to create filmic density. McClure's films, like the Dreamhouse, act more as a meditative environment (perhaps with a nod to the psychedelic) defying the linearity of film. His second film used each projector to create one of four light filled borders, leaving a rectangular black void with softly defined edges, using the two dimensional to imply the infinite, recalling the use of the seemingly infinite voids in Anish Kapoor's sculptures.
It is important to note that McClure approached this subject within the theater and that the conventions of ritual and physical proximity between film and audience remained the same, even though the presentation bore little resemblance to conventions of film. McClure remained in the projection booth throughout the duration of the film, reconfiguring the orientation of the projectors and making modifications in the short breaks between each film.
When McCall broached the subject of ambiguity between film and scepter, he chose to work within the rarified environment of the gallery. His seminal piece, Line Describing a Cone (1973), consists of a projector displayed openly within a gallery. Over the course of thirty minutes, a white point slowly moves clockwise to create a circle. The gallery is filled with particles generated by a smoke machine, picking up the light between the projector and the surface onto which the film is projected, forming an arc that turns into a full cone of light at the culmination of the film.
Influenced by the prevalence of conceptual art, McCall's work has the kind of intellectual thoroughness and immediate transparency so characteristic of the time, sublimely demonstrating the interplay between two and three dimensions by using the projector as a means to sculpt light. McClure isn't interested in this type of rigidity, instead using predefined circumstances to create scenarios for unpredictability and randomness. However, he shares with McCall an interest in using projection not to create imaginary worlds, but instead as a physical force that can be used to alter light in a very essential way. McCall, describing his early impetus for creating Line Describing a Cone, explains that he "became engaged by the possibility of a film that could exist only in the moment of projection with an audience, without reference to an 'elsewhere.'" If one could argue for the presence of "elsewhere" in McClure's work, it is purely on the plane of an individualistic, psychic elsewhere.