five minutes of pure sculpture

anthony mccall at hamburger bahnhof

Turning the corner and entering Anthony McCall’s installation at Hamburger Bahnhof is like entering a miraculous cathedral or a science fiction movie set. Plunged into a dense hazy darkness interrupted by shafts of absolute white light that beam down from the tall ceiling of the converted train station, one ventures to discover other guests standing silently, staring up into the light as if waiting to be either saved or taken captive by the whirling and all-encompassing lit-up mist. Five vertical projector beams installed on the ceiling give the impression of breaking through the roof, illuminating the reduced geometric patterns on the ground that shape-shift slowly and steadily in a room of near-absolute silence. The area is circumnavigated cautiously by visitors. Reaching their hands out into the blades of light expectantly, they are absorbed in the projections as the shapes open and close all around them.

"Five minutes of Pure Sculpture" is the largest exhibition of the England born, New York based artist to date. It spans the past ten years of McCall’s career, including such works as "Doubling Back" (2003) "You and I, Horizontal" (2005), "Coupling" (2009) and "Meeting you Halfway" (2009). The title of the exhibition refers to a statement jotted down beneath a preparatory sketch from 2005, “Five minutes of pure cinema, Five minutes of pure light.” Although the artist refers to himself primarily as a filmmaker due to his use of projectors and his artistic evolution, his installations behave in a more physically all-encompassing manner, as amalgamations of ephemeral sculpture, film, and drawing.

Bodies of light negotiate the space as sculpture, encouraging physical interaction, investigation and intervention. The vertical and horizontal projections work in dialogue with one another — the latter encouraging meditation and long-term gazes that prompt some to take a seat on the ground and watch attentively as the reduced forms morph before them. To have multi-directional works present under one roof is perfectly indicative, not only of McCall’s experimental approach to various media, but also of his work’s evolution in theory and perception. From a film-based practice to a more digital interpretation of space and sculpture, "Five Minutes of Pure Sculpture" bridges the gap between the temporality of film and the permanence of sculpture.

by Nicole Rodriguez

[Image: Installation view "You and I, Horizontal," courtesy the artist]