While air is often invisible and elusive, Anthony McCall’s light installation Crossing 2016 draws viewers’ attention to the volume of air held within a space. This dramatic ‘solid light’ sculpture makes air visible through shafts of light intersecting with smoke haze. Those entering McCall’s expansive light installation at the Gallery of Modern Art are met with a slow-shifting architecture of light: as seconds pass, a white gleaming cone opens or is intersected by a diagonal blade, the dark room is full of haze, which catches the projected light.
Anthony McCall ‘Crossing’
Light slowly shifts and unfurls within the larger darkness. White light is projected onto the floor in twin pairs of beams: a near-full ellipse and a straight line dance together in one pairing; an ellipse and curved line in the other (illustrated). Like graphic code, the simple geometry of these ‘drawings’ can be read clearly on the dark floor, but what is surprising is the way each long beam of light appears convincingly solid within the haze-filled room. In three dimensions, the straight line becomes a slanting diagonal plane, and the broken ellipse a sheltering volume which seems to invite us to step inside. These forms change very slowly, as McCall explains:
Setting the speed of motion at a threshold between no movement and movement reduces the anxiety about what may happen next. And it enables you to really watch change, which is actually a rather rare experience. You, the watcher, become the fastest thing in the room.1
The sound of a wave moves slowly through the space, like a slow whoosh, or deep movement of breath. It is not recorded from the natural world but composed from white noise — like the lines of light we see, what we hear is also an abstraction.
1 Anthony McCall quoted in Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnston, Anthony McCall: Notebooks and Conversations, Lund Humphries, Surrey, in association with Kunstmuseum, St Gallen, 2015, p.123.
Edited extract from the accompanying exhibition publication Air available at the QAGOMA Store and online.
‘Air’ / Gallery of Modern Art, Gallery 1.1 (The Fairfax Gallery), Gallery 1.2 & Gallery 1.3 (Eric and Marion Taylor Gallery) / 26 November 2022 to 23 April 2023