a short contemplation on You and I, Horizontal, by Anthony McCall, part of Light Show at the Hayward Gallery
The longer you stay in the piece – a black box, with light projection and smoke – the more you experience. The mist makes light ‘solid’ – the viewer can walk into it or around it, become part of it or watch other viewers as they interact in a strangely ‘apart’ experience, a little like the feeling of being alone in the dark of a crowded cinema. And, like a cinema when film was still projected via light onto the screen and smoking was allowed and you could see the cigarette smoke curling in the projector beam, here in this room the beam of light projects an image – or to be exact, three images: a line, a curve, or ellipse, and a wave – and light bends and describes space, until it is intercepted – hands, arms, backs interrupt the light, and these three lines which are projected in a constantly changing, random pattern on the wall opposite the light source also slide across the bodies in the room, so that the viewers become the receivers of the image and a means of display.
An old man enters the installation with an equally old woman. She walks in, purposeful, he takes his time, questions what it is, stops, seems unimpressed, then walks towards the light, stands close, looks into the light source, blots out the projection and plunges the room into darkness. ‘‘It’s a tunnel’’ he says. ‘‘When I look into the light, I see a tunnel’’ – then he turns, walks into the side wall, tells his wife ‘‘there’s a barrier here’’. She shrugs and leaves the room. But he stays on, walking through the planes of light, as around him children jump in and out of these curves and flat surfaces, adults play, their hands outstretched, cutting the light with their fingers, moving from foot to foot to try to catch the edge of the light, to try to grasp something that can’t usually be seen or touched. This is light as a physical presence, an embodied and also meditative experience, calm but playful, dark but joyful. Some people approach it with caution, some wander in, others stand still, backs to the wall, and watch. The presence of the viewers in the room has its own ebb and flow, like the light piece itself. The room fills and empties; empties and fills. The old man is still here, standing in the dark, standing in the light.