Light Cone is a non-profit making organisation with the aim of promoting, distributing and preserving experimental cinema. Its remit covers the different historical forms, as well as contemporary research, both in France and abroad.
Its primary mission is the diffusion of the works in its collection, as far as possible in their original format, to cultural structures such as non-profit making organisations, cinemas, museums, universities, galleries and festivals. To fulfil this mission, Light Cone's structure is that of a filmmakers' co-operative, assuring authors (or the rights-holders) the ownership of both the physical support and the moral rights of the works.
The collection, created by Yann BEAUVAIS and Miles MCKANE in 1982, holds nearly 3700 films, videos and digital works. Annually, Light Cone organises a series of screenings for an audience of professional cultural programmers, which presents new works in distribution (the “Preview Show”).
In addition, to further understanding and distribution of the works in the collection, a Documentation Centre offers researchers and programmers an exceptionally comprehensive collection of documents and works, available for consultation. With the addition in 1999 of the Experimental Film Archive of Avignon (Afea), this collection contains nearly 2600 paper and 4600 audio-visual documents.
Light Cone also, organises regular screenings in Paris, produces publications and co-productions of film programs both in France and abroad. Many programmers use these as reference points, and multiple collaborations between cinema-related and visual arts institutions have developed over the course of time. These partnerships often result in joint publications.
Promoting experimental cinema is first and foremost about providing access to the works of experimental cinema, today regarded as an integral part of the history of the moving image. Light Cone has created a collection, which by virtue of its size and comprehensiveness is one of the most important and valuable collections of experimental film in Europe.
Light Cone distributes nearly 3700 works: copies of Super-8, 35mm and above all 16mm films, works of expanded cinema (multi-screen projection) as well as analogue and digital videos. More than 500 international artists and filmmakers made these films from 1905 onwards to the present day.
History of the moving image. The collection houses the complete cinematographic production of many major artists of the twentieth century, together with a large number of films rarely seen on the screen. These films are of primary significance not only at the heritage level, but also for the history of the moving image.
Contemporary cinema. This selection of work is both a reflection of the important creative movements of the post-1960's - with works by visionary filmmakers - and also of contemporary filmmaking. This selection includes:
Also works involving new approaches to production or techniques, which may be innovative or hybrid with the neighbouring domains of documentary or contemporary art:
The Light Cone collection gives an idea of the extent of practices and approaches used by experimental filmmakers. The point of depart was not to favour any one particular genre or school of cinematography.
This conception of an “open history” of the 7th art dœs not reject any era or style relevant to experimental cinema. In the same way, Light Cone has chosen not to promote the distribution of a“national” experimental cinematography. Thus, the filmmakers in the collection come from all over the world, but are mainly from the principal centres of film production- North America, Austria and Germany, as well as France.
However it should not be forgotten, that Light Cone's main goal is to promote the distribution of experimental film in the greatest possible number of places. This has lead to Light Cones prominent international presence and its continued participation in international festivals.
The distribution of copies is also facilitated by a rental policy that differs significantly from the rates charged and guarantees required-by commercial renters. This policy makes it possible for smaller structures such as associations, schools and colleges to rent works normally held by cinematheques and museums of modern art.
Scratch Projection is a powerful tool for Light Cone and the promotion of experimental cinema. This screening structure for experimental film, with its regular Parisian screenings, encourages the exploration of the film history and a visibility for the work of contemporary artists,. Scratch Projection has always been nomadic in Paris, which has encouraged the meeting and mixing of different audiences. Over the years, Scratch Projection has screened at the Entrepôt, in the auditorium of the rue d'Ulm, Audiopradif, the Café de la Danse, the Centre Wallonie Bruxelles and more recently, at the Voûtes, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Confluences and the cinema 'Action Christine'.
The board of directors of Light Cone following Yann BEAUVAIS and Miles MCKANE and, between Sept. 2003 and June 2007 Marc Bembekoff and Christophe Bichon, has taken responsibility for organising programs, offering monographic, thematic or carte blanche screenings, as well as evenings devoted to expanded cinema. Scratch has become a permanent forum for exchange and critical examination of historical and contemporary film practice.
The thematic screenings are an opportunity to confront the works of filmmakers who do not necessarily belong to the same generation, but nevertheless share certain artistic affinities. For the monographic and carte blanche screenings, Scratch Projection often invites artists, critics and programmers (both French and foreign) to present their work. Additionally, certain events organised by Scratch Projection develop connections with related artistic disciplines such as music or performance art, which in turn create concerts or events going beyond the boundaries of traditional cinematographic screenings.
The screenings, of Scratch Projection operate as real laboratory, creating a new generation of programs, often reworked by other programmers. Scratch Projection has become the pivot of experimental film screenings in France and abroad. A number of programmers use it as a reference point, and many collaborative events have developed from it, notably:
These partnerships often result in co-edited publications (see the chapter“Publications” below).
Dedicated to experimental cinema and to artists' films, the Light Cone/Afea Documentation Centre is open to students, researchers, teachers, artists and curators who are working on programs or researching the field of artistic creation.
The aim of the Centre is to promote cultural programs and critical work around art, avant-garde and experimental cinemas, continuing the direction taken over the last two and a half decades by Light Cone.
The Documentation Centre holds an exceptional collection of documents and films for consultation, encompassing the classics of the avant-garde to contemporary film practices. Since 1999 the Centre has also housed the collection of the Experimental Film Archives of Avignon (Afea). The Centre benefited from the support of the Centre National du Livre in 2001 and 2003.
The Light Cone/Afea Documentation Centre offers:
The online catalogue of the film collection is the heart of the website www.lightcone.org. This site allows programmers, researchers and others who are interested to obtain resource material on the works in distribution, using the search engine; they can also discover past and present activities of Light Cone and current news concerning experimental cinema in general.
A new version of the site has been recently put online. It constitutes one of the most complete centres of online resources existing in this area, in particular due to the introduction of some new functions:
Some new functions will be available in the near future:
As well as the information available on the website, film distribution is encouraged by the regular publication of the Light Cone catalogue (which can also be downloaded from the site). The 'Preview Show' takes place annually.
The Light Cone Catalogue is currently considered as an essential tool by the majority of French and European programmers. As well as the illustrations and technical information on the films, the catalogue contains, a short text on each film, citations, critical approaches, texts by the author, etc.
As experimental cinema is little known to wider audiences, the paper catalogue acts for many programmers as a 'mappa mundi', allowing them to prepare the ground. It functions as a tool for popularisation and for promotion, which can also encourage requests for films.
The 'Preview Show' consists of a series of screenings organised annually in September, during which films recently deposited with Light Cone are shown. Over one hundred professionals working in experimental cinema meet at this event and they fall broadly into three categories:
The 'Preview Show' creates the opportunity, for these programmers, to share ideas and experiences in the international network of support and promotion of experimental cinema, which has grown up around Light Cone.
Some institutions (French cultural centres, associations, cinemas, festivals) give carte blanche to Light Cone for designing film cycles or events. Others (museums, cinematheques, universities) organise regular collaborations with Light Cone in order to consolidate the presence of experimental cinema in the French cultural and educational landscape, as well as in contemporary art exhibitions. The designing of cycles is generally includes scholarly contributions from members of Light Cone -: articles, conference presentations, lectures or screening presentations, etc. One of Light Cone's goals remains to endow experimental cinema with a certain cultural legitimacy.
Such collaborations encourage cross-disciplinary work, highlighting connections existing between this form of cinematographic creation and other forms of modern and contemporary art. It also offers the opportunity to multiply crossover possibilities and to reach new publics.
A non-exhaustive list of some of the cycles and events organised by Light Cone is available.
Over the years, Light Cone has taken on an important heritage dimension. Light Cone works permanently to conserve film copies. This conservation mission is complemented by seeking out and researching films which have been lost, forgotten or are simply unavailable; an ongoing effort which is only possible through familiarity with formal and informal structures in experimental cinema as well as awareness of the critical, aesthetic and institutional issues. Light Cone generally seeks these works out with a view to their inclusion in the catalogue, but also through a concern for protection of our film heritage (for example the recent inclusion in the catalogue of 18 films by Jean Painlevé).
Moreover, thanks to a recent grant from the Ministry of Culture, Light Cone has recently undertaken a project of digitalisation of the collection. The first phase of this project focuses on the Light Cone collection of Super 8 films, but we anticipate ultimately, with the consent of the filmmakers, extending this process to the entire collection. Digitalisation brings with it new aspects of relation to the image. It allows not only conservation of fragile works (original copies in some cases) which are altered by each projection, but also brings them a new life, through new possibilities of distribution (digital copies, internet broadcast, etc.).
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