LIGHT CONE is a nonprofit organization whose aim is the distribution, promotion and preservation of experimental cinema in France and around the world.
LIGHT CONE's primary mission is the distribution of the works in its collection, in their original format whenever possible, to cultural organizations such as nonprofits, cinemas, museums, universities, galleries and festivals. To fulfill this mission, LIGHT CONE operates as a filmmakers' cooperative, guaranteeing to the authors (or the rights-holders) the ownership of both the physical copies and the moral rights of the distributed works.
Each year, LIGHT CONE organizes the Preview Show -- a series of screenings intended to present newly acquired works to an audience of professional curators.
LIGHT CONE also promotes experimental cinema through the programming of regular screenings in Paris (notably as part of the SCRATCH series), as well as through publications and curatorial collaborations, both in France and abroad. Programmers regularly consult its holdings, and many partnerships with cinema and arts institutions are thus secured. These partnerships result in periodic co-publications.
LIGHT CONE's Documentation Center offers a unique collection of written and audiovisual documents for consultation by researchers and programmers. With the addition, in 1999, of the Experimental Film Archive of Avignon (AFEA), the Documentation Center includes over 5,000 print documents (books, periodicals, catalogues), nearly 12,000 audiovisual documents (digital files, DVDs, Blu-Rays, audio and video tapes...) and 1080 thematic records (biographical and institutional files).
Since 2015, LIGHT CONE Editions publishes ebooks on certain filmmakers in the collection. Currently available are Paolo Gioli by Jean-Michel Bouhours and Rose by Rose Lowder. A print publication of Robert Breer, A to Z has been recently released in partnership with AFEA Editions.
LIGHT CONE also undertakes actions to preserve film works through numerous digitization projects (having been in charge of the large digitization project for the 24/25 web portal in 2011), as well as a digitization program financed by a grant from the National Center of Cinematography (for the films of Patrick Bokanowski, Germaine Dulac and Rose Lowder). LIGHT CONE has taken the initiative to propose an agreement with the Cinémathèque Française regarding the preservation of original negatives.
In 2014, LIGHT CONE received the support of the region Ile-de-France as part of the program Fabrique de Cultures to create a residency program for the post-production of experimental video-based works. The Atelier 105 is open to all experimental filmmakers, whether or not they are members of the organization. A specially equipped workspace in LIGHT CONE's premises, including an editing station, sound mixing software, a color-correction monitor and computers dedicated to file encoding and DCP creation, is made available to the artists.
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.
Established in 1982 by Yann BEAUVAIS and Miles MCKANE, LIGHT CONE has evolved under the guidance of a new team, which took over operations in 2007. The catalogue continues to grow and counts today nearly 5000 films: film prints on super 8, 35mm and, above all, 16mm; expanded cinema works (for multi-screen projection); as well as analog and digital video works (VHS, miniDV, DVcam, BetaSP, BetaNum, HDcam). The films in the collection have been made between 1900 and today by more than 800 artists and filmmakers around the world.
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 as objects of cultural heritage, but also for the general history of the moving image.
Contemporary cinema. This selection of work is both a reflection of the important creative movements of the post-1960s - with works by visionary filmmakers - and also of contemporary filmmaking. This selection includes:
Also in the collection are works resulting from new technological approaches, which may be technically innovative or hybrid with the neighboring domains of documentary or contemporary art:
The LIGHT CONE collection gives an idea of the extent of practices and approaches used by experimental filmmakers. Its point of departure was not to favor any one particular genre or school of cinematography.
This conception of an ?open history? of the 7th art does 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. Therefore, the filmmakers in the collection come from all over the world, with the most representation give to the principal centers of film production -- North America, Austria and Germany, as well as France. There are also a good number of filmmakers from Asia, originating from:
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 resulted in LIGHT CONE's prominent international presence and 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 organizations, such as nonprofits, schools and research groups, to rent works that are normally held by cinematheques and museums of modern art.
The SCRATCH series is a powerful tool for LIGHT CONE in the promotion of experimental cinema. Through its regular Paris screenings, this experimental film series encourages the exploration of film history, as well as providing visibility for the work of contemporary artists. SCRATCH has always been nomadic in Paris, encouraging the meeting and mixing of different audiences. Over the years, SCRATCH has taken place at the Entrepôt, in the auditorium of the rue d'Ulm, at Audiopradif, at the Café de la Danse, at the Centre Wallonie Bruxelles and, more recently, at the Voûtes, at the Centre Georges Pompidou, at Confluences, at the cinema Action Christine and at the Studio des Ursulines.
LIGHT CONE curates monographic and thematic programs, as well as dedicating certain evenings to guest curators or to explorations of expanded cinema performances. Over the years, SCRATCH has become a favored space of exchange between filmmakers and audiences, where experimental cinema history and practices can be interrogated.
The thematic screenings present an opportunity to confront the works of filmmakers who do not necessarily belong to the same generation but who nevertheless share certain artistic affinities. For the monographic and carte blanche screenings, LIGHT CONE often invites artists, critics and programmers (both French and foreign) to present their work. Additionally, certain events organized as part of SCRATCH foster connections between cinema and related artistic disciplines, such as music or performance art, which, in turn, result in concerts and other events that go beyond the boundaries of traditional cinematographic screenings.
The SCRATCH screenings function as a kind of laboratory for generating programs that can later be adopted and reworked by other programmers. SCRATCH has thus become a cornerstone of experimental film screenings in France and abroad. A number of programmers have used 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 Center is open to students, researchers, teachers, artists and curators who are working on programs or conducting research in the field of artistic creation.
The aim of the Center is to promote cultural programs and critical work around art, avant-garde and experimental cinemas, continuing LIGHT CONE's trajectory over the last two and a half decades.
The Documentation Center holds an exceptional collection of documents and films for consultation. Since 1999, the Center houses the print collection of the Experimental Film Archives of Avignon (AFEA). The Center benefited from the support of the Centre National du Livre in 2001 and 2003.
The LIGHT CONE/AFEA Documentation Center 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 information on the distributed works by using the search engine. Here they can also learn about past and present activities of LIGHT CONE and be updated on 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 centers of online resources existing in this domain, in particular due to the introduction of some new functions:
Several new functions will be available in the near future:
Film distribution is also 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. In addition to providing illustrations and technical specifications of films, the catalogue contains a short text on each one, as well as citations, remarks, texts by the authors, etc.
As experimental cinema is little known to wider audiences, the paper catalogue acts as a 'mappa mundi' that allows programmers to lay the groundwork for their projects. It functions as a tool for the popularization and promotion of films by encouraging rentals.
The Preview Show consists of a series of screenings organized annually in September, during which recently acquired films are shown. Over fifty professionals working in experimental cinema meet at this event. The participants fall broadly into three categories:
The Preview Show creates the opportunity for these programmers to share ideas and experiences within the international network of the exhibition and promotion of experimental cinema, which has developed around Light Cone.
Some institutions (French cultural centers, associations, cinemas, festivals) give carte blanche to Light Cone to conceive film cycles or events. Others (museums, cinematheques, universities) organize regular collaborations with Light Cone in order to solidify the presence of experimental cinema on the French cultural and educational landscape, as well as in contemporary art exhibitions. The conception of cycles 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 existing connections 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 audiences.
Over the years, Light Cone has taken on an important dimension relating to cultural heritage. Light Cone works continuously to preserve film prints. This mission of preservation is complemented by the 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 experimental cinema organizations, as well as awareness of relevant critical, aesthetic and institutional issues. Light Cone generally seeks out these works with a view to their inclusion in the catalogue, but also with the aim to protect our film heritage (for example, the recent inclusion into 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 digitization of the collection. The first phase of this project focuses on the Light Cone collection of Super 8 films, but we anticipate, with the filmmakers' consent, ultimately extending this process to the entire collection. Digitization implies new ways of relating to the moving image. It allows not only the preservation of fragile works (originals in some cases), which undergo changes with each projection, but also gives them a new life through new distribution possibilities (digital copies, internet broadcasts, etc.).
Thanks to a partnership with the French Cinematheque, filmmaker-members' film originals can be catalogued, stored and preserved in the Cinematheque's archives.