October 19, 2006, was a big day for me. I found out a lover had cheated on me, became friends with The Other Woman, and reconnected with the man who would become my boyfriend for the next three years (hi Wez). I also had a sensational cinematic experience that I wish I could give to everyone I know.
It was my first visit to The Bridge, an independent arts community in Charlottesville, VA. Drawn in by Stan Brakhage’s name on a flyer in the Art Department Library bathroom, I convinced my friend Nicolle to come with me to this event off the beaten path of bar-night fundraisers and second-run movies at the student center. I watched the first few films nervously but with interest, sitting in a folding chair and trying to be an unobtrusive audience member in the know. And then we were asked to fold up the chairs and place them against the wall because the next film required “audience participation”. To me, that was a signal that it was time to go - who knew what audience participation really meant? I didn’t want to be conscripted into embarrassing myself in front of strangers, but I didn’t want to slink out the door so I warily helped stack chairs.
Then we were standing in darkness, lined up along a beam of light from the projector to the screen like players around the free throw line. The light grew wider. The director puffed a smoke machine. I don’t know if we were directed to step into the light and smoke, or if we intuited the next step, but soon I was playing - sticking my hand through the light, squeezing the smoke machine, tilting my head so I could look up into the the widening beam, swirling my hands through the illuminated smoke to make new shapes. A few people stood at the back, either too cool to jump in and enjoy this primal pleasure, or simply mesmerized by the light and the people manipulating it.
What had started as a point on the screen slowly grew into a wide circle; the small beam of light worked its way around into a cone. This most magical of experiences took place without color, without figures, without narrative. Line Describing A Cone is the essence of film, shining light taking insubstantial shape. It invited me to respond and participate and create, and I accepted. I want to continue doing that - playing and thinking and looking in a community of curious people. Join me!