Installation artist Anthony McCall’s £500,000 ‘Column’ has finally been given the go ahead by Wirral Council, after months of delay. It was commissioned by the Arts Council for the Cultural Olympiad,as a satellite project as part of the London 2012 Olympics.
The large spinning column of steam will be situated over the Wirral estuary. It is one of 12 artworks situated in various venues, to spread the reach of the Olympics across the UK. The Wirral waterfront on the Mersey, at Birkenhead’s East Dock, directly opposite the Pier Head in Liverpool is an ideal location for the sculpture. Planning permission was delayed due to issues with the flight path for Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport. Other health and safety issues including Concerns about the possible risk of the Legionella virus were also raised by the Port Health Authority, but a risk assessment was carried out and the application was approved. A spokesperson for Arts Council England said: “It’s excellent news that planning permission has been granted for the Column.
McCall studied graphic design at Ravensbourne College of Art and Design, Bromley, Kent, England in the late 60s and experimented with film during that time. McCall was a key figure in the avant-garde London Film-makers Co-operative in the 1970s and his earliest films are documents of outdoor performances that were notable for their minimal use of the elements, most notably fire.
After moving to New York in 1973, McCall continued his fire performances and developed his ‘solid light’ film series, conceiving the Line Describing a Cone, in 1973. These works are simple projections that emphasise the sculptural qualities of a beam of light. At the end of the 1970s, McCall withdrew from making art. Over 20 years later, he acquired a new dynamic and re-opened his ‘solid light’ series, this time using digital projectors rather than 16mm film.
In October 2009, McCall’s work was featured in a solo show opening at the Moderna Museet. This exhibition showcased Doubling Back (2003) as well as a light installation entitled You and I, Horizontal (2005). Also included in the show were a number of drawings illustrating varied motions of light waves, which the artist refers to as “scores” of his films. Later in 2009 he was awarded £500,000 from the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad to create a work consisting of a column of steam in Birkenhead which will be visible up to 100 km away.