Amid debates about the vocational direction of the Bauhaus, both Gropius and Moholy resigned in 1928. Moholy moved to Berlin, where he opened a commercial design office and produced designs for, among other projects, magazines and opera sets.
Since the early 1920s, he had speculated about the possibility of a machine to create kinetic, abstract images with photography, but it was not until 1930 that he was able to construct and exhibit Light Prop for an Electric Stage 1928–30, also known as the Light Space Modulator. It is not known exactly how the Light Prop was originally presented, but in a contemporary article Moholy proposed to house the mechanism inside a wooden box with a series of coloured lights framing its circular opening to create a ‘light show’.
Anticipating the practice of contemporary artists by several decades, Moholy considered the idea to be the essential element of an art work, happily entrusting the execution to others. While the technical development of the Light Prop was handed over to the young Hungarian architect Stefan Sebök, the final construction took place in a small workshop in Berlin, a process partially sponsored by AEG, Germany’s largest electrical supplier at the time.
Moholy used the Light Prop to create what is perhaps his most famous film, Light Play: Black-White-Grey 1930. Lasting five and a half minutes, the film follows the Light Prop’s movement in close-up, resulting in an abstract interplay of reflective surfaces, beams of light and dramatic shadows. Moholy likened the film to a ‘moving painting’, which is how it is presented here.