Son et Lumière – Le rayon vert 1990, is an animated ‘light sculpture’ whose simple materials – a plastic cup, a flashlight fitted with red and green gels and a revolving record-player turntable – generate a captivating and a kaleidoscopic light projection. This clever ‘low-fi’ assemblage encapsulates the artists’ interest in creating spectacular effects using ordinary materials.
The Way Things Go 1986–7 similarly enlists an assortment of objects, including tyres and chairs, as components in an absurdly amusing and explosive chain reaction lasting thirty minutes. The film’s humour lies in the deliberate misuse of these objects, as they are co-opted into performing roles outside their normal function. Reminiscent of the physical comedy of silent films starring Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton, here the actors are steaming-kettles mounted on roller-skates, rotating dustbin bags, rickety stepladders set in motion, buckets, tyres, bottles and planks. The idea for the film stemmed from the precariously balanced objects in the photographs in the previous room. The artists wanted to harness the energy of these teetering objects and to liberate them, using the laws of gravity, chemical reactions, and cause and effect.
Making Things Go 1985/2006, is a film made by Patrick Frey of ‘rehearsals’ for an early version of The Way Things Go. The documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at the artists building the sets, timing the explosions, assembling, dismantling and testing. It is as much about the failures as the successes of these controlled catastrophes.