Questionnaire for Ed Halter

Anthony McCall, "Long Film for Ambient Light," 1975

Founded in 2008, Light Industry, which is run by Ed Halter and Thomas Beard, is already thought by many to be one of the premiere venues for cinema and new media art the world over. Bringing together artists, critics, curators, and academics from a range of fields, the frequently nomadic series has established a catholic sensibility that’s nonetheless recognizably its own: sometimes favoring the visceral, sometimes the heady, always looking for under-seen, lively, engaging work.

Light Industry recently teamed up with the online journal, Triple Canopy, and the educational institution, The Public School New York, to establish an arts-and-culture center at 155 Freeman Street in the Greenpoint neighborhood of Brooklyn. I posed some questions to Halter recently regarding the history of Light Industry and their plans for the arts-and-culture center.

Tom McCormack: What was the impetus behind Light Industry?

Ed Halter: We originally conceived of Light Industry as a kind of crossroads between the many fertile but disparate communities in New York devoted to cinema and the art of the moving image more broadly conceived. To this end, we created an ongoing series of weekly events that drew from these worlds: experimental film and video, the visual arts, the academy, documentary, new media, and the more adventurous channels of international feature filmmaking, to name only a few. Most weeks have been presented by a guest critic, curator, or artist and frequently conclude with a conversation. We also set out from the beginning to have our venue in Brooklyn, which at the time felt underserved by the kinds of programming we wanted to see.

TM: How has the series developed over the years?

EH: In 2008 and 2009, we were located in Industry City in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood, with a dedicated space carved out of an unused factory floor. In 2010, we moved to downtown Brooklyn to a larger space that we shared with two other groups, The Public School and Triple Canopy, and produced our events out of there for most of that year. Now, we’ve just signed a five-year lease on a new space in Greenpoint, which we will also be sharing with these same two groups.

From the beginning to now, our operations have remained relatively simple, with just a set of folding chairs and benches, film and video projectors on tables, and the image projected onto a white wall. Our roughly once-a-week schedule and minimal structure is something we don’t plan to change—we feel it best suits the work we show, and keeps things on an intimate, human scale.

TM: What’s your relationship to The Public School and to Triple Canopy?

EH: We think of ourselves as roommates, sharing the same space. Triple Canopy is an online magazine that also presents panels, lectures, and other events. The Public School New York is an alternative pedagogical platform, a completely self-organized school without a set curriculum. Our cohabitation works well because our goals are complementary, so together we create an active weekly calendar. And we all benefit from the cross-pollination between the attendees of each group.

TM: What are your plans for your new place at 155 Freeman St?

EH: We’re excited to have a real, long-term lease because up until now, all our spaces have been donated affairs, and thereby somewhat tenuous. We’ll also be able to use the space as an office and work out of it. Since the building is being renovated over the summer, we’re doing another round of our “Couchsurfing” series at like-minded venues, beginning with this weekend’s installation of Anthony McCall’s Long Film for Ambient Light at Dia:Chelsea, a piece that is in certain ways emblematic of our essential goal, the transformation of a space into the state of cinema through a minimal but decisive intervention.