Lichtspiel Schwarz-Weiss-Grau

Germany, 1930


In 1930, after eight years of research and experimentation, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy created the Light Space Modulator, a kinetic sculpture of rotating glass, spirals and perforated metal sheets illuminated by 140 different light sources. In this same year, he produced the film Lightplay Black White Grey, a dynamic cinematic abstraction of the light and movement generated by the Light Space Modulator. The play of light in the film, as in the original sculpture, enabled Moholy-Nagy to create an altogether new experience for the viewer, asserting his own proposition that,
“Because light is a spatial-temporal problem, the mere accentuation of the question of light brings us into the field of a new spatial awareness that cannot yet be fully analysed. We can, however, find a word to describe it: floating.”
Moholy-Nagy also saw his Light Space Modulator as an extension of the ideas underpinning cinema - magnified light projected on a surface in dynamic configurations. As such, Lightplay Black White Grey, his cinematic mediation of these spatial and light concerns is a vital work in his artistic practise. The film begins as a series of abstract images of geometric shapes and shadows formed by the kinetic movement of the Light Space Modulator. The circular movements of the sculpture and camera in combination provide a pendulous, hypnotic effect that is both a document of the sculpture and an elegant visual dance of shape-shifting forms and transformed light. The rhythmic combinations of stasis and dynamism across altered variations of screen space and superimpositions of motion and form makes for a vertiginous visual experience.
Although it cannot replicate the immersive experience of the light sculpture, the film creates a viewing space in which the audience is visually disoriented by Moholy-Nagy’s spatial dislocations. As the artist anticipated, this creates a sensation of detachment, of ‘floating’, amid a dynamic vision of light’s relationship to spatial understanding.

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In ACMI's collection

Previously on display

27 January 2003

ACMI Screen Gallery



Laszlo Moholy-Nagy

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Silent films


16mm film; Master

DVCAM; Master

Digital Betacam [PAL]; Master

Digital Betacam [PAL]; Sub-master

VHS [PAL]; Reference - timecoded

DVD [PAL]; Master


DVD [PAL]; Copy

DVD [PAL]; Exhibition Copy

MOV file ProRes4444; Digital Preservation Master - overscan

MOV file ProRes4444; Digital Preservation Master - presentation

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MPEG-4 Digital File; ACMI Digital Access Copy - presentation

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