What is the Sound of One Hand Clapping?


14 minutes

An example of seminal work combining language and time, the film documents Lijn’s work with cones from 1964 till 1972. All of these sculptures attempt in one way or another to empty the mind, dematerialise volume, and transform matter into energy.

The title of the film is a well known Japanese “koan”, a zen riddle given to Buddhist monks as an aid to meditation. It is a play on the words – cone and koan – both of which have at least a phonetic resemblance. A series of sculptures are filmed that connect the idea of emptying the mind with the dematerialising of volume or matter. The sculptures seen here are all cones/koans that transform matter into energy, volume into vibration.

Some of them do it with words. Words are made to become vibrations, returned to their essence, becoming the energy of their potential meaning. The word transforms into a line of colour that defines the space better than volume. Solid volumes, formal and mathematical, are animated and become organic. The film ends with the erection of a large public sculpture : White Koan. The slow mesmeric motion of its luminous lines dissolve the film into silence.

Orginally shot and edited on 16 mm film and transferred to video

Camera: Roger Coward, Pip Benveniste Edit: Liliane Lijn, Sound: Rolf Gehlhaar

Special Effects: Stephen Weiss

Completed April 23rd 1973