Rodney Graham

Millennial Project for an Urban Plaza (with Cappuccino Bar), 1991

Millennial Project for an Urban Plaza, with Cappuccino Bar is above all an art project where the adjective “millennial” heightens the fictitious character. It is part and parcel of Rodney Graham’s works dealing with optical systems and arrangements. After an initial idea carried out in 1986, this version of Millennial Project gives formal and conceptual shape to a camera obscura. On the upper level of a metal structure we find a theatre beneath which the “Cappuccino bar” is attached, access to it being by way of a monumental spiral staircase. An isolated tree has to be planted opposite the project, itself devised for a public place, which will determine the height of Millennial on the basis of how much it grows. The conical theatre is the formalization of the optical procedure of a camera obscura in which will be reflected the reversed image of the tree once it has reached maturity, an “original” image prior to its correction by optic nerves. But this system for putting the image back together again is also a system for putting the place back together again. Millennial Project is incorporated within a public place through which Graham indexes the urbanness of the place—a public one. The scale of the project and the location of the tree are dependent on the restrictions dictated by the place but, through something reciprocal, the tree will impose its own pace of growth on the structure. A growth which becomes the close and fragile link on which depend the way the project functions and the future of the place. With this multiplication of perceptive approaches, Graham constructs a process of role-switching whereby the spectator in the theatre becomes an actor in the work. Man, nature and city are all closely associated in a congruence of private space and public place. In this work, as much as in the photograph Ponderosa Pine (III), Rodney Graham loops the vision with an objective device in a subjective process. The eye is summoned in a cycle of on-going correction; the image, at once signifying and signified, becomes a tautological proposition.

Nadine Labedade

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