Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Rodney Graham | Verwandlungsmusik (Transformation Music)

Rodney Graham
Verwandlungsmusik (Transformation Music)
Saint-Etienne, France: Espace Art Contemporain, 1991
Audio CD
12.5 x 14 cm
Edition size unknown

Subtitled Orchestral Highlights from Parsifal (1882-39,969,364,735 AD), this conceptual exercise remains one of my favourite artworks ever, and is tied for my very favourite artist's recording (with Gavin Bryars' The Sinking of the Titanic).

The work originates from a story Graham had read about the composer Richard Wagner and the 1882 rehearsals of Parsifal in Bayreuth. The curtain-puller for the play was having trouble closing them on time, so Wagner was asked to compose some additional music to smooth over the transition. He refused, reportedly declaring "I do not write music by the meter."  (I'm unable to separate the anecdote from Max Von Sydow's tortured painter in Woody Allen's Hannah and her Sisters, indignantly proclaiming "I don't sell my work by the yard!").

Fortunately for the producers, Wagner's assistant Engelbert Humperdinck (the namesake of the 1960's crooner) was happy to oblige. His additions to the score were accepted by Wagner, used for the first few performances, but eventually dropped after the curtains were altered and the stage machinery was overhauled.

Graham hunted down these obscure excised bars and upon further investigation determined that Humperdinck had actually composed no new music, but rather manipulated the existing score so that the piece could loop back on itself. Graham recognized the similarity to his own 1983 work Lenz, in which he takes the reoccurrence of a phrase within the first five pages of a novel, and re-typesets them to facilitate a narrative that could loop back upon itself, mirroring the story of the protagonist, who is continuously retracing his own steps.

By returning the extra bars of music to the score of Parsifal as a progression of repetitions, Graham was able to create a series of asynchronous loops that would not resynchronize for 39 billion years. He attempts to pinpoint the exact time that the work would conclude (7:30 pm on June 18th), but the CD liner notes include a letter from Alan H. Batten of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics suggesting that an accurate calculation would be impossible. He goes on to list the problems with the speculation, not the least of which is the likelihood that long before that time the sun will cease to shine.

Alongside his art career (and often intermingling with it), Graham has been a prolific songwriter and performer. He was a member of the late-seventies post-punk/new wave band U-J3RK5 (with artists Ian Wallace, Jeff Wall and others) and has released several LPS of songs, including The Bed Bug, Love Buzz (2000), Getting It Together In The Country (2000), Rock is Hard (2003), Never Tell a Pal a Hard Luck Story (2005) and Why Look for Good Times (2008). In 2007, JPRingier released The Rodney Graham Songbook (available here).

The Rodney Graham Band consists of Graham on guitar and vocals, Dave Carswell on bass, Paul Rigby on guitar , mandolin and pedal steel, and Pete Bourne on drums. The group have performed in cities such as Berlin, Glasgow, London, New York and Paris. I believe the last time they played in Toronto was over a decade ago, in 2004, when Art Metropole and the AGO presented a concert at the Gladstone hotel (see below poster, which I think was designed by my then-colleague at AM, Pete Gazendam). Somewhere in my files I have Graham's set-list scrawled on the back of one of these photocopied handbills.

Tomorrow night Art en Valise hosts a performance of the band at The Great Hall from 8 to 10pm. Art en Valise identify as art lovers (not dealers or curators), and are "dedicated to introducing Canadian audiences to new ideas in the contemporary visual arts." The group consists of Paul Marks, Liza Mauer and Elisa Nuyten. Visit their website, here.

Tickets are $40 with a 50% discount for artists and students. They're available here.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Roula Partheniou | Spindle Candle

Roula Partheniou
Spindle Candle
Toronto, Canada: Self-published, 2015
9-1/2 x 4-3/4 x 1-3/4"
Edition of 20

A found wooden spindle is sliced and painted to appear as a candlestick and it's own holder. The work is part of Partheniou's solo exhibition House & Home & Garden, which closes today at Oakville Galleries. The piece sits on the mantle, as part of a series of reductive replicas (paint on wood). A coffee cup appears both randomly abandoned, and oddly accommodated by the placement of the objects around it.

Elsewhere, other items also appear discarded: a pop can, a screwdriver, a used matchstick, a measuring tape, more coffee cups. The entire gallery (consisting of four separate rooms) appears to be under renovation until closer inspection reveals the extent of the artifice. The pink and blue insulation foam is painted and silkscreened wood. The copper pipes are painted dowel. The green painters' tape has been painted directly onto the wall.

Partheniou has created a room within a room and built an additional fifth room. It's unclear where the doors and windows lead to, "complicating the floor plan". This approach allows Partheniou to continue producing sculptures at a domestic, intimate 1:1 ratio (which has always been key to the way her work is read), and simultaneously expand to an almost architectural level.

The new fifth room, visible only through a set of bay windows, reveals the most detailed work: a junk pile of toys, board games, books, pots, pans, dishes, diskettes, an extension cord, a box of kleenex, a ream of paper, etc. Every item is made of painted wood (with the sole exception of the tennis balls, which are styrofoam with green flocking). They sit atop MDF plinths which resemble packing boxes, suggesting the last-to-be-packed items before a move or extensive renovation.

This subtle narrative plays with the gallery's history as a 1920's estate home, converting the building back into a residence, but one in a state of transition. Visitors might first feel that the gallery is in between exhibits, a sensation heightened by the well-timed actual repairs underway on the exterior of the building.

Terence Dick's review in Akimbo is here, Murray Whyte's piece in the Toronto Star can be read here, and the gallery site is here. An essay by the exhibition curator Jon Davies can be read here.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Allen Ruppersberg | Sourcebook: Reanimating the 20th century

Allen Ruppersberg
Sourcebook: Reanimating the 20th century
New York City, USA: Independent Curators International, 2014
284 pp., 28 x 21.5 cm, Paperback
Edition size unknown

In 2011, the ICI created the Sourcebook Series, dedicated to contemporary artists’ personal perspectives on social, political, and cultural issues. For the second in the series, Allen Ruppersberg has mined the archives of his Cleveland family home and his studio in Los Angeles. He has assembled a collection of source material of texts, images, films, records and ephemera influential to his practice from the years 1978 to 2012.

The publication focuses on nine artworks from the artist's career, including his 1995 project for the 50th Anniversary of the United Nations; his 1997 guide book for the Münster Sculpture Project; his 2012 project dedicated to the American vernacular of recorded music, No Time Left to Start Again/The B and D of R ‘n’ R, and more.

Availble from Ti Pi Tin, for £30.00, here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Robert Filliou | Fluxdust

Robert Filliou
New York City, USA: Fluxus, [circa] 1967
12 × 10 × 1.7 cm.
Edition size unknown

Monday, May 18, 2015

Robert Watts | Cabbage

Robert Watts
Verona, Italy: Edition Francesco Conz, 1964/84
16 x 14 x 13 cm.
Edition of 100 signed and numbered copies

A chrome-plated bronze sculpture, available from Harry Ruhe, for 1800 Euros, here.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Katrina Palmer | End Matter

Katrina Palmer
End Matter
London, UK: Bookworks, 2015
96pp,. 12 x 18 cm, softcover
Edition of 1500

This title consists of a text comprised solely from end matter: epilogues, postscripts, afterwords, addenda, and appendices. It was co-published by Artangel, who co-commissioned the work, with BBC Radio 4, after an open call. Palmer was selected out of 1,500 applicants.

Artangel commissions and produces artworks outside of the confines of galleries and museums. Other 2015 projects include Miranda July's New Society and PJ Harvey's Recording in Session (which saw Harvey's latest LP being recorded as a public exhibition). Classic Artangel projects include House by Rachel Whiteread, The Missing Voice by Janet Cardiff, Self-Storage by Laurie Anderson and Brian Eno, Seven Walks by Francis Alys, and Jeremy Deller's The Battle of Orgreave. Many of these projects become editions: Deller's was released as a DVD, Cardiff's a book with CD, the Gavin Bryar's Man in a Room Gambling CD, etc. etc.

End Matter, designed by James Langdon, is available from the publishers, here, for £10.00.

For more information about the work, read Miranda Sawyer's lengthy article in the Guardian, here.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


Vancouver galleries and publishers Fillip, New Documents, Presentation House, Or Gallery, Contemporary Art Gallery, Access Gallery and The Western Front are joining forces for a single day art book sale.

Liquidate will take place at Access Gallery (222 East Georgia Street, Vancouver) from 5 to 9pm on Thursday May 28th.

Below is a list of sample titles that will be discounted anywhere from 15 to 80% off.

Every building on 100 West Hastings – Stan Douglas
You are my sunshine/You are my nebula – Euan MacDonald
Brian Jungen
Cabin Photographs – Scott McFarland
Unsuitable as an Institution: The Tenacity of Access Gallery 1992—2014
Far Away So Close, Part I
Far Away So Close, Part II
Ian Johnston: Reinventing Consumption
Encyclonospace Iranica
Life After Doomsday: Jason de Haan
The Ever-Changing Light: Raymond Boisjoly
Downing Street
Yes, But Is It Edible?
Culture Industry
Fillip 19
Institutions by Artists
12 Sun Songs, Cranfield & Slade
Ten Shows, Barb Choit
Exercises in Kinesthetic Drawing and Other Drawing, Aaron Carpenter
Vancouver Anthology, ed. Stan Douglas
Food for Thought
Notes on Collaboration
Explorations in Psychic Geography
Goin’ Solo
Active Process: Artist’s Books Photographic & Contemporary, 28 U.S. & Canadian Artists
Death and the Family, Gisele Amantea, Marian Penner Bancroft, Wyn Geleynse, etc.
Facing History: Portraits from Vancouver
Judy Radul: People Things Enter Exit
Attila Richard Lukacs / POLAROIDS / Michael Morris
Ritual In Contemporary Performance
Eternal Network: Videos from the Western Front Archive
Recipes For An Encounter
The F Word
Marian Penner Bancroft: Two Places at Once: Transfigured Wood Part IV

The evening is sponsored by Jameson Whiskey, who will be providing a special cocktail called The Librarian.

For more information, visit the CAG website, here.