Dan Graham

29 april 2006 - 30 july 2006

Concetto, Corpo e Sogno (Concept, Body and Dream)

Curated by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev

Concetto, Corpo e Sogno (Concept, Body and Dream) is a series of five exhibitions which will be held successively throughout the spring and summer of 2006. Solo shows will be dedicated to conceptual artists. Each exhibition gathers together works and more recent, or previously unseen projects, and is accompanied by an interview with each artist.

Thanks to the support of the Fondazione CRT Progetto Arte Moderna e Contemporanea, many of the works exhibited have become part of the museum’s permanent collection.

In reaction to the overflow of visual imagery and products in the new consumer culture of the mid-1960s, the conceptual artists dematerialized traditional sculpture and painting and opened up the artwork to other possibilities – art could be a process, a study, an idea, a situation, an event, a group of people doing something together. Amongst them, Dan Graham (Urbana, Illinois, 1942) has been one of the most eclectic and open.

In the mid-1960s he began his artistic practice with a series of works where he experimented with the limits of the art system and with the boundaries between private and public space. He has run a gallery, published articles as artworks, explored performance and film, and bridged art and architecture. Interested in architecture, perception and experience, he has consistently explored how consciousness works, and has explored the experience of seeing (and filming) in a series of performance/film works exhibited in gallery 36 on the third floor of the Castello.

In these early film/performances, made between 1969 and 1974, Graham’s intention is not simply to film something. He experiments with perception in an expanded field, exploring what happens when the body’s natural faculties are expanded by the camera lens. In the resultanting works, the body and the camera become a single machine for moving and sensing, and one sees oneself seeing. Some of these, such as Roll (1970) or Helix / Spiral (1973), were filmed using two cameras, one observing from the ‘outside’ and the other from the ‘inside’. In Helix Spiral the camera is hand-held by a filmmaker who moves in a spirai around and towards another, ‘inner’ filmmaker standing at the center of a space and rolling a camera around his body in a 360° helicoidal movement with the lens turned outwards, thus experimenting what the various points of his body have around himself, as if creating a portable radar system. In Graham’s works, the progression of the camera can be from inside to outside, outside to inside, top to bottom or vice versa, or it can even explore how we link two binocular images together. In the mid-1970s, Graham began to think about expanding these types of film/performances by constructing architectural spaces and models for similar experimental experiences and “situations”. He built works/spaces such as Two Viewing Rooms (1975) and Public Space / Two Audiences (1976) which were soon followed by free-standing pavilions – structures made of two-way mirror glass. Variously reflective of viewers and their environment, the recent Children’s Day Care, C-D Rom, Cartoon and Computer Screen Library Project (1997- 2000), presented in gallery 33 on the second floor of the Castello, is an open space where Mad Magazine and cartoons can be viewed.

Graham has discussed how in corporate structures made of reflective glass, a controlling gaze can see out from the inside, but we on the outside cannot peer in. Rather, we are encouraged to “live happily ever after,” perceiving only an unreal world reflected on the surface of this almost invisible architecture. By redirecting these elements and creating radically shifting and changing environments in his pavilion/installations, Graham allows us to perform our own experimental perceptions and interactions.

This pavilion epitomizes his approach: in a world where young people are on the one hand predated upon as consumers, or on the other inhibited by moralistic educators, he invites them simply to hang out.

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev