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Rodney Graham

School of Velocity, Parsifal
October 01 – November 12, 1995

Rodney Graham
Installation View,
The Renaissance Society, 1995
Over the last twenty years, Canadian artist Rodney Graham has built a rich and diverse body of works that has earned him recognition as a leading artist of his generation. Graham reinvestigates and extends the conceptualism of the 1970s, and critiques the hype associated with the culture of the 1980s. Graham's work transcends the discourse of the visual arts, bringing other disciplines and time frames into its imaginative field. This exhibition will premiere two time-based musical installations entitled School of Velocity and Parsifal.

In School of Velocity Graham combined the piano exercise of the same name with Galileo's equation of the acceleration of falling objects. The result is the piano piece progressively slowing down, with longer and longer pauses between notes. Parsifal is based on a few bars of music cobbled together out of the score of Wagner's Parsifal by Engelburt Humperdinck, Wagner's assistant, to compensate for a problem the opera company was experiencing in synching up its music and scenery. Graham adds a progression of repetitions, whose durations are determined by the prime numbers between 3 and 47, for each of the fourteen instrumental sections that would be playing Humperdinck's interpolation. The result is an opera that doesn't end until the year 38,969, 364,735. As astrophysicist A.H. Batten notes in a letter to Graham, "...the 'opera' would transcend the whole life of the universe itself and is, in some sense, eternal. Since I gather there is some connection with Wagner, this might go down well. I sometimes have the impression that music lovers are divided into two camps, those who wish Wagner's music would go on forever and those who fear it is doing just that."

Traveled to Art Gallery of York University, Toronto


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