Rodney Graham. Through the Forest

The title of the show Trough the Forest is taken from an English translation of the story Lenz by the German Romantic author Georg Büchner. Reading this translation Rodney Graham discovered a repetition of the sentence ‘Through the forest’ from one page to another.

For his piece Reading machine for Lenz he had an apparatus built which displays the first five pages of that translation in such a way that the text becomes a loop caught in a state of endless repetition. He makes the pages readable on both sides by means of a revolving mechanism, a “machine for seeing,” as Friedrich Meschede calls it. Meschede further elucidates, that the page division “at this point transforms the narrative into a Sisyphean repetition, raising the passage set in the wood to a metaphorical level expressive of existential disorientation”. (2010:34)

Repetition is a central concern in many of Rodney Grahams bookworks. The piece Five Interior Proposals for the Grimm brothers’ Studies in Berlin relates this repetition to Søren Kierkegaard’s work on doubled rooms. Christa–Maria Lerm Hayes describes that “the fact that his repetition accentuates repetition with a difference, rather than the illusion of unchanging recurrence can make a reference to Friedrich Nietzsche productive, but especially productive is reference to Giambattista Vico’s The New Science, which Joyce used extensively for Finnegans Wake. Here, ten ‘thunderwords’ punctuate the narrative and mark the transition between the different historical ages. For these kinds of loops, the spiral is the appropriate image, not the circle. (2010:68)

Much of Graham’s work created at the beginning of the early 1980s is influenced by 1970s Conceptual art and its way of thinking. He took found texts as the basis for his bookworks,  at once conceptual and material,  adapting them, inserting supplements (bookmarks with additional pages) or textual loops,  incorporating books into optical devices, etc … Many of these were carried out with the Belgian publisher Yves Gevaert and / or the gallerist Christine Burgin. Julian Heynen describes him as “an unusal kind of author, one who uses his own text / objects to inscribe himself into the work of others”. (2010:18) Rodney Graham is quoting, appropriating literature’s methods, motifs and forms, critiquing and at times teasing, as well as revering and even reviving its traditions.

Meschede Friedrich; Gevaert, Yves; Rodney Graham. Through the Forest (exh. cat.); Hatje Cantz Verlag, 2010

14/03/2010 at 11:25 am