Wednesday, April 22, 2009



The projectively titled DAN GRAHAM: BEYOND, is Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art’s survey/retrospective of the artist’s work, which generally regarded as conceptual and complex.

Los Angeles has a giddy public art scene with heavy hitting one liners in front of newly minted cultural institutions and speculative real estate ventures. One percent public, ninety-nine percent other.
With full size and smaller scale models of his well known pavilions, video works in compartmented viewing pods, texts and photographs, this museum show ought to be a crash course on intelligent public art for this city. It was encouraging to see the interest of the younger generation of viewers during my visit. In Dan Graham’s works, “beyond” has always been there.

It is easy to fall for dismissal, intimidation, misunderstanding, and perverse desire, while participating in and viewing Dan Graham’s work, many do.
However, the works’ intentions usually meant to bypass all that. In Dan Graham’s pieces, the color, composition, lust, pleasure, story telling, fine art, landscape and architecture related layers meticulously studied and carefully placed. The artist’s in depth knowledge of aesthetic theory, compositional un-canny-ness and historical perspective is only second to few.
Even then, the center stage belongs to perception and relations of the mind within and in the periphery of built environments and situations.

Dan Graham’s ultimate punctuation in the works exists unanimously with the participation of the individual and the public.

As the artist himself notes in his books, Dan Graham's works are investigative, revealing and generative via Jacques Lacan’s “mirror phase,” the self’s permanent structure of subjectivity based on the reflections.

In the video and pavilion works of the artist, reflections inform this self-first, and everything else after a timed delay, as the artist manipulates series of actions according to works' intended destination.
The whole systems of cultural codes, innovational particles, material properties such as use of mirrors and camera on cameras, then on monitors etc., packed in that intermediary exchange territory which is in perpetual motion at any given time and deeply rooted in psychoanalytical philosophies.
This is when his works start get really interesting and complex.
Such, weaving and the building upon time-space-light-memory-behavior-communication-etc., relations developed and experimented over the years.
Within Graham’s art, you are as, audience, environment, creator and the created, continuously engaged in series of planned and set systems leading to unplanned discoveries and non-systematic results, on the mirror, there are many chances taken.

One thing is for sure in Graham’s works is that processing never stand still, therefore making it difficult to stop, sit back, and digest. They are highly energetic and in perpetual motion.

Architecture is a division of art generally and conveniently evaluated in its static form.
The end user, the occupant, and the end used, the building, usually take this static condition as granted and limit the critique of each to predictable ends of two dimensional texts even in 3d max, if I may use a little irony...
Dan Graham’s ‘devices’, I quote, or pavilions, as they are called, make sure this static relationship is broken and the dialogue of the signifier and signified is brought back via the specific constructions and the site placement, making the presence of architecture all at once; dynamic, interactive, experimental and so on. Like as if, injecting all the actual movement and life source into the render-frozen method of architectural production and flatly distilled object making.

‘Time,’ when paired with architectural ‘Code’, generates endless number of perceptual and informational systems within the buildings, urban conditions and inevitably, within the social landscape. One can almost view or trace this element in the reflective learning experience of the re-enacted ‘mirror phase,’ with Graham’s pavilions. I assume, one can even justify the shape of the pavilions based on the length of the planned experience as suggested by the artist.
These concepts are the active paradigms of the possibilities of our networked societies, as if deliverable packets of expression, control and stimuli.
This is where we enter spontaneous impact and critical sense of Graham’s experiments, challenging the conventional perceptions of the architectural space, inventive exchanges of mirror images, and incredibly complex movements of seemingly ordinary interactions such as watching and being watched.

Dan Graham is a multi faceted artist, designer, landscaper, writer, storyteller, lecturer, historian, social critic and most importantly, a provocateur, who will make it possible for impaired buildings and landscapes “talk and see,” people “interact,” ideas and thoughts “reflect” and, ‘self’ to learn from its own psychoanalysis.
The viewer/participant must try not to over analyze his works but un resistively experience them, participate in it voyeuristically and consequently be introduced and informed by them, through the critical, narrative, altering and experimental mind of the artist.
In a way, he is a matchmaker of sorts, connecting all kinds of labyrinths and people.

Los Angeles artist Ed Ruscha once said for general purposes of understanding of art, that, good art should elicit a response of "Huh? Wow!" as opposed to "Wow! Huh?"
The former is particularly appropriate for Dan Graham’s work.

Orhan Ayyuce


Unknown said...

I saw his work at the Kiasma in Helsinki in 2002. I found it interesting and at times repetitive. I enjoyed your review.

I think Olafur Eliasson's work on space and feeling of it is more interesting explorations.

Thanks for the good blog and keep up the good work.

Javier said...

I'd never really stopped to think much about Dan Graham's stuff. i guess that's part of his hook, actually. great to read this, orhan. really helped me out to get a better sense of his work.

Orhan Ayyüce said...

thanks bjorn,
i wish you'd seen the MoCA show and get an overall survey of dan graham's work. i am sure you'd find some of the operative means of his work quite developed.
keep in touch...

Orhan Ayyüce said...

javier thanks for reading. even though i like the condensed version AN published, i would recommend unedited version i blogged. it was a great decision on AN's part to review the show among all other popular stuff happening in LA. there are series of video interviews with mr. graham on MoCA site. some of the stuff is hilarious and incredibly informative about his state of mind and vast knowledge of things he is interested. it is hard to believe dan is over 70 y.o. and still more youthful than 25 year olds in many cases.

Anonymous said...

you get Lacan totally wrong and Graham himself has referred to any such reading as 'after the fact' of the conception of the work. see Birgit Pelzer's 1979 article in 'october'

Orhan Ayyüce said...

you are right. i am not an expert on lacan's time and knowledge exchange, i can't pinpoint to those packets, graham can. but even 'after the fact appropriated,' i like the presence of it in graham's work. how is it possible get lacan's mirror stage wrong?

Orhan Ayyüce said...

there is also this from Lynne Cooke

which i refer back in silica boy's final scene...

Anonymous said...

This is one of the best reviews I've read on the show. Thank you.