About This Artwork
Torqued Chandelier Release, 2005
35mm color film silent (custom film projector at 48 fps); 5 min. loop
Edition number one of three
Major Acquisitions Fund, 2005.292
Vancouver-based Rodney Graham has adopted a variety of roles as an artist—musician, performer, philosopher, scientist, and writer—but he has been primarily recognized for his moving-image installations in varying formats of film and video. A nimble and rigorous reinvestigation of 1970s Conceptualism, Graham’s oeuvre has led him to be described as an artist who works on “multiple tracks” rather than in sequential stages.
Torqued Chandelier Release is the third—and most ambitious—of a trio of films that the artist described as “illustrated ‘thought experiments’ documenting transitory lighting events within the context of a single roll of film.” Inspired by Sir Isaac Newton’s famous water-bucket experiment, which explored the nature of rotational motion, Torqued Chandelier Release documents a crystal chandelier—wound up on a rope off-camera and then released—spinning in one direction until the rope unwinds, slowing, then spinning in the reverse direction, and so on, until finally coming to rest.
The film was shot at twice the normal speed with a 35mm camera placed on its side, and is shown in a vertical format through a custom-built, high-speed projector. The image of the spinning chandelier becomes hypnotic—it takes on a sculptural, three-dimensional appearance that is unlike anything made by conventional filmic means; the intensified resolution and lush texture transform the simple event into a dizzying, glamorous spectacle. As Christina Bagatavicius has explained, however, all this glitter is used to make a historical and intellectual point as well: “The luminosity of the chandelier also takes on a richer meaning when related back to Newton’s status as a central thinker during the age of Enlightenment. Within this context, the chandelier takes on the dual role of recreating a historical experiment as well as cleverly personifying the illumination of the mind through thought.”
Graham’s deadpan humor permeates his work. Here, he chose the image of the chandelier from his memory of an incident in the 1952 film Scaramouche, in which the lead character is nearly impaled by a falling chandelier (yet another Newtonian lesson) and escapes his enemies in the guise of a Commedia dell’Arte buffoon. Likewise, Graham often conceals his own identity—in this case, as an artist-cum-experimental scientist—as a means of subverting the authorship, originality, and identity issues that have been at the forefront of contemporary art discourse for the last two decades.