Friday, June 02, 2006

Rodney Graham's Millennial Time Machine

It's not often you spot a modern work of art and instantly can name it. Sheltered in a perspex walled pavilion on the campus of UBC was, quite clearly, a time machine. A plaque on the wall of the installation confirmed the perception. This was 'The Millennial Time Machine', placed here in 2003 by the renowned photo-conceptualist Rodney Graham, a Vancouver native.
I was invited inside for some final magical moments in Vancouver. A 19th Century landau, a large brass lens protrudes from the rear. It looks across a basin of planted parkland to a young sequoia, the image of which is cast upside down upon a round circular screen in the centre of the vehicle. Closed inside, on the soft cushioned seats, the viewer becomes the only film, the only recording device, as the transmission from nature is fed into the darkness.
The conceit is that this vehicle out of history is driving forward while looking back. The tree plays its own role in moving across time, being so young yet set to grow and span the next centuries. And it all plays out in the present, where the moment is alive and nothing is recorded.
The experience is profoundly meditative, the tree alive and shifting with the wind that plays through it yet reflected as if in a still pool. At times it was also startling, occasional seagulls slashing inverted white flights across the image.
For myself, on my own journey out of time, researching the inked handwriting of J.S.Haldane from over a hundred years ago in the Charles Woodward Memorial Library on campus, the occasion was a wondrous rounding. Haldane began his own career in a horse-drawn era-and I like to think the Sequoia would have set him in mind of the Scottish landscapes of his childhood. Yet his entire career was spent reaching out of one century, out of one millennium, towards the next. He shifted from penny farthings to bikes, was instrumental in bringing submarines into existence, helped ventilate the first motor tunnels, designed the first space suit, and in the twenties was advocating steam as against the internal combustion engine.

Inside the time machine I travelled for a while out of all thoughts of past, future and present, into some vastly soothing space outside of time, and then was delivered back into the carriage--in time to emerge and taxi to the flight back to London. But some ghost of myself, alng with the 3,000 or so others who enter the time machine each year, still sits on that padded seat, gazing into the image of the tree hanging down from the land and the sky.


Blogger keystone1111 said...

Well said. I was mesmirized by Mr. Graham's work exhibited in Madison, Wisconsin (2003?). Thank you for the entry - I'm inspired!

3:28 AM  

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