Critics’ Picks

Rodney Graham, Lighthouse Keeper with Lighthouse Model, 1955, 2010, color photographs, light boxes, 112 x 144 x 6".

Rodney Graham, Lighthouse Keeper with Lighthouse Model, 1955, 2010, color photographs, light boxes, 112 x 144 x 6".

Vancouver

“The Voyage, or Three Years at Sea, Part I”

Charles H. Scott Gallery
Emily Carr Institute 1399 Johnston Street
January 19–February 20, 2011

Curated by Cate Rimmer, this exhibition charts the ways in which, to quote Herman Melville, “meditation and water are wedded together.” The first in a trilogy of programs at the gallery about the ocean, the show comprises two artworks that take lighthouses as their subject. What differentiates the project from more romantic examinations is that, like Moby-Dick, it also presents scientific and historical elements mixed with fiction. The two works—Tacita Dean’s Disappearance at Sea, 1996, and Rodney Graham’s Lighthouse Keeper with Lighthouse Model, 2010—are supplemented with archival documents and objects loaned from the Vancouver Maritime Museum.

In Graham’s photograph, a man reclining on a chair rests his feet on an open oven door while a teakettle boils on the stove. Behind him appears a model of a lighthouse. The picture is presented in two contiguous light boxes, the break between them bisecting the man’s body. Graham’s work is not so much about lighthouses as it is, like most of his work, a comedy about art and artifice.

Tacita Dean’s thirteen-minute film of a lighthouse, is, on the other hand, elegiac. Disappearance is part of a biographical series on amateur sailor Donald Crowhurst, who attempted to cheat on a round-the-world race, got lost on the way, went mad, and then committed suicide. Dean pieces together Crowhurst’s story through fragments. Nothing refers directly to him; one only sees the revolving lamp lighting a darkening coastline.

The archival material further complicates the artworks: a small piece of wood taken from the wreck of the SS Beaver, on which is painted a miniature depiction commemorating its own sinking; a logbook; a foghorn; postcards; and even––most bizarre among the factual objects––the hat Graham used as a prop.