Lobbing Potatoes at a Gong

Rodney Graham

Since the late 1970s, Rodney Graham (°1949 CA Vancouver) has built up a conceptual body of work in which he regularly reuses elements from the worlds of music and cinema. He often portrays himself as a phlegmatic performer who, however promising the action initially sounds, gets caught up in a loop of predictable, unspectacular events: dressed as a pirate on a paradise island (Vexation Island 1997), riding backwards on a bike under the influence of LSD (Photokinetoscope 2002), on reportage in Kurt Cobain’s hometown (Aberdeen 2000) or collapsed in an artificial sleep on the back seat of a car (Halcion Sleep 1994).

Lobbing Potatoes at a Gong (2006) was inspired by a 1960s rock anecdote in which Pink Floyd’s drummer, the victim of a jam session that just won’t quit, starts throwing potatoes in the direction of a gong out of boredom. Graham re-enacts the event as a parody of a Fluxus performance, dressed in boots, jeans and a lumberjack shirt, as if he were a New York artist of the era. The filmed audience meekly endures Graham’s session. Occasionally his potatoes hit the target, to be distilled into vodka afterwards (hence the bottle with the label that persiflates Fluxus’ wide proliferation of concrete poetry, as a permanent feature alongside the 16mm projection). Marie-Josée Jean: l’auditoire d’aujourd’hui ne peut faire autrement que d’éclater de rire en réalisant l’heureuse distance qui le sépare de l’ambiance de cette époque.