Two-Way Mirror Cylinder Inside Cube and a Video Salon
This work, designed in collaboration with architects Mojdeh Baratloo and Clifton Balch, is among the first and most ambitious of the Pavilions for which Graham is best known. The work is composed of a circular structure inside a larger square enclosure; both are made of steel and subtly mirrored glass that marries transparency with reflection. The pavilion was situated on the rooftop of 548 West 22nd Street, then home to the Dia Center for the Arts, drawing reflections of the city into the same space through which visitors moved, encountering their own bodies and reflections alongside those of others. The rooftop pavilion was intended to operate as a performance space and was accompanied by a space for viewing videos in the lobby of the Dia building, encouraging visitors to linger.
Graham's pavilions are unashamedly intellectual, translating theoretical texts into phenomenological experiences. His materials are chosen for the roles that they play in society. The highly reflective glass, for which Graham is known, is frequently used in corporate facades and hence often associated with the alienation of late capitalism, but is deployed, here, in service of self-directed play. Mirrored glass, in a conventional architectural situation, will be reflective on the side exposed to sunlight while the other side is transparent, serving to shut out those outside the building. The positioning of Graham's pavilion on a rooftop changes the way in which the glass, activated by sunlight, performs, blending reflective and transparent properties. These changes in the glass, which returns distorted reflections or transparencies, creating a pleasurable disorientation in the visitor that can be likened to a Jacques Lacan's idea of the mirror stage in childhood, where astonishment at the loss and reappearance of one's image prompts the discovery of the ego.
Graham began to produce pavilions in the early 1980s, extending his interest in mirrors and surveillance technologies into three dimensions. Two-Way Mirror Cylinder Inside Cube and a Video Salon is influenced by Minimalist objects, similarly using industrial materials that show no trace of the artist's hand, but distinguishes itself from the work of earlier artists through a new emphasis on relationships. Unlike the Californian Light and Space Movement, which sought to concentrate audience attention on the effects on light through similar interventions, Graham's pavilions attract the attention through their beguiling visual effects in order to encourage consideration of social relationships. This structure relies on the audience for activation and encourages visitors to move around and through it, variously encountering their own body and gaze, reflected back, and the bodies and gazes of others. Graham's pavilion also distinguishes itself from the Minimalist work with which it shares an aesthetic through removing itself from the commodity market. The pavilion, which is site-specific, relies on the surrounding cityscape, which is filtered through and reflected by the glass, rejecting the white cube as setting. Dia, at this point, was known predominantly as an institution that commissioned and sold work, and so Graham's intervention serves as a provocation against Dia's values; in an institution known for prizing collectable objects, Graham creates a piece that cannot be sold, due to its relationship to its specific site, which relies on community in order to be activated.
Two-way mirror glass, stainless steel and perforated steel - Dia Center for the Arts, New York