Most of those who have commented on Graham’s constructions, on his deployment of various architectural elements (and I would consider video among them) invariably make the spectator the focus of their analysis. The very substance of the work – that’s how Donald Kuspit puts it – is the viewing subject, the subject who, like Graham in his little demonstration, in giving him or herself an experience, inscribes him or herself in the work. (5) Critical preoccupation, then, has, for the most part, always lay with the problematic of the subject in its fiction, with – as Graham so aptly demonstrates – the issue of an abyssal separation which, in marking the subject, in dividing it between more than one figure, recalls for it the mortal insufficiency to which its image has condemned it.
Birgit Pelzer, in “Vision in Process” (what might still be one of the finest articles on Graham’s work to date), remarks: “Beyond their declarative immateriality, [the constructions’] presence is entirely dissolved by the spectator’s movements.” “These works are brought into existence by a spectator who is simultaneously absorbed in and distanced from his own ambiguous situation.” (6) Although I support such assessments concerning the question of the subject or the figure, or, as Pelzer points out, the subordination of the architectural elements in the course of one’s movement, one’s “step,” as I would like to put it, where you/it – the subject, but also the work – see yourself/itself “coming-to-pass,” it is precisely these very elements that I wish to emphasize and from an entirely different angle.
I said “coming-to-pass.” I said that rather than saying: “It – the work, or for that matter, the subject – is brought or brings itself to completion.” Like the subject, I do not think that these works can ever be brought, can ever bring themselves to completion.
With or without its audience these works will never complete themselves. Thus, even in the absence of the spectator, these works continue in their coming-to-pass; they labour – incessantly – to complete themselves even in your absence.
A cursory glance at any of the graphic or photographic evidence of Graham’s installations should be enough to convince anyone of the importance of the spectator in making these events happen. Indeed, in some instances, the work appears to be on the verge of being overrun by participants of one kind or another. However, tonight, at the risk of overlooking the issue of audience, I have decided, for the purpose of my demonstration, to think of these structures as enclosures which, in opening themselves for inspection, at once, close themselves down. Thus, for the moment, I want to think of them as being sealed – each one like a crypt in a cemetery or a temple, a temple of art perhaps – which calls out to be violated. (7) However, a word of caution: if it is at all possible to enter into a relation with the crypt, a condition which demands an application of violence, a redoubling of the violence that marks the incorporation of the crypt in the first place, it will not be revealed, will not be given to be seen or comprehended in what is still referred to as a presentation. No demonstration, no presentation will have sufficed, here, to show us this place: the “placeless place” of what, at bottom, remains irreplaceable.