The Van Abbemuseum Collection consists of over 2800 artworks. We publish texts and images on an ongoing basis, but this record is currently in the process of being documented.
'Vexation Island' is a short film that is screened in a loop. From above you see a small island of white sand and palm trees in a blue sea near the mainland. You can hear the sound of wind and waves. Close-ups alternate with panoramic views. There is a man lying on the beach near to a coconut palm. He has a large wound on his forehead. A wooden post with a parrot stands at an angle in the sand. The man opens his eyes, the parrot screeches and points with his wing. The man stands up, looks out over the sea, turns round, walks up to the coconut palm and starts to shake it. A coconut is shaken loose and falls on the man’s forehead. The man falls, the coconut rolls towards the sea. The falling and rolling are slowed down and are shown several times from different camera positions. Then you see the island again from above and the film begins again.
It was recorded with a very professional camera team. It is somewhere in between an advertisement for a tropical product or a distant holiday destination and the start of a feature film with a shipwrecked protagonist like Robinson Crusoe. Crusoe, who cultivates the island where he is washed up as well as possible, is saved in the end. However, for Graham who acts in this film himself, there is no redemption. He endlessly comes to and is then knocked out again.
Rodney Graham’s work is very varied. Usually he bases his work on existing art, such as a book, a piece of music or a sculpture, intervening in these in a way which corresponds to the original work in terms of form, but which changes the meaning or even undermines it. For example, he will insert a piece of text in a book or add notes to a composition. He often works with the principle of the loop: the end joins onto the beginning. In Vexation Island this happens both in terms of content, and as regards the form.
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