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Mini Psycho-Opticon

Rodney Graham, Rotary Psycho-Opticon, 2008. 120 x 144 inches. All content copyright 303 Gallery, New York, 2008.

For Art Kabinett this Art Basel Miami Beach, 303 Gallery (New York), will present Canadian conceptualist Rodney Graham’s latest rendition of the “Rotary Psycho-Opticon,” a replica sculpture of the freestanding kinetic Op Art structure that was used by Black Sabbath as the backdrop for a performance of Paranoid on Belgian television in 1971.

Unlike the Rotary Psycho-Opticon whose circular illusory components are set into a broad metallic façade and powered from the back, the Mini Psycho-Opticon–which first appeared in the solo exhibition Its All Black and White at Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery–has a circular façade and is powered from the front. Although both works are essentially pedal powered machines, the front powered Mini Psyhco-Opticon presents itself at eye level and rather than wooing crowds, its optic chaotic is focused solely on the individual. This, combined with the cardio vascular effects of riding a modified exercise bike allows viewers to pedal themselves into a frenzied psychedelic bliss.

Rodney Graham, Mini Rotary Psycho Opticon, 2008. Installation view from It’s All Black and White at Rüdiger Schöttle Gallery.

Art Basel’s Online Catalogue states: “Rodney Graham’s work is marked by the eclectic knowledge that he exercises over a variety of media, implying a kind of cryptic omniscience that informs his often humorous, self-referential practice. This work is essentially a readymade sculpture, and while the first replica was intended for performative and on-stage use, the new work Mini Psycho-Opticon, is customized for single person usage and reverie as the psychedelic patterns and movements of the sculpture mirror the dreamlike haze a fan might be drawn into when imagining his favorite icons.”

The Rodney Graham Band live featuring the Amazing Rotary Psycho-Opticon. ABC, Glasgow. Photo: Angie Catlin.

“Graham has always kept the question open: Am I a musician trapped in an artist’s mind or an artist trapped in a musician’s body?” —Kim Gordon, bassist, Sonic Youth

From PAF: “Rodney Graham has been playing music off and on since the late 70′s, shifting his creative practice from music to art and back, as circumstances allow. In the lean times of the early 80′s, he sold off his guitar and music equipment to finance his studio practice, and focused on art during the subsequent years. To this day, Graham continues to struggle with the demands of his music in the face of his artistic career. His references can be literary or historical, and long periods of research tend to precede actual production in his studio. He frequently creates dialectics between subject matter and media, incorporating the presentation apparatus into the conceptual framework for the art.”

In addition to musical anthropology, Grahams Rotary Psycho-Opticon pieces reference the first bike ride under the influence of LSD, historically taken in 1943 by the drug’s synthesizer, Swiss chemist Dr. Albert Hofmann. A homage to this event appeared previously in Graham’s film installation The Phonokinetoscope (2001).

From Wikipedia: While researching lysergic acid derivatives, Hofmann first synthesized LSD-25 in 1938. The main intention of the synthesis was to obtain a respiratory and circulatory stimulant. It was set aside for five years, until April 16, 1943, when Hofmann decided to take another look at it. While re-synthesizing LSD, he accidentally absorbed a small quantity through his fingertips and serendipitously discovered its powerful effects before his bicycle ride home.”

Writing about his first experiements, Hofmann described a number of experiences typified by “remarkable restlessness, combined with a slight dizziness” and “an extremely stimulated imagination.”

Albert Hofmann (Center) Image courtesy of

I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD. It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be. —Albert Hofmann

Art Kabinett is an initiative which encourages galleries art Art Basel Miami Beach to show small curated exhibitions of diverse concepts in addition to their main exhibitions. The Mini Psycho-Opticon will be available to view (and ride) from Booth C11 courtesy of 303 gallery at the Miami Beach Convention Center from December 3rd – 7th, 2008.


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Mini Psycho-Opticon