Rodney Graham
Basement Camera Shop circa 1937

Basement Camera Shop circa 1937 (2011) is part of a series of photographic self-portraits in which Rodney Graham plays a host of characters. In the series as a whole, Graham makes the case that identity is performed. Here, we see the artist behind a shop desk lined with early cameras and boxes of Kodak film. As the buttoned-up clerk scrawls a note, the ragged upper edge of the stage set is clearly visible above him. The scene’s self-referential, transparent artifice insists that photography itself is also about performance, and that the medium’s potential to generate vivid fictions might be more interesting than its historical role as a supposed conveyor of objective reality.

Conceptual artist Rodney Graham’s oeuvre is highly versatile and intellectual. By incorporating fictional narratives and alternative interpretations into an existing context, Graham creates visual puns that layer historical reference to examine social and philosophical systems. Not only is Graham the behind-the-scenes sculptor, photographer, filmmaker, inventor, scholar, writer and singer in his projects, he also literally appears in the finished works, impersonating various fictional characters.