Graham Gussin | March - April 2017
Graham Gussin was born in 1960, in London, UK, where he still lives and works. Using a wide range of media, including video, installation and sound, Gussin’s practice explores how mass communication mediates our experience of reality. Often, his works unfold in events, presenting to the viewers a set of coordinates that redistribute common perceptions of time, space and movement. Relying on cinematographic and literary references, mainly science fiction, his pieces move the expectations of the spectators through sublime translations that convey a desire to be in another time or place. Gussin’s works often suggest a potential narrative or the pre-eminence of an occurrence just beyond the comprehension of the viewer. His film Spill (2006) documents a strange mist, which slowly surrounds the shrubby earth and deserted buildings of Mitcham Common in Southeast London at night, before retiring as mysteriously as it came, giving rise to questions of presence and absence, what is shown and what is hidden.
Graham Gussin is an artist who uses a wide range of media, including texts, film, video, installation, photography, drawing and sound. In 2017 he was invited to take part in an artist residency in the Azores, Portugal, and during his stay was drawn to an abandoned hotel perched on an isolated mountaintop. This former five-star hotel became Gussin’s temporary studio, as well as being the inspiration for a new body of work. As someone who has exhibited often in Portugal, I was invited to complete a residency at Pico do Refugio on the north coast of São Miguel, the largest island in the Azores. I was intrigued by this opportunity to visit a small group of islands two hours flight out from Lisbon, literally in the middle of nowhere. The location is run as a hotel during the busy summer months, and for five years now, the owner has been running residencies for artists during low season. There is a grand house at the top of the hill with many smaller buildings used for travellers and tourists around a large plantation area, first used for fruit growing and later for tea growing and processing. Initially I took a short trip out for a site visit. A Portuguese artist I know, Miguel Palma, was working on the residency and had organised my invitation during a small show of the work he had made there. During this trip I was taken on a journey to
the highest point of the island to visit an abandoned building, the Hotel Monte Palace, an astonishing ruin on the lip of an extinct volcano. Seeing this was the starting point of a very productive period of work. When I returned for the residency, all of the work I made was based at the hotel. I went there regularly, sometimes with plans, other times not. The hotel became a kind of studio while I was on the island.
The Hotel Monte Palace was built in the 1980s by a French consortium and was opened in 1989. It soon closed due to insufficient visitors and it lay empty but guarded for a decade. As locals tell the story, when the single guard died the hotel was left open to all and within a few months the fittings, windows and any valuable materials were taken by people from across the island and either resold or used in their own homes. This had an interesting resonance for me, ideas of ownership, occupation, tourism and dwelling seemed to be embedded in both the building and the story of its demise. The building is now visited by tourists and local youths, a ruin, caught somehow between a vision of the future and the past. I made a number of works, using different approaches, details of some of which I've included below. I will return to the island this year to make a small show of some of these pieces and to work on a book which documents the residency.