Grayson’s Artpace exhibition, The Golden Space City of God, is a high-definition immersive video installation featuring footage of a choral performance. The lyrics, with an oratorio written by composer Leo Chadburn, are drawn from web-based texts associated with the heterodox religious cult The Family (formerly The Children of God). These narratives combine elements from the Book of Revelation with science fiction imagery to describe events leading up to the end of the world. Though charged with the authority of religious fundament, Grayson’s account does not intend to convey apocalyptic enlightenment; rather, it raises questions surrounding our models of interpretation. Within the context of contemporary economic and political environments, we begin to understand Grayson’s presentation as an inquiry into the development of narrative, analyzing varying modes of communication and their role in establishing global systems.
While the gestures in Grayson’s Artpace installation are informed by his personal interpretation of communication systems, we can further understand the underlying message through the lens of Niels Bohr’s concept of Complementarity. Bohr argued that an entity can be understood by differing models of interpretation, but these descriptions cannot coexist: the most famous example is perhaps light, which can be described in terms of waves or particles, but not both. The Golden Space City of God explores similar mechanisms in current political, cultural, and ideological spheres, where revolutionary theory is increasingly challenged by supernatural belief systems.
An earlier installation by the artist, titled Messiah, was informed by George Handel’s work of the same name (which includes the famous “Hallelujah” chorus). This 18th-century opus, originally composed for secular theatre, tells the story of the life of Jesus Christ and is known for its awe-inspiring music. Similarly, Grayson’s Artpace installation explores expressions associated with divine intervention and the lyrics reveal a multifarious account involving not only religious happenings, but also economic crises and the arrival of a giant golden spaceship.
In The Golden Space City of God, the use of video acts as a visual complement to the message conveyed in the libretto. By presenting the narrative through a choir, the viewer must imagine the world described in the song. Here, as in real life, film provides a shortcut to the imagination and imbues actual occurrences with implicit meaning. With the use of fluid camera movements and dramatic framing, the performers recall figures from an ancient frieze-in essence transforming them into modern-day icons. By combining high culture references and a filmic aesthetic with an unconventional narrative, the work positions the beliefs described in The Golden Space City of God within the context of everyday life.