Rodney Graham
Millennial Time Machine: A Landau Carriage Converted to a Mobile Camera Obscura, 2003

  1. View from inside the carriage

Rodney Graham

Millennial Time Machine
, 2003

landau with camera obscura
Gift of the artist with support from the Canada Council for the Arts Millennium Fund, the Morris and Helen Belkin Foundation, British Columbia 2000 Recognition Plan, and The University of British Columbia, 2003

Housed in a glass-walled pavilion at the southwest corner of Main Mall and Memorial Road, this sculpture is the first work of art to be commissioned for the campus since 1976.

Millennial Time Machine is a 19th-century horse-drawn carriage converted into a camera obscura. The camera obscura, which produces an image that is upside down and reversed, was an influential precursor to the modern, multi-lens camera, and was widely employed as an instrument of scientific inquiry, artistic practice and popular entertainment. From the late 1500s to the 1800s, the camera obscura was used to illustrate the workings of human vision and stood as a model, in both rational and empiricist thought, of how observation leads to truthful inferences about the world.

A lens, installed at the back of the carriage, is focused on a sequoia tree located behind the recently constructed Indian Residential School History and Dialogue Centre and between the Walter C. Koerner Library and the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre; the sequoia can grow to be one of the tallest trees in the world and is particularly long-lived. The camera obscura captures the image of the sequoia and projects it inverted onto a fabric screen located inside the carriage. Graham has been working with this technology and with the image of the inverted tree since the late 1970s. In this context, the image of the tree raises issues around the economy, environment and ownership of land. The tree and its location are also meant to provoke questions about the University as a place where knowledge, technologies and histories are constructed, and how this information is passed on to future generations of students.

The glass and concrete pavilion was designed by the artist in collaboration with architects Tim Newton and John Wall. In 2006, the pavilion was awarded a special prize by the Architectural Institute of BC. Its structure also echoes that of a camera with the lens-like window on the door, and the round oculi which let light enter through the ceiling.

Rodney Graham (b. 1949) is an internationally renowned artist. He was born in Abbotsford, BC, studied at UBC and continues to live and work in Vancouver. In 1997, he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale and his work is included in public galleries and museums around the world. In 2011, he received the Audain Prize for lifetime achievement in the visual arts in BC and in 2016, he was appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for his contributions to Canadian contemporary art. Graham works in a variety of media including sculpture, video, photography, performance and music. His outdoor sculpture Aerodynamic Forms in Space, commissioned for the City of Vancouver in 2010, can be seen at the Georgia Street entrance to Stanley Park.

Appointments to view the Millennial Time Machine can be made through the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery,

Design: Rodney Graham and superkül • Structural Engineer: Fast and Epp • Mechanical Engineer: The Sheltair Group Resource Consultants Inc. • Electrical Engineer: Pacific Rim Consultants Ltd. • Project Manager: Dianna Foldi, UBC Land and Building Services • Contractor: The Haebler Group General Contractors

Holly Ward on Millennial Time Machine