The Golden Space City of God

Richard Grayson

Exhibition: Mar 19 – May 17, 2009

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.


Richard Grayson

London, England

Richard Grayson’s video and multimedia works expand on the trifold relationship between religious and social belief systems, individual expression, and the development of cultural identity. According to the artist, the process begins with an investigation of the way we use language and its narratives to make sense of the world around us, and how those narratives, in turn, shape our reading of the world. In Intelligence, the second in a series of exhibitions at Matt’s Gallery, London, UK, Grayson presented astrological birth charts of key players in the Middle East (Osama bin Laden, Tony Blair, Condoleezza Rice, etc.) alongside texts generated by computer programs that map the connections between given astrological charts and specific dates or events. With this installation, Grayson used the language of astrology to comment on the influence of supernatural systems on the construction of our understanding of everyday life.
Grayson received his BA from Newcastle Polytechnic in 1980. He has had solo exhibitions at Yuill/Crowley, Sydney, Australia (2006, 04, 02, 00); Matt’s Gallery, London, UK (2006, 04); Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany (2004); and Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide, Australia (2002). His work has been included in many group exhibitions, including Obscurum per Obscurius, Tallinna Kunstihoone, Tallinn, Estonia (2008); A Number of Worlds Resembling Our Own, SMART Project Space, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (2007); Happy Believers, Werkleitz Biennale, Halle, Germany (2006); and Art Unlimited, Art Basel, Basel, Switzerland (2005).

See More


Trevor Smith

Salem, Massachusetts, USA

Trevor Smith is Curator of Contemporary Art at the Peabody Essex Museum. In 2006 he co-curated Wrestle, the inaugural exhibition at the Hessel Museum and in 2007 presented Martin Creed: Feelings, the first large-scale survey of this artist’s work. From 2003-2006 he was Curator at the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City where, among other projects he co-curated the widely acclaimed exhibition Andrea Zittel: Critical Space and presented a major survey of the work of Brian Jungen. Smith was born in Canada and studied Art History at the University of British Columbia. From 1992-2003 he was based in Australia where he worked first at the Biennale of Sydney, then as Director of the Canberra Contemporary Art Space, and from 1997-2003 as Curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Western Australia. Highlights among his exhibitions there include The Divine Comedy: Francisco Goya, Buster Keaton, and William Kentridgefor the Art Gallery of Western Australia and the Perth International Arts Festival in 2002. He also curated a major survey of the work of Robert MacPherson and presented his work as the Australian representative to the 2002 Sao Paolo Bienal. He has published widely in exhibition catalogues and journals in North America, Europe, Australia and Asia.

See More