A typewritten sheet of instructions signed by the artist accompanies Casino Royale (Sculpture de voyage). In this text the artist describes the components of the work as follows: ‘1 copy of CASINO ROYALE by Ian Fleming (Coronet Books) / 1 display case comprising inner frame, stainless steel casing, 2 pcs colored plexiglass / 1 mounting plate / 3 screws / 1 screwdriver / 1 full color poster 90 x 57 cm’.
The large, framed colour poster listed on the instruction sheet offers a view of a hotel room. A drawing of a shallow, rectangular box has been added to the image, as if fixed to the wall at the head of the bed. This is a representation of the second item on Graham’s list: a metal display case with top and underside made from two sheets of red, fluorescent Perspex. Resting inside the case is a copy of the novel Casino Royale by Ian Fleming (1908–1964), first published in 1953. This book, a paperback edition from 1988, lies open but face downwards. As the case is designed to be fixed to a wall, two pages of text (pages 120–1) can be read, albeit with some difficulty, from underneath. The passages on show describe a brutal and relentless beating suffered by the character James Bond at the hands of the book’s villain, Le Chiffre.
The display case came with a white cardboard storage box, which is sometimes reproduced but not an integral part of the artwork as displayed. It was adapted from the box originally used by the suppliers of the Perspex, and is inscribed with the words ‘SCULPTURE DE VOYAGE’. As the work’s French subtitle – (Sculpture de voyage), or travel sculpture – ironically indicates, the display case is designed for use while travelling, and the screws and screwdriver that form part of the work are there to facilitate the mounting of the case, in accordance with Graham’s instruction sheet, on a wall above head height or over a bed or chair. The subtitle is a reference to the Sculpture de voyage (Sculpture for Travelling) 1918 by Marcel Duchamp (1887–1968), a hanging sculpture made from differently coloured
rubber strips cut from bathing caps, which is known only from contemporary photographs taken by the artist. Duchamp suspended this object in his studio in New York, tying it with strings to the four corners of the room.
The rectangular box form of the display case, its industrially-inspired materials and projected mode of display jutting from a wall, suggest the wall-mounted ‘stack’ sculptures of Donald Judd (1928–94), for example, Untitled 1980 (Tate T03087) and Untitled 1990 (Tate T07951). Graham previously used this Judd-like form in Collected Papers 1988, a work comprising five wall-mounted boxes arranged in a uniform sequence (reproduced in Rodney Graham, exhibition catalogue, Vancouver Art Gallery, 1988, cover image). The boxes contain five volumes of the papers of Sigmund Freud (1856–1939).
In 1993 Graham produced a deluxe version of the Casino Royale work entitled Casino Royale – Sculpture de Voyage Deluxe (reproduced in Rodney Graham: A Little Thought, exhibition catalogue, Vancouver Art Gallery, 2003, pp.46–7). In this later version Graham plays with themes of replication and referencing that are central ideas in his work more generally. He switched the simple storage box of the 1990 work for an expensive black leather valise specially fabricated by Tanner Krolle in London. This model of valise replicates that carried by the actor Sean Connery in Dr No (1962), the first James Bond film. Rather than an inexpensive paperback, the deluxe version contains a first edition of Casino Royale, which was the first of Fleming’s James Bond stories.
Tate’s Casino Royale (Sculpture de voyage) is the fourteenth in an edition of fifteen. The edition was produced by Yves Gevaert Éditeur, Brussels.
Marie-Ange Brayer, ‘Techniques of Appropriation and Interpolation in Five of Rodney Graham’s Works’, Rodney Graham: Works from 1976 to 1994, exhibition catalogue, Starkmann Library Services, Winchester, Massachusetts 1994, pp.111–23.
Rodney Graham, exhibition catalogue, Whitechapel Art Gallery, London 2002, reproduced p.64.
Friedrich Meschede and Yves Gevaert (eds), Rodney Graham. Through the Forest, exhibition catalogue, Museu d’Art Contemporani, Barcelona 2010, reproduced p.43.