Dan Graham

Two Correlated Rotations


Not on display

Dan Graham born 1942
Film, 2 projections, black and white and sound, photographs and typescript on paper
Overall display dimensions variable
Purchased 1973

Catalogue entry

Dan Graham born 1942

T01737 Two Correlated Rotations 1970

Not inscribed
Two pairs of films (8mm standard b/w), with loop cassettes of same; also panel of documentation with two photographs
Purchased from the artist through the Lisson Gallery, London (Grant-in-Aid) 1973
Lit: Dan Graham [Statement] in Studio International, CLXXX, July-August 1970, p.1, stills repr.; F.P., 'Entretien avec Dan Graham' in ArTitudes, No.3, December 1971-January 1972, p.22; Lucy R. Lippard (ed.), Six Years: The Dematerialisation of the Art Object from 1966 to 1972 (London 1973), p.85, still repr.

Dan Graham said that among the books which have influenced him are the writings of Marshal McLuhan and James J. Gibson's The Perception of the Visual World (Boston 1950) dealing with gestalt psychology and the orientation process, which led to his becoming fascinated with 360 degrees topographical orientation. His first photographs in 1965-6 were of such subjects as serial housing tract developments (doorways and steps) parallel to Minimal sculpture. Then followed a proposal in late 1966 for a Project for Carousel Slide Projector, based on a series of slides of systematically varied focus taken of the four sides of a glass box with a mirror base, which is in turn enclosed in further glass boxes.

In 1968 he proposed, so as 'to relate perception to perceived motion and to the perception of depth/time', a prototype of Two Correlated Rotations for carousel slide projector. Initial work was done on this by students at the Nova Scotia College of Art in Halifax in the autumn of 1969. The photographs were to be taken by two persons located one outside and one inside a square fence constructed of equal rectangular slats approximately 1in wide and 3in apart (an idea influenced by what he saw as implications of the serial photographs of Jules Marey and Eadweard Muybridge: Photographs of Motion (article)). The walker within the enclosure (himself) was to start at the dead centre of the square and the second walker about 3ft outside one of its corners. Both were to be equipped with automatic advancing and repeating 35mm still cameras for taking a series of shots quickly. When the piece began, they would start walking counter-directionally to each other, spiralling until they met the slats and meantime photographing each other. The two series of slides would afterwards be mounted in two carousel projectors and shown very rapidly on tangentially placed screens.

With the discovery of the hand-held fixed-focus Super-8mm Instamatic cine camera which showed figures and setting in focus despite constant movement and which when placed to the eye became identified with the mind's eye view of the performer/filmmaker, the film Two Correlated Rotations became possible. As Graham now realises (though he was not aware of it at the time) this idea was partly inspired by a scene towards the end of Hitchcock's film Strangers on a Train, of a person on a merry-go-round being pursued by someone on the ground. He had earlier in 1969 made a five-minute colour film called Sunset to Sunrise by aiming a hand-held 16mm movie camera in a slow spiral across the sky. The earliest film version of Two Correlated Rotations was made in November 1969 and was first shown at Multiples Inc. Gallery, New York, in March 1970 in an exhibition on the theme of art employing photography. It was shown on normal projectors with improvised external loops which proved unsatisfactory for continuous showing. A loop projector is now utilised. He subsequently filmed this performance other times both outdoors and indoors, but all these have now been destroyed except for the two versions bought by the Tate:


Performed by the artist and a student of Irving Sandler's at New York University. Location: an empty lot at the junction of Houston and Mercer Streets, New York City. A public housing building designed by I.M. Pei is visible in the background.

This was filmed on Super-8 using Tri-X film. The artist considers it a better performance than B (below), but it does not enlarge so well. A 16mm enlargement was shown at Documenta 5, Kassel, in 1972.


Same site and performers. Longer version.

These films are on loops intended to be shown simultaneously on two abutting screening areas. Apart from copies retained by the artist to enable him to show the film, the Tate's are the only ones now in existence.

The conception behind this work is set out as follows on the accompanying panel of text (which is illustrated by two photographs of an indoor version being filmed and an outdoor version being projected):

'TWO CORRELATED ROTATIONS 2 Super-8mm films projected at right angles to each other on film loops and simultaneously.

'2 filmmakers holding their cameras so viewfinders are eye extensions spiral counter-directionally, the outside performer walking outward while his opposite walks inside towards the center. The filming ends when the inside walker approaches the inward limits of the center of his spiral. As they walk their "aim" is to as nearly as possible be continuously centering their cameras' (and eyes') view on the frontal eye position of the other.

'Each one's moves (and image of the other) reflects the other's in the reciprocal information feedback necessary to achieve continuous "aim" or image read by the spectator. The spectator in very rapid attention time apprehends the (feedback) relation (philosophical and empirical) of the reciprocal images. The filmmakers, cameras to their eyes, are, to the spectator's apprehension of the projected images, each other's subjects (observed) as they are simultaneously each other's objects (observers) are subjects to each other's objects in the filming of each other.

'Geometrically the rotation of the performers' neck and also of their path walked keeps the camera/eye sight line of both cameras' images along the axis of the horizon line of 360° ambient space and the line of sight of both cameras' images passes at all times through the center of the spirals and the interior of the 360° topological spatial enclosure.'

Graham further developed these ideas in an unpublished article Film and Performance: Two Early Films:

'The structure of my double, synchronous films is the physiological orientation of the performer's and the spectator's process of attention.

'In the earliest, "Two Correlated Rotations" (1969), the 2 performers/filmmakers are linked so that each are elements dependent on each other to achieve orientation and homeostatic balance. 2 cameramen each hold cameras so their viewfinders are extensions of their eyes and visual fields. They begin facing each other one foot away. They walk in counter spirals, the outside performer moving gradually outward while the inside performer walks inward approaching the center. Their aim, which is still in the state of a learning process, is to as nearly as possible be continuously centering their cameras' (and eyes') view on the frontal eye position of the other ... Each performer's moves (and image of the other) reflects the other's in the reciprocal information feedback necessary to achieve continuous "aim", the "aim" of the film, in the images read by the spectator's correlated rapid brain time apprehending the (feed-back) relation of the reciprocal images. The 2 filmed images of the filmmakers with cameras to their eyes (made by the opposite filmmaker) as apprehended by the spectator are each other's subject (observed) as they are simultaneously each other's object (observer) and the reverse at the same time. The spectator's attention is part of a three-way relation (circuit) between the 2 performers' and the spectator's attention. In the spectator's view it is impossible to separate the 2 cameras' mechanisms, the 2 minds and bodies from the feedback of reciprocal intelligence between them read in the final image by the viewer. "Self' is a field phenomenon, out there, or in the machine, in the "time" of the situation, in the informational pathways, in the structure of the art piece or situation ...'

He points out that the performance of this piece is like an improvisatory dance and that its success depends on an instinctive interplay or 'learning process' between the two participants. He is now no longer able to perform it, as he has lost the feel of the piece through repetition.

(This note is based on information given by the artist on 7 May 1973 and 1 October 1974, and on several of his unpublished articles).

Published in:
Ronald Alley, Catalogue of the Tate Gallery's Collection of Modern Art other than Works by British Artists, Tate Gallery and Sotheby Parke-Bernet, London 1981, pp.330-2, reproduced p.330 (the explanatory panel)


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