Rodney Graham's third and most ambitious film to date, Vexation Island, was recently exhibited in the Canadian Pavilion at the 1997 Venice Biennale. The film's presentation in Venice was designed to interact with the idiosyncratic architecture of the Canadian pavilion, which at the artist's specification was kept boarded up as it had been in the Winter. The retention of the boards converted the pavilion into a "rustic hut" which also reminded Rodney Graham of the stockade in Walt Disney's 1950's version of Treasure Island.
Shot in Cinemascope, Rodney Graham calls the film "a costume picture, that is to say, a travesty". The artist himself, dressed as an 18th century middle-class Englishman, is a castaway first seen sleeping (or possibly unconscious) on the beach of a deserted island.
The events that follow make for a story that combines the efforts of Robinson Crusoe with the frustration of Sisyphus, as actions are seamlessly repeated with every loop of the film.
Referencing Deleuze, the artist explores the transformations possible in the cinematic consciousness, where consciousness inheres in neither the filmmaker nor the viewer but rather in the camera and, more specifically, the shot.
Vexation Island is also an elaboration of Freud's notion of the clinamen as the moment when consciousness is split--here, crystallized as the falling of the coconut when the conciousness of "a peaceful whole of humanized nature" becomes divided and shifted away from the human perspective.