multi-channel video and sound installation (dimensions and number of screens variable), 1987 - 2017 (first exhibited 2017)
Like an overweening consumer, Parsifal is always searching for the Holy Grail. In this multi-channel installation there is an over-abundance of Holy Grails. Overlaid versions of Wagner's opening Prelude to Act 1 of Parsifal, recorded through bad radio reception during a thunderstorm, are heard from the small speakers in the TV screens scattered irregularly on the gallery floor. Instead of the blood that Parsifal searches for, the TVs show empty vessels illuminated by an overwrought romantic mise-en-scène. 'We can't have too many Wagners. Yes, we love Wagner too!'
In Gillies’ work, the difference between experience and account is mended by the act of citation—literary, theatrical, artistic and historical quotation are invoked to produce speculative narratives in which subjects speak into the gaps of their pasts. In the multi-channel video installation Parsifals (1987), the 12th Century tale of Parsifal’s quest for the Holy Grail fuses with Wagner’s 19th Century opera Parsifal, via a number of surplus TVs on the floor. Wagner’s opera is audible, but only through a recording of it taken from a radio, in the midst of a thunderstorm. This aspect of the work feels particularly rural—as the Australian bush is a place where other worlds arrive through bad reception and crackling static, or they don’t arrive at all. The Holy Grail offered those who unearthed it a complete self-realisation. In Gillies’ telling of it, The Holy Grail is found and the self is illuminated, albeit by the buzzing 4:3 of the CRT monitors; here commodities fatefully offer purchasable transcendence.
Stella Rosa McDonald, 2017