21 JANUARY - 28 FEBRUARY 1999
The History of the World is a video installation created for the Rice University Art Gallery by Rice-alumnus Michael Petry.
Viewers will enter the gallery and find themselves walking on pure white sand, which is illuminated by the flickering light of a large scale video projection overhead. As visitors step on the sand, the projected image shifts and changes. The sand is constantly remolded by the imprints left on its surface and, in this way, like sand in an hourglass, registers the passing of time.
According to Petry, The History of the World, is the history of love, because “without love there is no history.” The stories projected onto the sand are about ways in which lovers imprint themselves on the bodies of those they love, attempting in some way to make a mark on time. The same story is repeated over and over in different versions, with different couples, in different colors. History, as seen here, makes no pretense at being objective, but openly admits its pure subjectivity and sensuality. Petry invites us to: “Turn the pages, lick your finger to help it stick to the edges of the sheet, taste the salt, the sweet sweat, the lovers.”
“We are pleased to show the work of a Rice-alumnus at Rice Art Gallery,” says gallery director Kimberly Davenport. “It is so characteristic of the multi-talented Rice student population that after graduating with a major in mathematics and art, Michael Petry went on to achieve success in the art world not only as an artist, but also as a writer and curator.”
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Born in El Paso in 1960, Petry received his Bachelor of Arts in mathematics and art from Rice University in 1981 and subsequently moved to London, where he lives and works today. In 1982 he founded the Media Arts Group (MAG), London, a trio including Petry and two musicians, Gavin Greenaway and John Powell. They have collaborated on many projects, including a performance art opera entitled, An Englishman, An Irishman and a Frenchman, commissioned by the German National Art Gallery in Bonn. Gavin Greenaway and John Powell composed the musical score for The History of the World. Michael Petry co-founded The Museum of Installation, London, in 1990, which is dedicated to showing site-specific installations and he is the co-author of Installation Art, one of the first books to make a comprehensive compilation of installation works around the world.
This is the first presentation of Petry’s installation work in the United States, and the first one person exhibition of an alumnus’ work at the Rice University Art Gallery.