It is strange with Graceland – at one hand it stands so much as a monument of Elvis image and mythology that it seems made for history, at the other hand it is obviously created very spontaneously from the man’s immediate wants and desires for immedate pleasure and presence rather than any wider perspective.
Not having been to Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee I could not resist going the Danish replica, Graceland Randers, created by Elvis fan and collector Henrik Knudsen as the only permanent Elvis museum outside the USA housed in a copy of the original Southern mansion at a roadside location south of Randers that would indeed be easy to reach for Elvis the truck driver. Graceland Randers is dedicated to the life, memory and music of Elvis Presley (1935-1977) and is as such very much an institution of the memory culture of Elvis.
This memory culture shows to be one extremely based on things. It is hard to think of an artist creating a bigger material culture than Elvis from the costumes he wore, the products that is his work, the unashamed souvenir industry around him, the gifts he gave to people around him to, on a more symbolic level, the whole 1950’s and 1960’s Western culture, the groundbreaking consumer and popular culture age. Such a story is not explicitly told in Randers, but can indeed be felt, letting the gaze pass through the truly unique collection of everything Elvis.
The official communication is indeed a bit propaganda like, bringing thoughts of the rethoric surrounding recently dead Far-east dictators about his abilities.
Another unavoidable feeling is the combination of total simulacra, from the whole bulding to the inept kitsch of the objects (the collection is especially strong on the “Aloha from Hawaii” Seventies era..) and the focus on authenticity of cultic dimensions when a piece of wood from a stage he stood on in 1955 is framed and certificates of authenticity are all around. But .. for me at least there is also a feeling of some kind of authenticity – it works either because of or in spite of the gross surroundings.
A visit at Graceland Randers will provoke a strange reaction of irony, nostalgia, exitement and headshaking. And in the diner you can of course get El’s favourite food: Fried sandwich with peanut butter, banana and bacon (it actually tastes quite good!) giving Heartbreak Hotel a new meaning. Viva Las Vegas!