Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Douglas Gordon, Pretty much every film and video work from about 1992 until now @ Musée d'Art Moderne

10 MS-¹
Douglas Gordon, 10ms-1, 1994
I may have been unduly critical of Douglas Gordon’s work in the past, but I am convinced that the video work from the 1990s is his most interesting. The Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris has just purchased another 43 additional videos by Douglas Gordon, bringing their collection to 82 in total. All 82 are shown in a sculptural installation appropriately titled, “Pretty much every film and video work from about 1992 until now. They are here displayed on 101 monitors perched atop beer crates to create “an overview” of Douglas’ work. But really, it’s not an overview of his work so much as it is a sculptural installation among which we find ourselves in a guessing game. I found myself avidly searching for familiar videos, for my favorite Gordon videos, something to hold onto, images I recognized. It’s impossible (almost) to match the videos to the corresponding gallery guide, not only because the room in the museum basement is entirely dark, but also because the display which has monitors are huddled next to each other, snaking around the space. The choice is either to search for what we already know, or wander around the monitors, looking for the rhythms and patterns across the installation as a whole. There’s very little hope of learning much about individual videos.

© Studio lost but found / ADAGP, Paris 2014
Douglas Gordon, Pretty much every film and video work from about 1992 until now,
Musée d'Art Moderne
There are patterns of interest – repetitions, triptych videos are shown over three separate monitors, the familiar Gordon slow motion, looping, fragmentation and mirroring, the capturing and de-mystifying of iconic moments in Hollywood cinema. All this can be recognized, but identification of the image content can be difficult if we do not know the specific video in advance. A Gordon work I have always loved is 10ms-1, 1994, a video in which he takes archive film of a shell-shocked World War I soldier as he is watched by (we assume) doctors, in some kind of rehabilitation process. Gordon re-projects the footage in slow motion, repeated fragments, reverse motion onto a screen which, when I first saw the work, was placed in the middle of a darkened gallery. If there was once soundtrack on the piece of footage, Gordon has removed it. As the man tries over and over and over again to stand up, failing every time. The silence is deafening. The strip of re-appropriated film raises more questions than it answers: who is the soldier? Where is he? Who is behind the camera? Who is watching from the wings? Does he really struggle or are his actions staged? If only in the manipulation of the film strip? Neither these questions, nor the disturbing effect that the footage has on the viewer are apparent in its display on a television monitor, tucked in among 86 other monitors.

Douglas Gordon, 24 Hour Psycho, 1993
Other thoughts arise from seeing Gordon’s films in one place: I noticed themes, such as, the predominance of the body, much of the time of Gordon’s body. His fascination with hands, with kissing, with the colorful images that cover his body, the film image as a body to be colored, scarred, manipulated, lovingly reproduced, examined, fragmented, violated and stroked. So often Gordon’s images are about the status of the image, a self-examination that Gordon executes through the repetitions, cuts, closeups and other strategies. I remarked that often Gordon’s most interesting and experimental work is done in films that are not so well known. 24 hour Psycho, 1993, his refilming of Hitchcock’s masterpiece and re-projection at 2 (not 24) frames a second, has become cliché now. It was more an event for hipsters than an art work, screened overnight at esteemed institutions such as the Hirschhorn in Washington, and the Hayward Gallery in London. I am reminded of this other life when I see it on the small monitor, an image so small and insignificant, it might be missed.
Douglas Gordon, Pretty much every film and video work from about 1992 until now,
Musée d'Art Moderne
He has also known for his interesting engagement with film history, the Hollywood movies, favorites as well as unknown B movies, the archival films, silent films, and of course, Psycho. Gordon’s representation of Hollywood films is a way for film to turn in on itself, to go inside in a way that is equivalent to the psychoanalytical process of going inside the self. We get to reflect on what film is, who it serves, how it is no more than a representation. Seeing all the works together, I am reminded of this innovation as I take this slightly tongue in cheek opportunity to enjoy over twenty years of Gordon’s videomaking.

All images copyright the artist

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