Douglas Gordon’s work frequently centers on memory and recollection, using repetition in a variety of methods. Often toppling the more conventional approach to video-based work, Gordon’s methodology reaches to achieve new perspectives. This attributes to how his work is received and understood by the viewer. Dealing primarily in the time-based video medium and photography, his exhibition at Galerie Niels Borch Jensen takes on new strides, concentrating primarily on a new body of work composed of ten prints. The prints focus on August 12, 1999, each illustrating a slightly different image of the solar eclipse that took place on that date. Every image is taken from a selected newspaper on August 13, the day after the eclipse, and fine layers of text from the newspapers are scaled throughout the prints. Tackling how news and the impact of images influence the reader or viewer, the prints are titled with the names of the newspapers they were pulled from, such as Guardian, Herald and Telegraph. Here, Gordon highlights the numerous ways in which the occurrence was documented within the capture of a singular image.
By challenging the natural with the unnatural, Gordon juxtaposes the way in which lightness and darkness are described. Using the very metaphorical and surreal image of a solar eclipse, Gordon swathes preconceptions regarding what both lightness and darkness usually symbolise—good and evil. By using the eclipse, a clear symbol of darkness, the artist confronts a plethora of different themes in his past work, such as the piece "24 Hour Psycho" from 1993 where Gordon slowed down Alfred Hitchcock’s film "Psycho," making it last for 24 hours. The work addressed both the perception of evil, as well as taking on our personal acuity of time and how we experience an event, in this case a film. Looking at his piece "Zinedine Zidane, Zidane, un portrait du 21e siècle," from 2006, the film, co-directed with artist Philippe Parreno, captures every angle and step of controversial soccer player Zinedine Zidane throughout a 90 minute match. The film manages to delve into both the unscripted beauty of the human body and its movement, and simultaneously contests how the viewer sees a game, an event or happening. Turning a game of sport into an object of beauty, arguably already assumed beautiful to some, is often seen as aggressive and challenging to others. Gordon marries both assumptions and changes the way in which the game is viewed, creating good, beyond that of evil. Pushing light past darkness, the movement and dexterity of the soccer player becomes dance. Much akin to the piercing sunlight trying to wedge its way back into the frame from behind the eclipse in the artists recent print work.
Almost as an addendum to what is a rather out of character exhibition given there is not a single video work in the show, he has included other transcendent elements. A large taxidermy wolf is astutely placed above a grand piano, while a pianist continuously plays Gordon’s interpretation of Prokofiev’s "Peter and the Wolf." The wolf, said to exemplify protection and family, is however also often depicted as personifying destruction and evil. Allowing for Gordon to once again play with the notion of preconception and expectation, creating a platform for further contemplation as to what the viewer’s intention is or could be when observing the exhibition.
by Saskia Neuman
[Image: Installation shots of Douglas Gordon (2012), courtesy Niels Borch Jensen Galerie, Berlin and the artist]