Douglas Gordon: back and forth and forth and back

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Douglas Gordon: back and forth and forth and back

Douglas Gordon: back and forth and forth and back
to Fri 22 Dec 2017

If you want to find the truth in something, take it apart piece by piece, then put it back together with the detail of a forensic scientist. This is a classical way to deconstruct a narrative. However, when you stand in front of 24 Hour Psycho (1993) slowly unfolding piece by piece, after five minutes, you’ve lost track of where the narrative started. I like this idea that you can take almost a scientific method and end up lost in a labyrinth of multiple, conflicting meanings, and that you have to acknowledge your own forgetfulness.
—Douglas Gordon

Gagosian presents “back and forth and forth and back,” an exhibition of two key film works by Douglas Gordon: 24 Hour Psycho Back and Forth and To and Fro (2008) and 5 Year Drive-By (1995).

Gagosian West 21st St Douglas Gordon 1

Gagosian West 21st St Douglas Gordon 3

Gagosian West 21st St Douglas Gordon 2

© Studio lost but found / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2017 Photo Studio lost but found / Frederik Pedersen from Psycho. 1960. USA. Directed and Produced by Alfred Hitchcock. Distributed by Paramount Pictures. © Universal City Studios. Photo by Rob McKeever.

In his projections, installations, photographs, text works, performances, and more, Gordon investigates collective memory and selfhood, whether divided, fragmented, or dissolved altogether. His interest in temporal manipulation is especially evident in his films and videos; using his own work and that of others as raw material, he distorts time in order to disorient and challenge.

For both films in “back and forth and forth and back,” Gordon has diffused the suspense and longing of their original plots, forming new conditions for viewing and absorbing their content. In 5 Year Drive-By (1995), the controversial American Western The Searchers (1956) is slowed down from its original 119 minutes to five years, reflecting the narrative in the film where a middle-aged Civil War veteran named Ethan Edwards (played by John Wayne) spends five years searching for his lost niece, who was taken by a Comanche tribe. While the original film, directed by John Ford, is full of fast-paced, dynamic scenes, as Edwards travels across the technicolor desert landscape, 5 Year Drive-By moves so slowly that the frame only changes every twenty-four minutes, causing the moving image to appear almost as a billboard still.

On the other hand, 24 Hour Psycho Back and Forth and To and Fro (2008) allows time to flow forward and backward at the same time, exacerbating the already unsettling plot of Alfred Hitchcock’s iconic thriller Psycho (1960). While Gordon’s earlier 24 Hour Psycho (1993) slowed down Hitchcock’s original to a few frames per second, extending the duration of the film to 24 hours, 24 Hour Psycho Back and Forth and To and Fro introduces an additional layer of distortion. The film plays on two adjoining screens: on one, the film starts from the beginning, and on the other it starts from the end, so that for an unbearably brief moment (one twenty-fourth of a second), after waiting for twelve hours, the screens show the same sequence, the mirrored images resembling a giant, slow-moving Rorschach test.

Using edited footage as a malleable resource, Gordon sets up new definitions of suspense and climax. Rather than waiting for John Wayne to storm in on horseback, or for Janet Leigh’s killer to appear in silhouette, knife in hand, behind her, viewers of Gordon’s film works enter a hypnotic and photographic spectacle with the hope of simply seeing a frame change, or for two temporal directions to overlap.

A 24-hour screening of 24 Hour Psycho Back and Forth and To and Fro will take place at the 21st Street gallery on November 17, starting at 10am and finishing on November 18 at 10am. The gallery will then resume normal hours on the 18th (10am–6pm).

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