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The Tension Mounts, Yet Nothing Happens


From the very beginning, Hollywood movies have fascinated people - a fact that stars of the scene such as John Baldessari and Andy Warhol have been using for their work ever since the sixties. Now, a young generation of artists has come to age that also makes use of the raw material Hollywood offers - and gives it a completely new twist. Ulrich Clewing on painters, photographers, and video artists who know exactly what they want.


Douglas Gordon, 24 Hour Psycho, Videostill

Days, weeks, months turn into hours and minutes. Lifetimes, entire epochs pass by at a dizzying speed, and even when the events of a single night are portrayed, real time plays only a minor role.

If film is the medium of acceleration, an argument the technical reality of 24 single frames per second supports, then Douglas Gordon shot the perfect anti-film in 1993. Yet "shot" is the wrong word in this context. In 24 Hours Psycho, the Scottish artist, who was born in Glasgow in 1966, did nothing more than what the work's title already describes. He took a movie classic, Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Psycho from 1960, dissected it into its individual parts, and reassembled it in the original sequence - this time with only two images per second, extremely slowed down, and spread out to a length of 24 hours.



Douglas Gordon, 24 Hour Psycho, Installation

For the viewer, this has far-reaching consequences. It's obvious that only very few people have seen the artist's work in full length. But this isn't what concerns Gordon. In any case, not much remains of the plot itself - Janet Leigh's arrival in Norman Bates' motel, the horrible murder in the shower, or the discovery of Bates' dead mother. What can be seen are still images, arrested movements, frozen facial expressions. The film's plot has been distorted beyond recognition. Gordon implemented a simple maneuver to achieve this: he merely had to transform the story literally back into its last detail - the single image on the film reel.

Today, Douglas Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho is considered to be a milestone in an artistic development that began in the sixties and seventies of the last century with Andy Warhol and John Baldessari (see the interview and article in the present issue of db-artmag) and picked up considerable speed in the mid-nineties. More and more artists began discovering film in general and Hollywood in particular and used its images, narratives, and myths - its promised cures, its traps for human longing, and its abysses - for their own purposes, a trend currently reflected in an exhibition such as 3" at the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt. Children of the TV generation primarily acquainted with cinema through television have taken over the mechanisms that influenced them from an early age - and, now that they believe themselves to possess the required know-how, have set about its analysis, deconstruction, and dissection.



Stan Douglas, Monodramas (1991), Videostill

Those born after 1955 know exactly how a film functions, know which means bring about what effects, how meaning is created and connections construed. They have absorbed the most efficient and influential image production that has ever existed. While telling a story with film wasn't necessarily invented in the studios of the American West Coast, it matured to perfection there and then emanated to every corner of the world. Cinema might have received its most crucial impulses in the silent movie studios of Babelsberg, in Fellini's Cinecittà , in Paris of the Nouvelle Vague, or in Akira Kurosawa's Japan, but Hollywood still has the brightest stars, the stories with the broadest mass appeal, the biggest mansions, and the most brilliant blue skies of all. Generations of movie-goers admired them and imitated them at home, in front of the mirror: the poses of Bette Davis, Cary Grant, James Dean , Marlon Brando, and the others that came after them. Our lives, habits, and dreams would probably look a lot different without this Hollywood experience.

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