Stan Douglas

Stan Douglas’ video Hors-champs (Out of bounds, 1992) was among the most remarkable of the works exhibited at the last Documenta. It is the recording of a live concert by the jazz musicians George Lewis, Douglas Ewart, Kent Carter, and Oliver Johnson. Douglas initiated the concert and was one of the cameramen. Two videos, which were projected onto the front and back of a screen, were produced from the raw footage. On one side there was a film in the style of a TV program, while on the other there was the counter-narrative produced by the outtakes.

Though Douglas works with video, he does not experiment with monitors, animation, or attempt to mount technically complex installations. Douglas presents films as films and plays with an historical focus. In one of his first films, Overture, 1986, he combined spoken text with images of a six-minute train trip through the Rocky Mountains. The film is actually archival material from the Edison Company that was produced in 1899–1901, and the text, passages about waking and sleeping, is taken from Marcel Proust’s A la recherche du temps perdu (In search of lost time, 1913–27).

While Overture does not depend on a straight narrative, Pursuit, Fear, Catastrophe: Ruskin BC, 1993, is filmed in the style of a thriller. Evocative of the silent film era, this work centers on the unexplained disappearance of a man in the region of Ruskin in British Columbia. The story is derived from the files of a police archive and the musical score is Arnold Schoenberg’s Accompaniment for a Cinematographic Scene, 1929–30 played by a computer-driven piano. The piano accompaniment, the esthetics of the silent film, the industrial building—all these details reflect the date of the composition of Schoenberg’s work. The Japanese colleague of the lost man provides a glimpse into the history of the Japanese population in the region, reinforcing the sense that the film centers on disappearance or loss.

In contrast to other video works, Douglas does not include biographical details; a first-person narrative never informs them. His films do not attempt to engage the viewer on a theoretical level, rather, they make social and historical observations through filmic and narrative structures.

Sabine B. Vogel

Translated from the German by Charles V. Miller.