Douglas Gordon

Centre Pompidou

Ever since Douglas Gordon re-presented Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho—without a soundtrack and slowed down so that it took 24 hours to screen—at Glasgow’s Tramway in 1993, he’s been an ubiquitous figure on the British art scene, and has called attention to Glasgow, where he is based, as one of the new breeding grounds of the cutting edge. His recent installation at the Centre Pompidou confirmed the multidimensionality of his work, which typically creates psychological spaces that induce perceptual confusion.

Appropriately entitled “Fuzzy Logic,” this show was intentionally chaotic. Defying institutional logic, it was installed in the basement rather than one of the upstairs galleries. Upon entering what had been transformed into a labyrinthine space, the spectator was immediately disconcerted by a “subsonic” sound, nothing but bass, that gave the impression there was a concert taking place in the room next door. The source of this dull roar was indiscernible, although this piece, Baffle (all works 1995), was in fact a remix of a Beastie Boys CD. The unsettling effect produced by this work was exacerbated by footage from a recent concert by the Cramps projected onto a big screen in the main room, in slow motion and with the sound off, that comprised the video Bootleg. Gordon’s projection of film or video in slow motion, which has characterized his work since 24-Hour Psycho, exposes an alternate reality, a stream of images “beyond the looking glass,” which can be read in great detail. The latent and subliminal appear to rise to the surface, giving the viewer access to a new, if sometimes disorientating reading of the footage; the experience of moving around and among the gigantic screens duplicated this feeling of sensory overload.

The same was true of Fuzzy Logic, in which two images of a fly appeared on different screens, one life-size and the other greatly magnified. The flies seemed to be doing the same thing—suffering and dying, their legs beating uselessly while their wings stuck hopelessly to the surface—in fact, they appeared to be the same fly. The two images—clips from black and white footage of a scientific experiment Gordon found in a flea market—were inverted and slightly out of synch, and the difference in scale only increased the viewer’s sense of disorientation. This was all the more keenly felt as the screen-image was no longer merely frontal, as it would be if one were looking at a television set, a painting, or a photograph. Instead the viewer was able to walk behind and around it—even to enter it by passing through the beam of the projector. As in some of the artist’s other video pieces, the viewer felt trapped, but by images that were almost unbearably beautiful.

Gordon’s works, produced as they are from found materials, might be called assisted readymades; they evoke an underground culture where movies and records are often available on the black market, bootlegged and “enhanced,” even before they are released commercially. For Gordon, the use of these materials is more than an appropriative gesture; it is an art of gradual mutation that reflects the process of memory and the structure of the psyche itself. As many have observed, it is in the quotidian that we should look for the most troubling signs.

Jérôme Sans

Translated from the French by Warren Niesluchowski.