“A less amusing set of people never filled the imaginary world of a novelist,” carped a September 1907 review of Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, published in Country Life, the stuffy English periodical (still going strong) devoted to racing, golfing, and the horsey set. Conrad’s dark novel, set in 1886, dared to portray the nascent Victorian-era underworld complete with a corruptible police force, foreign-born anarchists, and a sympathetic underclass. These shadowy nineteenth-century figures have been recast as spies, backhanded police commissioners, and dubious embassy officials in Stan Douglas’s six-channel HD video adaptation The Secret Agent, 2015, in which Conrad’s narrative is transposed to Portugal’s Carnation Revolution of 1974.
Douglas has long been fascinated by periods of sociopolitical resistance as visualized in their special sites, artistic results, and people. In
Artforum print subscribers have full access to this article. If you are a subscriber, sign in below.
Not registered for artforum.com?
SUBSCRIBE NOW for only $50 a year—65% off the newsstand price—and get the print magazine plus full online access to this issue and our archive.*
* This rate applies to U.S. domestic subscriptions.