Douglas Gordon is Scotland's Damien Hirst. The difference is, Hirst is loved by dealers and Gordon by galleries—he is the Zen master of conceptual Scotartby Ben Lewis / December 16, 2006 / Leave a comment
We have Damien, they’ve got Douglas. Scotland has its own fabulously successful artist who came to prominence in the 1990s, and recently turned 40: Douglas Gordon. Just don’t say “Scotart.”
There are some strange artistic parallels between Hirst (b.1965) and Gordon (b.1966). First there are the dying flies. Hirst’s A Thousand Years was a large pair of vitrines in which flies feed off a cow’s head in one, and are electrocuted in another. Gordon made Film Noir (Fly), a video in which he glued a fly on its back to a table and filmed it twitching its legs in the air. And there’s the shark and the elephant. We all know about Hirst’s shark, but how many of us are familiar with Gordon’s elephant? Play Dead; Real Time is a film of an elephant in an art gallery. It enters frame and then lies down as if dead. Hirst won the Turner in 1995; Gordon in 1996.
After these similarities, the artists diverge, becoming mirror images of each other. Hirst is the pride of private collectors—the art world’s hottest auction property; Gordon is the darling of museum directors and supercurators—he’s had big solo shows at Moca in LA, Moma in New York, the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and now the Royal Scottish Academy in Edinburgh. Unlike Douglas, Damien is always cropping up in the news pages of the daily papers; unlike Damien, Douglas has won top international art prizes—including the Guggenheim Museum’s Hugo Boss prize and the Venice biennale premio. And in fact, Gordon’s shark is not really an elephant but an ultra-slow-motion video, 24 Hour Psycho.
24 Hour Psycho is Gordon’s iconic work, produced in 1993, a year after Hirst’s shark. It’s a video installation, in which Hitchcock’s classic is slowed down so that it runs over 24 hours. The idea is that this minimal but radical transformation of a cinema classic gives us a sinister sense of our familiarity with—and internalisation of—the narrative and images of this film. The slow-mo seems to trap us in the world of the film. It is the art gallery manifestation of Baudrillard’s notion of the simulacrum—that “the real is no longer possible” and our reality is constructed by media.
This line of investigation into cinema is only one half of Gordon’s work—the other is a set of text works and videos about his body. Untitled Text is a list of…