United Kingdom, 1966
Douglas Gordon’s output includes photography, film, audio and text-based works. Despite this diversity of media, all his works reflect a fascination with language and its potential to generate ambiguity and reveal hidden meanings. In one of his first text-based works, installed at University College London when he was still student, Gordon printed the same sentence twice with a small variation: ‘Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise’ and ‘Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise’. By changing the position of the comma, Gordon completely alters the meaning of the words from the Gospel of St Luke. Much of his work is based on pre-existing material, which he appropriates; introducing variations that underline the mechanisms involved in the construction of meaning and stress the materiality of the original. One of Gordon’s key works is 24 Hour Psycho (1993), in which he appropriates Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and projects it on a screen suspended from the ceiling of a room, with no sound and slowed down so that the film takes twenty-four hours to run. By altering the original format in this way, Gordon completely deconstructs the narrative structure and in fact makes it hard to watch the film. The fact that 24 Hour Psycho is projected on a screen suspended in the middle of the room allows viewers to see the duplicated image from both sides. The duplication and juxtaposition of opposites, such as light and dark, or good and evil, is another characteristic feature of Gordon’s oeuvre. In Left Is Right and Right Is Wrong and Left Is Wrong and Right Is Right (1999) the film he appropriates is Otto Preminger’s Whirlpool (1949). Gordon projects two versions of the film side by side: one the right way around, the other reversed left-to-right so that the two versions mirror each other. Moreover, each of the projections has been heavily edited: one is made up of the odd-numbered frames of the original; the other contains the even-numbered ones. Gordon projects two versions of Whirlpool and in this case the modification of Preminger’s film further develops its original content.