Stan Douglas

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Selected Press

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Stan Douglas's 'The Secret Agent' Offers a Refracted Vision of History and Terrorism

Henry James once described Joseph Conrad's writing as a "prolonged hovering flight of the subjective over the outstretched ground" of his stories.

For more than 30 years, the artist Stan Douglas has performed a similar kind of flight pattern with his lush, eerie photographs and films, collected by the Tate, the Museum of Modern Art and many other institutions around the world. But it has often seemed as if Mr. Douglas's own viewpoint were less that of a subjective human than of historical consciousness itself, peering down on the streets of Vancouver, where he has lived and worked his entire life; on the ruins of Detroit; on the economic stasis of Cuba; and on scenes he has carefully constructed to mimic documentary realism.

His newest film, "The Secret Agent"—based on Conrad's unusual 1907 novel about a terrorist plot to blow up the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, England—is in many ways one of the most straightforward pieces ever made by Mr. Douglas, 55, whose work can draw deeply and abstrusely on economic theory, linguistics and postcolonial politics. (The art critic Richard Dorment once described him, difficulty-wise, as "the Mount Eiger of contemporary artists," best approached from the foothills.)

Just as Conrad was coy in describing his novel as a "simple tale of the 19th century," Mr. Douglas's six-channel film—on view at the David Zwirner gallery through April 30—is far from a simple tale of the 21st. It closely follows Conrad’s plot, inspired by a real, failed, 1894 anarchist attempt to destroy the observatory. But Mr. Douglas's film transposes the story to Portugal in the "Hot Summer" of 1975, in the politically fragile days after that country's dictatorship fell. The target this time is the terminal of an underwater telephone cable that connects Portugal to the rest of the world, an attack that, as one instigator says, would be to "bomb modernity itself."

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Stan Douglas Wins 2016 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography

Canadian artist Stan Douglas has won the 2016 Hasselblad Foundation International Award in Photography. He will receive around $110,000 and an exhibition at the Hasselblad Center, as well as a book of his work published by MACK.

He has been included in such exhibitions as the 1995 Whitney Biennial, the 1997 Skulptur Projekte Münster, the 1997 Documenta, the 2005 Venice Biennale, and the 2011 Moscow Biennale, among others.

The foundation praised Douglas for his "open and highly innovative approach to both analogue and new digital formats, stating, "At the heart of his work lies a strong interest and commitment to social issues of race, gender, identity and post-colonial politics, whilst maintaining a valuable self-critical perspective on the role of the artist in contemporary culture."

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'Helen Lawrence' at BAM: Where Hard-Boiled Meets High Tech

What happens when the imaginary "fourth wall" between theater actors and audiences is actually a translucent scrim? And how about a play that doubles simultaneously as a movie, using cameras to film and project the action back onto that scrim in real time?

Such questions will find an answer this week in "Helen Lawrence," an ambitious cinema-meets-live-theater event at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, created by the boundary-pushing visual artist Stan Douglas with TV screenwriter Chris Haddock.

Drawing its story and spirit from the bygone world of film noir, "Helen Lawrence," running Wednesday through Saturday as part of BAM’s Next Wave Festival, features live actors in a hybrid performance format meant to be both unsettling and bemusing.

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Stimmen im Schattenreich

Der Künstler Stan Douglas hat eine App entwickelt, die eine Reise in die Vergangenheit erlaubt und die Bilder zukunftsfähig macht.

Blaugraue Abenddämmerung. Eine schmale Straße aus Schotter. Zweistöckige Holzhäuser, klapprige Zäune, rostige Fässer. Kläffen, Knurren von Hunden. Jemand klopft an eine Tür. Das Geräusch ist laut, nah. Doch man sieht keinen Menschen. Ein Blick nach oben. Dicke Kabel ziehen sich von Mast zu Mast tief durch den Himmel: wie lang gezogene Gitterstäbe, die den Ausblick begrenzen. Als wäre diese Gegend ein einziges Gefängnis.

Das soll Vancouver in der Nachkriegszeit sein - so, wie es wirklich aussah. Wer die Szenerie betreten will, braucht ein iPhone oder ein iPad und muss eine 1,3-Gigabyte-Applikation laden, eine sogenannte App. Der kanadische Künstler Stan Douglas erfand diese neue, alte Welt, und er nannte sie "Circa 1948". Alles ist hyperrealistisch und zugleich irreal, betont altmodisch in der Anmutung und gemacht für den Sehnerv der Smartphone-Zeit.

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Stan Douglas' Circa 1948: 'It's not a game, it's a story'

One of Canada's great artists is back with a project that explores Vancouver's historical hotels, gambling dens and beer halls

"There's more truth in the lie than in the documentary," Stan Douglas tells me. We're standing in a cavernous New York art gallery, gazing up at one of his larger photographs, a hyperreal panoramic tableau of West Indian men playing cricket in a Vancouver park. The title is Cricket Pitch, 1951—but it wasn’t shot then. It was photographed in 2010, and while it purports to be a traditional vintage print, it actually combines multiple shots with digital technology that makes Photoshop look like amateur hour.

Nothing's ever simple in Douglas's images, but that's the only way he knows how to work. "Because of technology, nobody believes any more that a photograph is real. But that just means that we have to take more responsibility as creators of images. We can't just say, 'Oh, this happened to be there when I was there.' You have to take ownership. It's always a construction, no matter what."

Douglas, whose films, videos and photography have given him as strong a claim as anyone to the title of Canada's greatest artist, is back in New York this week to unveil his latest work, a murder-mystery film noir titled Circa 1948. Instead of appearing at a gallery, Douglas has taken Circa 1948 to the Tribeca Film Festival, where it’s one of the highlights of this year’s massive selection. It is the artist’s first appearance in a cinematic setting, but what’s even more surprising is that Circa 1948 isn’t really a film at all. It’s an interactive and bafflingly intricate multimedia project, and its images, though disturbingly lifelike, have all been digitally rendered. In New York, festivalgoers can use their bodies to navigate the spaces of postwar Vancouver, and starting this week, anyone with an iOS device can download Circa 1948 for free.

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