Journey into Fear Press Release
November 8—December 22, 2001
Opening on November 8th, the gallery will present an exhibition of new work by the Canadian artist Stan Douglas. On view will be photographs as well as a DVD film installation. This will be the artist's fifth solo exhibition at David Zwirner.
Stan Douglas entitles his latest film "Journey into Fear". The work is based on two feature films by the same title: Norman Foster's 1942 war-time thriller and its remake, shot in Vancouver in 1975, directed by Daniel Mann. Whereas war-and-weapon espionage drives the plot in Foster's original film, Daniel Mann opted to substitute industrial espionage into the storyline of his remake, reflecting the changed world separating the two filmings of "Journey into Fear".
The setting of the 1942 version is the Second World War and the context of the 1975 remake is the 1973 oil crisis. These two events are significant for Stan Douglas' new project because the former initiates and the latter roughly marks a halfway point in the transition from internationalism to globalism; the passage from a world in which power is brokered by politics to one in which finance is the dominant medium of influence and exchange.
Stan Douglas uses as location for his new film a generic cargo vessel, possibly the most utilitarian symbol of globalization. The related photographs exhibited in the gallery depict the Vancouver harbor, a container yard, containers, as well as production stills from the film set: a passenger cabin on a container ship. A 16-foot large panorama of a Vancouver street scene, a portrait of the contemporary global market place, completes the gallery installation.
As is the case with all of his work, Stan Douglas locates "Journey in Fear" into a particular historical moment. That the stage for the global dominance of financial markets was abruptly set by the 1973 oil crisis is proof that, far from being a dead zone between the emancipatory utopias of the 1960s and the protectionist greed of the 1980s, the current distribution of power is the secret "meaning" of the 1970s. [Stan Douglas]
Stan Douglas' version of "Journey into Fear" leaves the viewer guessing whether it is set in the present or maybe in the 70's. As in earlier works, he does not offer a beginning or an end in this film but rather, he invites the gallery viewer to enter the looped film at any time: A man and a woman are arguing in the cramped cabin of a container ship. The dialogue reveals their tension; something big is at stake. He needs her confidence. He needs to persuade her. She rejects. He offers bribes and threatens murder. But mostly, the two just talk. Their conversation seems to go nowhere and more than that, it appears to go on forever as the film loops between the exterior scenes shot on the ship (are they flashbacks or flash-forwards?) and the interior scenes.
Stan Douglas has created a fixed loop of scenes within the picture track of his work. However, the dialogue accompanying these scenes, changes (almost) endlessly as a computer picks at random from different dialogue possibilities that are lip-synched through a dubbing process. As the scenes and its actions repeat themselves, the dialogue mutates continuously so that it would take days for the exact same scene and dialogue to reappear.
Stan Douglas evokes the 70's as a backdrop for an intense psychological exchange. In his "Journey into Fear", protagonist and antagonist continuously trade places as the claustrophobia of the endless film and dialogue loop contracts until the film finally reveals its true identity, that of a machine. Its repetitions and mutations create a haunting metaphor for the perception of time in modernity. "Journey into Fear" is an endless, cyclical voyage but, when compared with its earlier iterations, one can at least intuit how the future became history. [Stan Douglas]