David Zwirner is pleased to present Doppelgänger, a video installation by Stan Douglas, on view at the gallery’s 537 West 20th Street location in New York. Debuted at the 2019 Venice Biennale, May You Live in Interesting Times, this ambitious work will be exhibited for the first time in the United States. Doppelgänger will concurrently be on view on at Victoria Miro, London, opening on January 31.
Since the late 1980s, Douglas has created films and photographs—and more recently theater productions and other multidisciplinary projects—that investigate the parameters of their mediums. His ongoing inquiry into technology’s role in image-making, and how those mediations infiltrate and shape collective memory, has resulted in works that are at once specific in their historical and cultural references and broadly accessible.
Doppelgänger is set in an alternative present. Displayed on two square-format, translucent screens, each of which can be viewed from both sides, the looped narrative unfolds in side-by-side vignettes that depict events on worlds that are light years apart. When one spacecraft embarks on its journey, another is launched at the same time in a parallel reality. Alice, a solitary astronaut, is teleported to a distant planet, and her double to another. Then, Alice and her ship, the Hermes II, for unknown reasons, return. Alice assumes her mission has failed and she has somehow returned home, but she has, in fact, arrived at a world where everything, from writing to the rotation of the sun, is literally the reverse of what she once knew.
Image: Stan Douglas, still from Doppelgänger, 2019
“In Doppelgänger,” Stan Douglas explains, “we see two video screens depicting scenes in an alternative present in which we in the past had invented a process called ‘quantum teleportation’…. It’s a real thing, which Einstein derided but it actually turned out to be true, where if you entangle particles, when they’re being created, and take them apart, an action in one makes an identical action in the other, no matter how fast they are, and faster than the speed of light.
“Using this method, our other earth decided to send a spaceship to a very earthlike planet they saw, in 1970, so that they could seven years later teleport an astronaut there simultaneously. The problem is that when we sent out the spaceship, they sent out a spaceship as well, so we have these duplicate astronauts in two worlds. One astronaut is treated like a returning citizen who needs to be helped; the other one like a dangerous alien who needs to be quarantined and interrogated.”
Expanding on the artist’s use of multichannel video installations—an approach he has used since the early 1990s—to present simultaneous or overlapping narratives in the service of speculative histories, Doppelgänger entertains the possibility of how a given story might go different ways. The results transcend a simple “What if?” to suggest questions about objective truth and the treatment of the "other" in contemporary society. The installation debuted to critical acclaim at the 2019 Venice Biennale, and is being presented concurrently at Victoria Miro in London.
“Quite consistently I’m looking at moments of flux,’ he says of his work in photography and video, “when there’s maybe a transformative moment where something could have happened going one way or another in society or with an individual. So, they’re often minor histories, and looking at a tributary of a major event, and how that event may have unfolded differently if something on a small scale had acted differently. So looking at these dramatic moments from the perspective of it being a possibility that’s often unrealized, therefore getting at almost utopian possibilities, and what didn’t happen.”