Opening on March 13th, the gallery will present an exhibition of new works by the Canadian artist Stan Douglas. The DVD installation entitled Suspiria was originally commissioned for last year’s Documenta XI in Kassel. This will be the US premiere of the work, as well as the first time the accompanying photographs will be shown. The exhibition will be the artist's sixth solo show at David Zwirner. Stan Douglas currently has a one-person exhibition at the Kestner Gesellschaft in Hannover, Germany through March 30th, the accompanying catalogue is available at the gallery.
For Suspiria, Stan Douglas brings together the visual style of Dario Argento's 1977 horror movie of the same title; the properties of the now obsolete Technicolor process; the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm and a soundtrack featuring John Medeski and Scott Harding (of the celebrated Jazz ensemble Medeski, Martin and Wood). Stan Douglas's Suspiria takes as its location the Herkules Oktagon, Kassel's most famous historical landmark; a monumental octagonal structure built in the late 17th century, atop Wilhelmshöhe overlooking the city of Kassel.
During Documenta, Stan Douglas positioned 13 computer-controlled cameras inside the Herkules, which continually panned across the labrynthian interiors of the structure itself. The images were transmitted live into the Fridericianum, Documenta’s main exhibition space. There, the black and white live feed from the Herkules was superimposed with short film sequences that Douglas had staged in Vancouver. These sequences were produced in a studio with professional actors using distilled narratives based on the fairytales of the Brothers Grimm, incidentally both natives of Kassel.
For the installation in the gallery, Douglas has substituted the "live" elements of the continuous broadcast during Documenta XI with a complex computer program that edits various camera angles as shot in the Herkules, "live" with different studio-produced narrative elements. The narrative elements are superimposed by manipulating a technical property of the NTSC television system to create lush saturated colors that render its subjects transparent, leaving the black and white walls of the Herkules visible underneath the actors. The optical effect reminiscent of the glorious Technicolor is stunning. In this work, with its real time computer edits, Stan Douglas further advances his project of recent years by creating artworks that are also machines. Earlier works, such as Win, Place, or Show–shown at the Dia Center for the Arts in 1999 and Journey Into Fear, currently on view in Hanover, have incorporated sequencing, live editing and computer programming to create works of art that are continually mutating in front of the viewer's eyes. Rather than creating loops, the artist thus creates a work with virtually infinite permutations. If the machine is the quintessential tool of modernism, the inherent metaphor of the artwork as machine permeates Douglas' latest work.
For the artist, Suspiria is a work that encapsulates his ongoing investigations into the failure of modernism. The language of this project is derived from the German intellectual Karl Marx, a voice one generation younger than the Brothers Grimm. Describing this project, the artist wrote: "Das Kapital itself is littered with talk of the supernatural–vampirism, witchcraft, and the magical transformation of raw material into commodities, commodities into surplus value, and surplus value into capital–occult practices that are all haunted by labor…. Now that capitalism has lost its primary antagonist, it has no 'other'." Marx borrowed an idiom of the Brother Grimm towards the end of the last volume of Das Kapital, where he writes "Long, long ago there were two sorts of people, one, the diligent, intelligent and above all frugal elite; the other, lazy rascals, spending their substance and more on riotous living…Thus it came to pass that the former sort accumulated wealth, and the latter sort finally had nothing to sell but their skins." For Douglas, using the syntax of mythology, "proponents of postmodern accumulation seem intent on dividing the world into these same two species of being." With all the glittering progress of modernism, have we truly moved forward or have we really just come full circle?