Visual Arts Program, Princeton University, October 1 – 24, 2017
As part of the unveiling of the new Lewis Center for the Arts, the Visual Arts Program is pleased to inaugurate the Hurley Gallery with a screening of 24 Hour Psycho (1993), Douglas Gordon’s notorious appropriation of—and homage to—Psycho, Alfred Hitchcock’s landmark 1960 film. Having premiered at Tramway, Glasgow, in 1993, 24 Hour Psycho was a sensation from day one. In honor of the artwork’s twenty-fourth anniversary, it will screen nonstop in the Hurley Gallery for twenty-four days.
The creative impetus behind the artwork is a simple algebraic equation, with the film’s original frame rate and running time written as a fraction that is equal to x divided by twenty-four hours:
24 frames per second / 1:49 = x frames per second / 24:00
The value of x is then entered into a rendering function and a digital projection file for display is produced. By further example, Douglas Gordon has proposed a similar artwork in which a single screening of John Ford’s The Searchers (1956) would last five years. That is, Gordon’s installation of The Searchers would last as long as the span of time depicted in the film itself.
For Gordon, 24 Hour Psycho is not simply an act of Appropriation – an approach to artmaking in which artists take images from the media and popular culture and repurpose them as art. 24 Hour Psycho is also an act of affiliation, one in which, since the advent of home theatre, the usually private experience of viewing a film masterpiece is transformed into a continuous public event, one that, in stark contrast to conventional cinema experience, has much looser parameters for where to sit or how long to watch.
Because many of us are already familiar with the themes and narrative arc of Hitchcock’s original film, seeing Gordon’s version permeates the gallery with a languorous air of deferred expectation. 24 Hour Psycho’s extremely dilated pace and digitized effect conflates all of Psycho into an icy sameness, a sameness not unlike scrolling through the array of available content we encounter on a daily basis, from cat videos and crime stories to hurricanes and our Commander in Chief. In Gordon’s video installation we are drawn into a grand déjà vu—an attenuated spectacle of an experience we’ve already had.
Another prescient aspect of Gordon’s installation is the way he activates the projection screen. Pulled from the wall and hung at a raking angle, Gordon’s screen is an object that we can circumnavigate and observe from all angles and postures. Now as ever, 24 Hour Psycho foregrounds the visceral act of viewing, the role our bodies play in the reception of digital media.
A curious but persistent symptom of 24 Hour Psycho, then, is that people often have a strong recollection of when and where they first saw saw it. For me, it was sitting on the concrete floor of the Hayward Gallery, London, in 1997, having been invited to give a talk at University College and doubly pleased to have a chance to see the artwork first hand. At that time, the Asian Financial crisis had just happened in July, and London was gripped by the prospect of a worldwide financial meltdown. Globalism was a hot topic on campuses and in the streets, and there seemed to be no shortage of idle time and ill will. The Internet was six years old. Google did not exist. No current Princeton undergraduate had yet been born.
In Don DeLillo’s Point Omega (2010), the protagonist Elster begins and ends the novel immersed in an installation of 24 Hour Psycho. Like Elster, the sinister affect of 24 Hour Psycho haunts our time as much as its cinematic content, a persistent doom that doesn’t want to go away.
Douglas Gordon was born in 1969 in Glasgow, Scotland, and is a widely exhibited and discussed contemporary artist. His earliest works were language-based deployments of clipped, allusive phrases laced with hope and innuendo. For example, the phrase “From the moment you hear these works until you kiss someone with blue eyes” might be stenciled onto a gallery wall or whispered anonymously over the phone. His signature works use film, both found and produced, to upend our normal experiences of time, space, materiality, and narrative. Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006), made collaboratively with French artist Philippe Parreno, is a two-channel video installation in which the left-hand screen shows a football match between Villarreal and Real Madrid, and the right-hand screen shows seventeen synchronized cameras focused solely on Zinedine Zidane, the legendary Real Madrid and French National team midfielder.
Gordon was the recipient of the Tate Modern’s 1996 Turner Prize and the Solomon R. Guggenheim’s 1999 Hugo Boss Prize. He will have an exhibition of new work at Gagosian Gallery, New York, that opens on November 15.
professor, Visual Arts Program