Tate today announced the acquisition of an important group of works by the Canadian artist Stan Douglas. The video installation Win, Place or Show 1998 is a major work by Douglas. It has been acquired together with two sets of photographs, Set for Win, Place or Show: East View, West View, Overview and Strathcona Series, also created in 1998, which are intimately related to the making and to the physical environment of the video respectively. The acquisition has been made possible by generous gifts from the National Art Collections Fund and the Tate American Fund and is a significant addition to the growing body of film and video work in the Tate Collection.
This group of works, the first by Douglas to enter the Collection, was displayed at Tate Modern last year as part of the opening exhibition Between Cinema and a Hard Place.
Win, Place or Show takes place in a room, the design of which is based on an unrealised modernist housing project which was planned for the Strathcona district in Vancouver. The video shows a six minute drama shot in real time using multiple camera positions. Two working men, seasonal labourers, have a conversation about betting and odds on winning, which deteriorates into physical confrontation.
Douglas’s video installation is shown as two images projected side by side and the action is presented simultaneously from two viewpoints. The drama is endlessly replayed. At each scene change a computer programme randomly selects the camera angles for the next scene on each of the screens. The number of camera positions used during filming leads to an exponential rise in the possible sequence of viewpoints. In fact there are over 200,000 variations for looking at the same drama in a different combination of camera angles and positions. The viewer is therefore unlikely to see the same sequence of camera shots twice. Presenting the images in this unpredictable way echos the mens’ conversation about probability and chance in the laying of bets. By structuring his film like this Douglas ignores cinematic conventions of continuity and unified cinematic space and underlines the artificiality of the reality created by the film.
The style of the film is based on a gritty but short-lived television police drama from 1968 called The Clients. Douglas also alludes to the cinematic tradition of film noir, not least in the split-screen presentation of the work. This method was frequently employed in thrillers of the mid twentieth century to build suspense.
Stan Douglas was born in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in 1960. He studied in the Interdisciplinary Department of the Emily Carr College of Art in Vancouver (1979-82). Douglas is one of the foremost contemporary artists working in film and video. His works include: Overture (1986); Subject to a Film: Marnie (1989); Monodramas (1991); Hors-Champs (1992); Pursuit, Fear, Catastrophe: Ruskin B.C. (1993); Evening (1994); Potsdamer Schrebergarten (1995); Der Sandman (1995); and Nookta Sound (1996). He has shown widely in Canada, the USA and internationally. In 1994 he had a solo exhibition at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London. He lives and works in Vancouver.