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Déjà-vu uses footage from D.O.A. 1949-50, a Hollywood thriller directed by Rudolph Mateé. The film has been transferred to video and is projected simultaneously on three parallel screens at normal speed as well as slightly faster and slightly slower - 25, 24 and 23 frames per second (left to right). This has the effect of making the three identical narratives diverge increasingly over time, and inducing in the viewer an experience similar to déjà-vu.
For some time Douglas Gordon has been making works concerned with questions of identity and mortality, and Déjà-vu continues these themes. The original film, whose title stands for 'dead on arrival', begins with a man reporting his own murder at a police station. The subsequent narrative is structured through flashbacks and involves a classic Hollywood range of erotic betrayals and mistaken identities. These become increasingly confused in Gordon's installation as a result of the repetition of scenes and overlap of soundtracks. As the critic Richard Cork has pointed out:
When the poisoned man eventually completes his testimony and dies, an anonymous policeman's hand stamps his file with the capital letters D.O.A. in thick black ink. Nothing, apparently, could be more terminal. And yet, soon after the final credits roll and the screens have gone all dark, Gordon ensures that the film returns and its victim's gruesome, tripartite ordeal begins all over again.
(Richard Cork, 'On a haunted road toward extinction', The Times, June 28, 2000)
The works also continues Gordon's interest in the use of existing film footage, in particular from film noir. 24 Hour Psycho, 1993, an important precedent for Déjà-vu, involved the projection of Alfred Hitchcock's thriller Psycho, 1960 on two screens at 1/13th of its original speed. In left is right and right is wrong and left is wrong and right is right, 1999, Gordon appropriated a lesser-known film called Whirlpool, 1949, separating all the odd-numbered frames onto one video disc, the even onto a second, and then projecting the two side by side with the one on the left reversed. Commenting on the evocative effects Gordon creates using relatively straightforward technological manipulations, Mark Francis has written:
His greatest works, such as 24 Hour Psycho, 1993 and Déjà-vu, 2000, use new technology in ways that are structurally transparent yet enormously complex in their implications. Just by altering the projection speed of film from 24 frames per second to 23 or 25 frames, and aligning the screens along the wall of a large room, a quality of existential doubt and dislocation is induced in the spectator. He manipulates his materials in spatial and sculptural configurations in which the spectator becomes implicated, bound up in implacable narratives, and yet distanced by the doubling, mirroring, reversing or slippage of images.
The work was made in an edition of three.
Robert Garnett, 'Sheep and Goats: Postcard from Paris', Art Monthly, no.236, pp.28-9, reproduced p.28
Russell Ferguson, Douglas Gordon, exhibition catalogue, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles 2002, pp.45, 48 and 179, reproduced (colour) p.49
Mark Francis (ed.), Douglas Gordon: Black Spot, exhibition catalogue, Tate Liverpool 2000