Douglas Gordon



Not on display

Douglas Gordon born 1966
Video, back projection, black and white
Unconfirmed: 2295 × 3060 mm
duration: 20 min., 57 sec.
Purchased 1997


10ms-1 is a video projection on a large free-standing screen. The video footage is a fragment of a medical film from the First World War documenting the attempts of a psychologically injured man to stand up and walk. In the opening shots he is seen standing behind a screen, then gradually falling to the ground. He is wearing only his underwear and appears, physically, quite healthy and able, his body muscular and apparently fit. In a series of moves which articulate his back, neck and torso he repeatedly attempts to raise himself from the ground, but never succeeds. His healthy physical appearance renders his inability to accomplish the simple task of standing on his feet all the more shocking. Gordon slowed down the film footage and spliced it into an endless loop, locking the injured man into a constant replay of his private struggle with his body.

In the early to mid 1990s Gordon produced a series of works involving projections of pre-existing film footage, which he manipulated and projected onto large free-standing screens. In the most famous of these he slowed down Alfred Hitchcock's film Psycho to a duration of twenty-four hours, calling the piece 24 Hour Psycho (1993). He made several works using material from medical films recording psychological malfunction. Hysterical (1994-5) is a fragment of a medical demonstration film of 1908 enacting techniques for the treatment of female hysteria. The footage of 10ms-1, which documents real symptoms of war trauma (known at the time as 'shell shock'), records the physical manifestations of what later came to be understood as male hysteria. Gordon's work investigates the mechanics of perception, both psychological and visual. Many of his pieces made using film break the medium down, through slow motion and projection onto large free-standing screens (sometimes more than one at a time), in order to draw the viewer's attention to hitherto unseen details. These techniques challenge the construction of meaning through memory as well as the viewer's relationship, both physical and psychological, with the moving image. He has said that he is 'interested in those areas where perception breaks down or the fact that we don't actually know how it works or why it malfunctions'. By breaking films down through slow motion he aims to reveal those 'aspects of our experience we carry around and are unaware of how they might be shaping our perception' (quoted in Kidnapping, p.34).

In 10ms-1 the unknown man's repeated exertions enact the fate of Sysyphus, the mythical Greek king who was condemned eternally to push a heavy boulder up a steep hill, only to be powerless to stop it rolling back down again once he had reached the top. It seems to express a will for life pitted against odds which are at once inhuman (the machinery and destruction of war) and deep within the individual himself (his psychological damage). Veering between comic and tragic, it 'focuses on the microcosm of a simple human action … and reads as a vulnerable yet recuperating social body trying, with small movements and tentative actions, to get back on its feet' (Iwona Blazwick in 'Douglas Gordon', Art Monthly, vol.183, February 1995, p.36).

Further reading:
Douglas Gordon: Kidnapping, exhibition catalogue, Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven 1999, reproduced (colour) pp.68-9
Douglas Gordon, exhibition catalogue, Kunstverein Hannover, Hannover 1998
Virginia Button, The Turner Prize, London 1997, pp.122-6

Elizabeth Manchester
March 2000

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