Film Noir (Fly) is a black and white video projection showing a close-up of a fly lying on its back, intermittently twitching its legs but unable to get up. The artist Douglas Gordon fixed the fly’s wings to a table top and recorded its struggle until it died. The work thus presents the artist, and by implication the viewer, as sadistic. Gordon has featured flies in other works. For instance, the two videos Fuzzy Logic and B-Movie, both from 1995, which show single flies twitching their legs and wings until they die. For the artist these works represent ‘an image of something that we kill everyday. We see them dying in corners of rooms at home; we don’t care about them. Some of us even tortured these things as part of a “game” to play when we were children. But seeing something like this in a museum becomes a much more distressing game to play.’ (Quoted in National Gallery of Scotland 2006, p.114.)
In 1995 Douglas made a number of black and white videos under the title of Film Noir. In these works he displays an obsession for closely and zealously observed details which are enclosed in repetitive structures. The title of these works corresponds to a cinematic term used primarily to describe a genre of Hollywood crime dramas from the early 1940s to the late 1950s. The Hollywood film noir period is generally associated with a low-key, black-and-white visual style with roots in the cinematography of German expressionist film. Film noir reacted against the dominant ideology of society and the conventions of contemporary Hollywood films, introducing the noir hero who is defined by a dark personality qualities and who occupies a disturbing and dangerous world. By appropriating the cinematic term, Gordon’s Film Noir videos take on its associations, becoming the vehicle for his most recurrent themes, such as moral ambivalence, guilt and death.
Based in Glasgow and New York, Gordon works in various media including film, text, photographs, video and various types of installation. He has become best known for works made using existing film footage – both documentary and fictional – altering its pace, context or scale.
Douglas Gordon, exhibition catalogue, Centro Cultural de Belém, Lisbon 1999.
Superhumanatural, exhibition catalogue, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh 2006.
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