I’m interested in the fine line between my intentions and the perceptions of others; that moment when someone encounters something and realizes that there is more to it than meets the eye.
Working across mediums and disciplines, Douglas Gordon investigates moral and ethical questions, mental and physical states, as well as collective memory and selfhood. Using literature, folklore, and iconic Hollywood films in addition to his own footage, drawings, and writings, he distorts time and language in order to disorient and challenge.
Gordon was born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1966 and studied sculpture and environmental art at the Glasgow School of Art (1984–88). After graduating, he attended the Slade School of Fine Art, London (1988–90), where he began to more deeply explore his interests in cinema and film. In 1990 he returned to Glasgow and became involved with Transmission Gallery, an artist-run space that hosted exhibitions and served as a studio and social hub. Two years later Gordon presented 24 Hour Psycho; (1993) at Tramway, Glasgow. The work extends the duration of Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho (1960) from its original 110 minutes to twenty-four hours; the manipulated footage was played on a large hanging screen in a dark room, which allowed visitors to view the projection from the front or the back.
In the mid-1990s Gordon moved to Cologne, Germany, where he developed From God to Nothing; (1996), a text piece spanning four walls; Three Inches Black (1997), a series of photographs in which three inches of a finger are tattooed black—the subtext in this case being that three inches is the vital length a blade would need to be in order to inflict a fatal wound; and Between Darkness and Light (after William Blake) (1997), a large-scale video installation that pairs a film about divine revelation with another about satanic possession, which was exhibited in an underpass as part of Skulptur Projekte Münster in 1997.
Many have attributed Gordon’s ongoing engagement with opposites to his interest in Scottish literary history, in which the tension between good and evil is a predominant theme. In Tale of a Justified Sinner (1995) he makes direct reference to Robert Louis Stevenson’s iconic 1886 novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by adapting scenes from a 1932 film version of the story. The scenes are mirrored and slowed down, and switch back and forth between positive and negative in order to emphasize the character’s shifting personalities. In Déjà-Vu (2000), composed of footage from Rudolph Maté’s noir D.O.A. (1949), the protagonist shifts between life and death through a series of overlapping flashbacks and temporal divergences.
In 2000 Gordon had his first survey exhibition in the United Kingdom, Black Spot, at Tate Liverpool. The show brought together major works, displayed in a sprawling configuration devised by the artist that spread from the museum’s top floor to the freight elevator to a location outside. In the following years, Pretty much every film or video work from about 1992 until now, a nearly comprehensive exhibition of Gordon’s film and video work, was shown in various international locations, including the British School at Rome, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. A retrospective of Gordon’s work opened at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 2006, presenting thirteen significant films, and Pretty much every word written, spoken, heard, overheard from 1989 . . . , an installation of more than eighty text-based works, opened at Tate Britain, London, in 2010. Two years later Gordon was named a Commandeur dans l’ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Republic.
Themes of identity, the image of the self, portraits, and mortality continue in Gordon’s more recent sculptures, text works, neons, and film and video works. When the Scottish National Portrait Gallery invited him to create a portrait work for the International Festival in 2017, his response was to make a doppelgänger of their celebrated marble statue of the iconic Scottish poet Robert Burns. Black Burns (2017) is an exact replica of the statue in black marble (instead of white Carrara), which Gordon shattered into a few pieces and placed at the foot of the Victorian original. In a related series of sculptures, Gordon depicted parts of his hands and forearms in embracing positions that can be read as either innocent or sinister, expressing the psychological battles at play within an individual.
I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person (2016), a filmic portrait of Jonas Mekas, godfather of American avant-garde cinema, premiered at Documenta 14 in Athens and Kassel, Germany, in 2017. The following year, Gordon was commissioned to create a work for the new Elizabeth Line station at Tottenham Court Road, London. He compiled a collection of his previous text pieces, some dating back to the late 1980s, when he lived in the area as a student—they are almost memories—and translated them into many languages, reflecting the world community that inhabits London today. This procession of phrases will travel across a huge screen as visitors pass through the ticket hall, on view from early 2023.
Extended through February 3, 2018
November 14, 2017–February 3, 2018
West 21st Street, New York
I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person
October 3–7, 2017
Britannia Street, London
Douglas Gordon: if when why what
Douglas Gordon took over the Piccadilly Lights advertising screen in London’s Piccadilly Circus, as well as a global network of screens in cities including Berlin, Melbourne, Milan, New York, and Seoul, nightly for three minutes at 20:22 (8:22pm) throughout December 2022, with his new film, if when why what (2018–22). The project was presented by the Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Art (CIRCA) in conjunction with the exhibition Douglas Gordon: Neon Ark at Gagosian, Davies Street, London.
Katrina Brown discusses the importance of Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho (1993) and some of the films that followed, touching on threads that run throughout the artist’s career.
Gagosian Quarterly Spring 2018
The Spring 2018 Gagosian Quarterly with a cover by Ed Ruscha is now available for order.
Douglas Gordon: I had nowhere to go
Featuring an extensive interview with Douglas Gordon on the process of making his 2016 film I had nowhere to go: Portrait of a displaced person, this video, produced by Berlin Art Link, includes clips of Jonas Mekas and revealing anecdotes about the creation of the film.
Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember
Douglas Gordon and Morgane Tschiember’s installation As close as you can for as long as it lasts, presented during Elevation 1049: Avalanche in Gstaad, Switzerland.
Making Eyes: Douglas Gordon
Douglas Gordon and Rufus Wainwright collaborated to produce afflictive, slow-motion projections to accompany Wainwright’s performances during his 2010 All Days Are Nights: Songs for Lulu tour.
CIRCA Prize 2023
The Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Arts (CIRCA), a platform established in 2020 to present digital art in the public space, has launched the third edition of the CIRCA Prize, which calls for artists of all ages to respond to the CIRCA 20:23 manifesto on hope. Throughout September, thirty international artists will see their work appear at 20:23 (8:23pm) local time on London’s iconic Piccadilly Lights and across a global network of digital screens, following in the footsteps of CIRCA-commissioned artists such as Douglas Gordon and Patti Smith. A jury of artists and collaborators, including Gordon, will select the winner, who will receive £30,000 to support their future practice as well as a new trophy designed by Ai Weiwei.
CIRCA Prize 2023 call for submissions on Piccadilly Lights, London
if when why what
December 8–31, 2022, 8:22pm daily
Piccadilly Lights, London
Beginning Thursday, December 8, Douglas Gordon will take over the Piccadilly Lights advertising screen in London’s Piccadilly Circus, as well as a global network of screens in cities including Berlin, Melbourne, Milan, New York, and Seoul, nightly for three minutes at 20:22 (8:22pm) local time throughout December, with his new film, if when why what (2018–22). The never-before-seen work examines the history of the surrounding area, in particular Soho’s relationship with the erotic entertainment industry, focusing on the neighborhood’s iconic neon signage. The project is presented by the Cultural Institute of Radical Contemporary Art (CIRCA) in conjunction with the exhibition Douglas Gordon: Neon Ark at Gagosian, Davies Street, London, and will also be viewable online on the CIRCA website.
Rendering of Douglas Gordon’s if when why what (2018–22) on Piccadilly Lights, London
Kunsttage Basel 2022
Richard Artschwager and Douglas Gordon
September 1–4, 2022, 11am–6pm
Kunsttage Basel is a citywide program of art events at more than fifty-five museums, galleries, and other spaces. The exhibition Richard Artschwager, featuring a selection of paintings, sculptures, and drawings by the artist, will be on view at Gagosian, Basel, with extended hours. Douglas Gordon will also present work—including Pretty Much Every Film and Video Work from About 1992 Until Now (1999–)—in a weekend-long installation at Fondation Beyeler as part of the program.
Richard Artschwager, Chair/Chair, 1990 © 2022 Richard Artschwager/Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York. Photo: Rob McKeever
May 7–August 7, 2022
Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland
This exhibition focuses on Douglas Gordon’s film installation k.364 (2011), which features two Israeli musicians of Polish descent traveling to Poland from Berlin by train. Shown on multiple screens with layered audio, the work is an intimate document of the relationship between individuals and the power of music, set against the subtly drawn backdrop of a dark and unresolved social history.
Douglas Gordon, k.364, 2011, installation view, Dundee Contemporary Arts, Scotland © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany
Alberto Giacometti / Douglas Gordon
The Morning After
April 20–June 12, 2022
Institut Giacometti, Paris
Douglas Gordon’s work on the distortion of time and the tensions between opposing forces shares common ground with Alberto Giacometti’s questioning of the human condition. Granted carte blanche to imagine a dialogue between his practice and Giacometti’s, Gordon presents a series of previously unexhibited works alongside little-known sculptures and drawings by Giacometti. Among these, small sculptures by Giacometti are nestled within casts of Gordon’s own hands, enacting a literal and figurative “point of contact” between their artworks.
Top: Alberto Giacometti, Tête d’homme, c. 1962–65 © Succession Alberto Giacometti/ADAGP, Paris 2022. Bottom: Douglas Gordon, Hand Holding Head of a Man, 2022 © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn, Germany, 2022. Photo: courtesy Studio lost but found, Berlin, and Kamel Mennour, Paris
May 6–November 14, 2021
Boghossian Foundation, Brussels
From early European and Middle Eastern artifacts to modern and contemporary works, icons have inspired many believers, as well as artists, throughout the ages. This exhibition explores how spiritual dimensions have been incorporated into artworks from antiquity to the present day. Work by Michael Craig-Martin, Ellen Gallagher, Douglas Gordon, Duane Hanson, Titus Kaphar, and Andy Warhol is included.
Ellen Gallagher, Untitled, 2000 © Ellen Gallagher
Al filo de la navaja
August 18, 2020–February 14, 2021
Museo Jumex, Mexico City
This exhibition, whose title translates to On the Knife’s Edge, brings together works by more than forty international artists. Comprising four thematic sections—migration and liberty, the human body, the environment, and the inexorable passage of time—the show aims to address the issues shaping our contemporary world. Work by Douglas Gordon and Damien Hirst is included.
Installation view, Colección Jumex: Al filo de la navaja, Museo Jumex, Mexico City, August 18, 2020–February 14, 2021. Artwork, front: © Dan Graham; ceiling: © Studio lost but found/VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn 2021