- Stan Douglas: Inconsolable Memories
- Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery, Vancouver
- 20 January to 19 March 2006
Vancouver artist Stan Douglas’ recent art installation Inconsolable Memories offers a 16mm film based on Tomás Gutiérrez Alea’s 1968 film Memorias del subdesarrollo ( Memories of Underdevelopment ) and a series of photographs from Havana. Known primarily for his work in video and film, this exhibit extends the thematic and structural doubling that are pervasive in Douglas’ work (split or two-sided screens, layered images, character doubling, and ghosting) to a double form for the installation itself: photographs and film loop. Both parts of the exhibit take post-revolutionary Cuba as the focal point (and there is some direct doubling of locales that appear in both), but they approach the issues of memory, history, and identity in markedly distinct ways.
Lushly coloured, the photographs feature bright, uniformly lit, and carefully framed shots of empty architectural, scenic, and interior spaces that emphasize the impact of time on space and the role of sight: we see landscapes through holes in walls, empty theatres with windows of light, architectural spaces with cutaways, empty rooms decorated as if for a museum or frozen in time. Throughout the photographs, our attention is drawn to layers of time: the once elegant home, the graffiti on the walls, the rebirth of the theatre as parking garage, the emptied out panoptic prison. In this architectural and spatial play of past and present usage, as well as in the images’ frontal compositions and absence of human action (there is one shot of a marketplace featuring human figures), the photographs exude a kind of touristic gaze, an exaggerated visuality and clarity that seems to offer up these images to the spectator for consumption.
In combination with these photographs, and occupying a focalizing role in the exhibition, the filmic portion of the installation consists of two uneven loops (one is 28:15 minutes, the other 15:57) of 16 mm black-and-white footage that are played simultaneously so that the ordering of segments alters in the projection. This looped film can be seen within the greater context of Douglas’ film and video works, especially those described by Douglas as “recombinant.” Reworking seminal film texts, Douglas’ recombinant Journey into Fear (2001), Suspiria (2003), and Inconsolable Memories (2005) do not merely replay existing film material (as in Douglas’ looping of the robbery in Hitchcock’s Marnie  for his Subject to a Film: Marnie ), but modify and remake the referent text, adding layers and depths while also subtracting and excising. The works thus effectively engage in a kind of intertextual rewrite, renegotiating the presences and absences in the original work and redistributing what are seen to be its major and minor keys.
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About this Article
Reiterative Revolution was first published in Fillip 3 in Summer 2006. For more articles from this issue, see the Table of Contents.
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