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The Paradigm Case

The Cinema of Hitchcock and the Contemporary Visual Arts

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Bernard McCarron

With the migration of cinema into the art gallery, artists have been turning, with remarkable regularity and ingenuity, to Alfred Hitchcock-related images, sequences and iconography. The world of Hitchcock’s cinema – a classical cinema of formal unities and narrative coherence – represents more than the spectre of a supposedly dead art form: it transcends its own filmic and institutional contexts, becoming an important audio-visual lexicon of desire, loss, mystery and suspense.
Through a detailed study of the Hitchcock-related work of artist-filmmakers Matthias Müller and Christoph Girardet, Johan Grimonprez, Pierre Huyghe, Douglas Gordon and Atom Egoyan, this book facilitates a dialogue between the creative appropriation of Hitchcock’s films and the cinematic practices that increasingly inform the wider field of the contemporary visual arts. Each chapter is structured around a consideration of how the artwork in question has reconfigured or ‘remade’ key Hitchcockian expressive elements and motifs – in particular, the relationship between mise en scène and the mechanics of suspense, time, memory, history and death. In a career that extended across silent and sound eras as well as the British, European and Hollywood industries, Hitchcock’s film œuvre can be seen as a history of the cinema itself. As the work of these contemporary artist-filmmakers shows, it was also a history of the future, a paradigm case par excellence.
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Chapter 3: The Essay-Film (Expanded): Johan Grimonprez’s Double Take

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CHAPTER 3

The Essay-Film (Expanded): Johan Grimonprez’s Double Take

Double Take is an historical documentary comprised of archival television footage. It takes up various cultural and political viewpoints at the time of the Cold War Kitchen debates between Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev, exploring connections between these tensions and the birth of the information age. Double Take offers an interpretive context for examining cultural developments within capitalism during the late 1950s by drawing on Alfred Hitchcock’s appearances on television. For this reason, it is suitable for demonstrating the continuation of Hitchcock’s persona and associated iconography within contemporary culture. Grimonprez’s film exhibits how televisual news images have become the most significant force in shaping social exchange and the individual’s experience of modern reality and it uses Hitchcockian ideas to suggest the possible residue of the cinematic imaginary within the emerging regime of televisual documentary and factual news programming.

The film uses the figure of Alfred Hitchcock and his associated mythologies as its main point of departure, because, for Grimonprez, the filmmaker symbolises the lingering influence of cinematic spectacle within televisual broadcasting, and, in particular, the spectacularisation of fear. Double Take supports Hubert Burda’s claim that the media present a binary of ‘stressing images’ and ‘relaxing images’ and his suggestion that ‘in the wash of the waves between stressing images and relaxing images, a whole new image theory could emerge’.1 Double Take’s interpretive structure allows the ← 111 | 112 → spectator to consider different...

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