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The Paradigm Case

The Cinema of Hitchcock and the Contemporary Visual Arts


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 4: Horror in Real-Time: Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho


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Horror in Real-Time: Douglas Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho

Psycho is important to Gordon’s 24 Hour Psycho installation and, by extension, his overall work because it represents ‘the death of cinema’ through narrative content and a highly symbolic and expressionistic mise en scène. When Jan Debbaut asked Douglas Gordon how he evaluates his work he replied: ‘I evaluate one work in relation to another. I try to evaluate a number of works in a sense that I see them as a family.’ The artist goes on to explain his approach is based on identifying structures so they may be dismantled. This is illustrated in his preference for self-destructive systems that ‘can only lead towards a multiplicity of meanings, a series of contradictory interpretations.’1 Given the many possible interpretations of Gordon’s work, this chapter aims to analyse 24 Hour Psycho in relation to various families of works in Gordon, while comparing his practice to general traditions in contemporary visual art since the 1990s to explain the significance of Hitchcock’s Psycho within the 24 Hour Psycho installation.

24 Hour Psycho is a locus within Gordon’s work, not just because it connects him with Hitchcock, but also because it marks Gordon’s departure from text-only pieces to time-based works, incorporating moving images. The migration of Psycho (Paramount, 1960) from the public space of the cinema to the private domestic spaces of television and home video is also important for understanding how the...

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