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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 6: Screening Memory: Atom Egoyan’s Evidence / Felicia’s Journey


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Screening Memory: Atom Egoyan’s Evidence / Felicia’s Journey

Atom Egoyan created Evidence (MoMA, 1999) for the travelling exhibition Notorious: Alfred Hitchcock and Contemporary Visual Art at the Museum of Modern Art, Oxford. It features seven videos of different women seated on the passenger side of a car (see Figure 6.1).1 They appear to be explaining to the driver why they must ‘move on’. During the course of each tape, the women reveal information about their past lives and their aspirations for the future. Some of the women admit to working as prostitutes, while others describe family problems that have led them to run away from home. Each tape follows a similar pattern: the girls all begin by thanking the driver for helping them form new lives, before they realise their desire for freedom will not be fulfilled. In each tape, the driver’s identity is concealed as a black insert erases each response, limiting the opportunity to interpret the meaning of the exchanges The most disturbing tape shows a girl named Samantha physically struggling with the driver in an attempt to flee (see Figure 6.2).

Evidence does not appear to have any connection with Hitchcock’s films or the phenomenon of their appropriation in the gallery space. Egoyan’s feature film Felicia’s Journey (Icon, 1999, 116 mins), released the same year, shares an uncanny resemblance to the traumatic events in Evidence, revealing a link between the two separate works. This...

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