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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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This book has identified a number of major factors governing the disproportionate interest in the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock in the contemporary visual arts. The attractiveness of Hitchcock’s cinema as a paradigm of contemporary image systems has been demonstrated by looking at the features it shares with the work of five particularly important contemporary visual artists who have incorporated Hitchcock’s films and his associated iconography in some form or another. It also recognises Hitchcock’s continuing presence in the contemporary visual arts and acknowledges an existing tradition of Hitchcock-inspired artworks that represent innovative engagements with cinematic form and cinephilia by examining how gallery remakes reframe Hitchcock’s films, and how this causes new critical contexts of spectatorship to emerge. It has considered the legacy of Hitchcock’s cinema and asked a number of questions about remaking and the flexibility of history within the present time and space of the gallery, and not only were Hitchcock’s images proven to be important, the image of the director himself, and his posthumous reputation in popular culture and among filmmakers and artists, were found to be significant factors influencing the citation of images and ideas from his work.

Hitchcock’s films were also found to engage with essential notions of image reproduction, and artists channelling Hitchcock were found to be doing so in order to question how life, death, time and human nature are represented as moving images and to consider the role of representation within the formation of the present. Hitchcock’s tendency to...

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