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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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Introduction: ‘Paradigm Cases’


This study explores how contemporary visual artists have consistently revisited Hitchcock’s work to examine the links between fine art and cinema that have been the subject of intense experimentation in the gallery space since the nineteen nineties. It shows that Hitchcock’s œuvre reflects the vibrancy and creativity of cross-discipline practices in the wider arts by closely analysing the role that his cinema has come to play in contemporary art’s exploration of collective memory, cinema history and individual interpretation of these phenomena. It also shows that the combinations of fantasy and reality that Hitchcock weaves in his films are particularly useful for understanding the cinematic imaginary that has so often been the basis for new media and digital artworks. Hitchcock’s legacy of thrillers, which often point to the certainty of death and the uncertainty of life, provides a framework for understanding the richness of the cinema century that has passed and the possible implications it has for the emerging one. Hitchcock’s insistence on collaboration, motif circulation and experimentation across a great number of films has also attracted the attention of artists and enforced the notion that moving or projected image artwork provides a viable area for artistic activity. Hitchcock’s tendency to make mainstream films with a modernist self-reflexivity has divided critical responses to his work over the years, fostering new interpretations and confounding definitive analysis. The criticality of the Hitchcockian paradigm reflects the spirit of new media art in general that has lead to the dissolution of binaries that...

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