Monodramas, 1991
Journey into Fear, 2001
Nu·tka·, 1996
Win, Place or Show, 1998
Evening, 1994
Le Détroit, 2000
Le Détroit, 2000
Pursuit, Fear, Catastrophe: Ruskin B.C., 1993
Suspiria, 2003
Suspiria, 2003
Suspiria, 2003
Herkules Oktogon IV: Cherubs, Photo, 2002
Hors-champs, 1992
Inconsolable Memories, 2005
Inconsolable Memories, 2005
Inconsolable Memories, 2005
Print Shop/Auto Shop, Habana Vieja, Photo, 2004
Malecón, Photo, 2004
Overture, 1986
Der Sandmann, 1995
Vidéo, 2007
Vidéo, 2007
Vidéo, 2007
Klatsassin (Video still), 2006
Marine Mural, Photo, 2006
Klatsassin, Portraits, Constable, Photo, 2006



Stan Douglas’ pictorial and narrative spaces are redolent with allusions which, through a plenitude of interlinked references, ultimately point to what occurs outside these spaces: to the suppressed, to what has been exiled and to what takes effect outside consciousness, from outside the “one world”, from outside the “order of things”… His pictorial worlds are full of absences – and thus full of those “ghosts” that come to permanently haunt us with or without our consent.

Of modernity’s failure

The violence and failure of modernist utopias form the leitmotiv of all Douglas’ works: from the concept of the masculine, white, autonomous subject through to the political, social and economic models of the “Western World”, to architecture and urban development: A failure which Douglas relates, at the same time, to obsolete technology, as the project of modernity coincides with the perpetual advance and obsolescence of machines.

Obsolete media

Dated media and their aesthetics are often seized in Douglas’ works: whether in Win, Place or Show, in which he crosses 1950s home interior design with 1960s North American television aesthetics, in the installation Pursuit, Fear, Catastrophe: Ruskin B.C., in which the silent film and the mechanical piano are referred to, in the work Evening, which traces the inception of infotainment in the outgoing 1960s or, in the video installation Hors-champs, which casts back to the “en direct” style of the French broadcasting company ORTF of the 1960s and 1970s.

Old world – new world

Across a series of works, Douglas traces the inception, progression and effects of emergent European empire-building in the “New World”, beginning locally, in Canada, his country of origin or rather on the west coast in British Columbia. In doing so, he extends a temporal arch across the blood-soaked occupation of this “New World” (Nu·tka·; Klatsassin), to the beginnings, progression and collapse of industrialisation (Overture; Pursuit, Fear, Catastrophe: Ruskin B.C.; Win, Place or Show) up to present-day neo-Liberalism (Journey into Fear). An historical narrative runs through these works commencing with the expulsion of the indigenous peoples of North America and treats of migration, racism, the exploitation of resources and corruption. It focuses on the conquest, long since achieved, of a “distant land”, whose contemporary tourist and economic, self-staged dramatizations are presented as a figleaf (Nootka Sound; Every Building on 100 West Hastings). Here, the expulsion, annihilation and absence of the “foreign” also stands for just that repression which afflicts the soul of the Western subject in the form of revenants, of ghosts and horror films.

Ghosts, revenants, affliction

Stan Douglas’ works are pervaded with ghosts, revenants and nightmares, as created in 18th and 19th century Gothic novels or the Grimm fairy tales, and which were to be later taken up and elaborated in the writings of Freud and dramatised in Hollywood films. They haunt and are caught between the different times, places and stories Douglas interlaces with one another.

Sandmann, 1995

Thus, E.T.A. Hoffmann’s Sandmann reappears in the abandoned Ufa-Studios in Potsdam-Babelsberg between the period of the Potsdamer Schrebergärten before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall (Der Sandmann). In Douglas’ version, the white protagonist of this romantic novel, which prompted Freud’s theory of the uncanny, is a black narrator whose body and voice disengage and drift apart.

Nu·tka·, 1996

In the video installation Nu·tka· the ghostly image – interlocked picture line by picture line – of the idyllic landscape of Nootka-Sounds (British Columbia)  appears as the effect of a double after image. The two voices, which can be heard simultaneously from the off, sometimes speaking separately and sometimes together, induce the emergence of the “New World”, the suppression of the “foreign”, and the ghosts of the Gothic romance. “It is no surprise”, says Douglas, “that these narratives flourished during the era of high imperialism – when remote and exotic areas of the world were being drawn into the European orbit and providing […], at least the sublimated object of Gothic anxiety.”

Suspiria, 2003

Suspiria, in turn, interlaces forms and scenarios drawn from the brothers Grimm, whose fairy tales were to once popularise the idea of the German nation state, with the Marxian figure of the Communist “ghost”, which aimed to unify Europe. Furthermore, it is here that Douglas makes reference to Dario Argento’s horror film of 1977 and which bears the same title, to Walt Disney’s interpretation of the Grimm fairy tales and to two obsolete technologies of North American film and television history, namely, technicolor and NTSC, whose shadows seem to haunt the labyrinthine alleyways of the Kassel Herkules-Oktagon.

Le Détroit, 2000

In Le Détroit, the “haunted castle” – in this case, in its modern variant of a state-owned apartment block – is located in a place that represents, par excellence, the end of the age of industry and of the American dream: Detroit – the former flower of the North American automobile industry and at the same time centre of racial unrest during the 1960s. Whereas the demolition of the concrete settlement “Pruitt Igoe”, in 1972, can still be read as the euphoric prelude to postmodernity, the decaying ghost town Detroit, in which a third of the urban area lays fallow, still stands for the enduring failure of modernity – and for the creeping demise of Western “capitals”, both of capital cities and of 20th century Capitalism.
With recourse to the “Legends of Detroit”, compiled in the 18th century and according to which the city was under a curse as well as to the story “The Haunting of Hill House” (1959), Le Détroit takes place in “Hermann Gardens”, a derelict residential district of Detroit which, in former times had been inhabited by a predominantly black population. The protagonist, a black civilian policewoman (?), oscillates between her car and the eerie house in order to leave, to discover and to backtrack traces in an endless circle. She is constantly at work and yet it appears as if she had never been there.

Inconsolable Memories, 2005

If one follows essayist Ivan de la Nuez’s reading then, as a vanishing point of the Cuban Revolution, Miami was probably the first post-Communist city. Miami is also both the absent and present vanishing point in Douglas’ film installation Inconsolable Memories. Shot in a studio, the action centres in 1980s Cuba at the time of the so-called “Mariel Boat lift” whereby over 125.000 Cubans, among them numerous prison inmates, were permitted to leave the island for Miami. Here, Douglas makes reference to Tomás Gutiérrez Aleas’ film “Memorias del subdesarollo” (Memories of Underdevelopment), the story of which is set in the 1960s, more precisely, at the time of the “Bay of Pigs Invasion” and the first great exodus to Miami. As in Sandmann, Douglas has transformed the white protagonist into an Afro-American; an architect, whose inner exile – alternating between prison, apartment, island and “inconsolable memories” – is interwoven with the external (and at the same time absent) exile (Miami).

Recombinant narratives

Similar to others of Douglas’ works, Inconsolable Memories merges various periods. He achieves this, however, not solely at the narrative level of the “remake”. For what, at a first glance, appears as a one-channel-projection installation is actually based on the superposition of two 16 mm films of different length facilitating 15 variations of the montage between both tracks. Cut and montage both become a performative process, set in motion, live, by the machine. In Journey into Fear, the random-controlled machine recombines the repetitive action sequences between the two protagonists united on a ship with diverging dialogues, added to the actions as variable soundtracks. These “recombinant narratives” (Douglas) extend the process of the loop by controlled, yet arbitrary shifts within the montage. In Suspiria, the possible combinations between the place of the event and the actions of the ghostly creatures reach to infinity.



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