Stan Douglas’s exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery presented the world premiere of the artist’s latest work Journey into Fear (2001).
Using cinema techniques, Douglas creates emotionally intense experiences that draw the viewer into the psychologies of his subjects as well as the social, political and historical landscapes they inhabit. The Serpentine Gallery presented the world premiere of Douglas’s work Journey Into Fear (2001) as well as two films never previously seen in the UK: the artist’s landmark works Der Sandmann (1995) and Le Détroit (1999-2000). Photographs relating to each of the films were also included in the exhibition.
As is the case with all of his work, Douglas’s Der Sandman reworks existing narratives from diverse sources. Filmed in the historic Babelsberg studios in Potsdam, it is based on the horror story of the same name by the 18th century German Romantic author ETA Hoffman. Evoking the classic German Expressionist films of the 1920s, it is set conjointly in an imaginary workers’ allotment of the early 70s and in the same allotment after the fall of the Berlin Wall. It explores the workings of repressed memories both on a personal and collective level.
Le Détroit (1999-2000) is reminiscent of a classic film noir: the camera follows a young woman as she searches an abandoned house for something that remains a mystery to the viewer. An unidentified footstep, a door slamming shut and the lights going out give clues – but to what? The viewer’s expectation of a mystery about to be resolved is constantly frustrated. In a six-minute looped sequence with endless variations, Douglas takes the viewer into the heart of modern Detroit, a city haunted by dilapidation and unemployment and marked by traces of race and class conflict.
Journey Into Fear (2001) is based on two feature films of the same title: Norman Foster’s 1941 WWII thriller and Daniel Mann’s 1975 remake. In Douglas’ version, a man and a woman argue in a cramped cabin of a container ship. The dialogue reveals their tension and it becomes clear that their exchange is cyclical. Although the scenes and actions recur, the dialogue changes almost continuously, presenting a seemingly infinite number of variations.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the digital television channel Artsworld broadcast excerpts from Journey into Fear.