The Museum of New Art
presents Douglas Gordon's One Minute Psycho, from December 16 through
January 24. Douglas Gordon won the 1996 Turner Prize on the basis of a
single work: his famous 24 Hour Psycho. First shown at Glasgow's Tramway
13 years ago, it was and will always remain the one work synonymous with
his name. It is Gordon's shark, his bed, his bloody head. Even if you
have already seen 24 Hour Psycho, Gordon is giving us all another chance
at what seemed impossible to improve upon - as he unveils his remake of
this seminal work at the Museum of New Art (MONA) this December 16.
Whenever I've watched 24 Hour Psycho, Gordon's slowed-down video
presentation of Hitchcock's thriller, I somehow manage to miss the
shower scene. I always arrive too early or too late, and have never had
the patience to see it through. Most recently I failed to catch the
ominous shadow at the shower curtain yet again, in Edinburgh's Royal
Scottish Academy Building, where 24 Hour Psycho is currently installed
in a major survey of Gordon's work.
Gordonís reworked masterpiece One Minute Psycho, in its two
versions presented in Detroit, not only allows me this missed viewing
but more, and all in the time it takes most titles to scroll onto the
Douglas Gordon's success with 24 Hour Psycho has oddly given him
the desire to remake it. As an artist, he believes the first try was a
failure on one important level.
Hour Psycho showed that you can't always appropriate,Ē he recently
confided. ďOr you can appropriate, but it's not going to be great art
simply by association. Part of me totally believes in anonymous art. By
making a second version, I make the first anonymous and the second the
When the artist announced he was remaking 24 Hour Psycho,
loyalists to the first work were baffled, puzzled, outraged, soured, and
in the mood of total rejection. Why do it? they asked. What was the
idea? A host of related questions were raised, not the least of which
was: what is Gordon's idea of a remake anyway?
He had been toying with the idea for the last several years, and one
motivation was to renew its appeal. The original 24 Hour Psycho
is filmed in black-and-white, not a very attractive medium to the
younger generation in itself. The difficulty increased when Gordon
decided to recreate the original not in the usual fashion of remakes.
The most apparent changes were that this modern remake was shot in
color, and alternately sped up to a minute rather than slowed down to a
full day as before.
It had been the
success of the first work that has made Gordonís second attempt seem so
foolhardy and frustrating. In imitating himself, he had to rise to a
higher occasion, but now constrained to a one minute playing time rather
than the original twenty-four hours. All this has not only heightened
the expectations of audiences, but also increased their skepticism.
Whatever the motivation, the fact remains that a classic remade with
such ambitious standards was bound to be subjected to intense scrutiny.
Comparisons are now inevitable, especially by the unforgiving older
audiences. Still, one has to be fair to Gordon and to his honestly
stated motives - to attract the youth culture, and to revive interest in
his earlier work.
In the final
analysis, Gordonís motives do not matter. One must judge the product by
the results, based on one's perception of this work on aesthetic
grounds. And on such grounds One Minute Psycho succeeds
masterfully. The transition of black-and-white to color does seem a
happy choice. Today color in film is so dominant it seems almost
unthinkable that a modern work, even of the darkest subject, could be
filmed in anything but color. Color and color tone affect the viewer's
psychological disposition and help determine the emotions a film, and a
violent film to boot, will evoke.
choice of fast-motion is deliberate, to mitigate the shock of blood
swirling down the drain in the shower scene, and to invest the film's
gothic subject-matter with an aura of comic gloom. Such speeded action
alters the tone of the grim tale into what seems a carefree holiday
adventure in the tradition of the Keystone Cops on acid. As now-familiar
images flash by they have become signs referring to the earlier work as
well as a twisted view of our new millennium.
Finally the success
of One Minute Psycho must be attributed to Gordon himself and to
his mirrored artistic vision. Times change, and so do people's outlooks.
Today's audiences are gorged with violent spectacle. The shower scene,
though still shocking and frightening, can no longer traumatize them to
the degree that it did in the original. One Minute Psycho is able
to penetrate audience's inner fears, irrational desires, and mad urges
at the attention speed of a Play Station gamer. This updated version
references the latest trend of shock art and horror film so prevalent
now in our culture. Gordon, above all, wants to communicate with this
audience; their pity and fear matter to him. With a condensed expression
of these mental states, the tragic drama remains here on a level of
emotional liquidation and dark indifference. A truly grand success and
approachable companion piece to his overlong Warholian original.
contributions by Laura Cumming & Adrian Searle