Horror in Real-time: Impressions of Hitchcock in the Visual Art of Douglas Gordon
Queens University Belfast
(at time of presentation)
Dr. McCarron gained the accreditation of Doctor of Philosophy in Film in 2012, and Masters in Film and Visual Studies in 2008 – both at The Queen’s University of Belfast. His doctoral research studies artists and art works that respond to the cinema of Alfred Hitchcock. He is currently affiliated with the Queen’s University and over the past academic year he has acted as module convenor for the university’s Introduction to Hollywood Cinema. He continues to teach Critical Approaches to Cinema during this current semester and his current research interests are in cinema and contemporary visual art, aesthetics of expressionist cinema and particularly the presence of Russian émigré directors in France during the 1920s.
This paper examines the presence of Alfred Hitchcock’s cinema in contemporary visual culture, and more particularly, in the work of Scottish visual artist, Douglas Gordon. The migration of art cinema into the gallery has been facilitated by both new technologies and contemporary cultural politics. This phenomenon has also been associated with speculations about ‘the death of cinema’, and the increased dissolution of disciplinary boundaries between the arts, generally. In the midst of these transformations, artists such as Douglas Gordon have been returning to Hitchcock-related images, sequences, and iconography with remarkable regularity, and ingenuity. 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 for these artists an important audiovisual lexicon of desire, loss, mystery, and suspense. This paper proposes to examine Gordon’s creative appropriation of the impressions he has received from Hitchcock’s films and how they inform the wider scope of his work, a labyrinthine edifice which organises pre-existing information into an autonomous whole offering the spectator a space to reflect on the contemporary world as a discerning subject. Of crucial importance to Gordon’s work are the many expressive elements and motifs in Hitchcock’s cinema – in particular, the relationship between mise en scène and the mechanics of suspense, time, memory, history, and death. With this in mind, the paper probes further the disproportionate amount of interest shown by contemporary visual artists towards Hitchcock’s cinema ahead of other, but no less important, auteur filmmakers such as Douglas Sirk, Vincente Minnelli, John Ford, Billy Wilder and Howard Hawks working in Hollywood hitherto the end of the classical era.