the mirror man: an interview with douglas gordon

The Scottish artist is flooding New York’s Park Avenue Armory to create a giant looking-glass surrounding the pianist Hélène Grimaud

By Louisa Buck. Features, Issue 263, December 2014, Published online: 10 December 2014 {post via The Art Newspaper}, featured image: An installation view of tears become… streams become… at the Park Avenue Armory. Photo by James Ewing.

Douglas Gordon. Photo: Robert Schultze/Mat Hennek/Deutsche Grammophon
Douglas Gordon. Photo: Robert Schultze/Mat Hennek/Deutsche Grammophon

Douglas Gordon first emerged out of the highly fertile 1990s Glasgow art scene but soon made an international name for himself, most notably by using—or in his words “abducting”—the films of others. His art world calling-card was the 1993 work 24 Hour Psycho, which slowed down the Alfred Hitchcock classic to fill an entire day; and three years later Gordon was the first artist working predominantly with the moving image to win the Turner Prize. Now he tends to make his own films, often in association with high-profile collaborators: Zidane: A 21st-Century Portrait, featuring the French footballer and made with fellow artist Philippe Parreno, premiered at Cannes in 2006; and he has also worked with James Franco, James Tiffany and Agnès B.

This week, the Berlin-based, but still resolutely Scottish artist (he returned to Glasgow to vote “yes” in the independence referendum), is working with the acclaimed pianist Hélène Grimaud on a new site-specific work which involves flooding New York’s Park Avenue Armory. The project at the Armory coincides with a round-the-clock display of Gordon’s installation Phantom, made with the musician Rufus Wainwright, at Gagosian’s new shop-front space, also on Park Avenue.

The Art Newspaper: What made you decide to fill the Armory with water and piano music?

Douglas Gordon: The whole thing started by accident when I was making a lithographic edition based on the eclipse of the sun in the south of France back in 1999 and [the curator and gallerist] Isabelle Du Moulin, one of the people involved, asked me why I was interested in lunacy. I said, “Well, I like wolves…”. And so we got into this hilarious conversation and she said that I should get Hélène Grimaud involved in my practice because, well, she’s clearly not a lunatic, but she has this condition—synaesthesia—which means that she sees colours when she plays music. And she also loves wolves. But it never happened. Then, years later, Alex Poots [the artistic director of the Park Avenue Armory] asked me if I would like to do something at the Armory and says, “Why don’t you do something with Hélène? She’s very open to challenges and as well as being a top pianist, she runs a wolf sanctuary!” So there were all these connections. I went to one of her concerts and visited the wolf sanctuary that she runs in upstate New York, and we start to talk about what we can do in the Armory. She says that she wants to play all this water music—Dubussy, Ravel, and I say, “Well, let’s flood it, I think it’s great to flood New York!”

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