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 screen.
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.
ď24 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 appropriation."
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.
Also, Gordonís 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.
still from Douglas Gordonís One-minute Psycho