artists & participants

press release

In Spring 2003 Rooseum put focus on the relationship between visual art and film with the project Rooseum Universal Studios. Now, once again we consider cinematic art by showing Douglas Gordon’s pioneering work 24 Hour Psycho and a programme of films made by the controversial British filmmaker, Peter Watkins.

Douglas Gordon Ever since the invention of film, artists have flirted with the art form and a dialogue across the mediums has taken place. The avant-garde art movements of the early 20th century were all fascinated in different ways by the moving image and later, artists like Andy Warhol experimented with non-narrative, temporal film making.

In the 1990s a new generation of artists took up the medium of film with the Scottish artist, Douglas Gordon, being one of its foremost exponents. He was part of the first generation in Britain who grew up with film on television. Classic film and non-cinema presentation inspired him and his peers to investigate narrative and aesthetics within film, as well as the perceptions of the viewer.

Douglas Gordon’s 1993 work 24 Hour Psycho has today achieved the status of a classic. A decade after its production Rooseum is happy to present this important video installation for the first time in Sweden. The work is incredibly simple.

The artist screens Alfred Hitchcock’s 1960 film Psycho on video at a sufficiently slow speed that the whole projection lasts precisely 24 hours. The slowed down pace of the film makes the scenes seem never-ending and the famous Hitchcock brand of suspense is hereby entirely lost. Through this manipulation of time the narrative element is negated its importance and the activity of viewing is turned into the main theme.

In many ways, 24 Hour Psycho can be seen as the starting point for a whole new genre of art. Never before had an artist so blatantly utilised another film and yet so utterly transformed it. This was no reworking but a straightforward copying of someone else's work the only difference being its length of screening. It was part of a new culture of appropriation and mixing that extended across art, music, design and new technology. Authorship and originality became much less important than the uses to which material was put. 24 Hour Psycho, if not the first film artwork of its kind, was certainly the most direct and it paved the way for both the dominance of video as a medium in contemporary art and sampling as a method of new artistic creation.

Peter Watkins Since the 1960s Peter Watkins has been one of the most important directors within the genre of documentary film making. Throughout his forty-year career he has created a series of original films, known for their unconventional mixture of fiction and documentary. Controversial for their content and form, Watkins’ films are often critical of politics and the effects of the commercial mass media.

The films shown at Rooseum deal with British contingency plans in case of a nuclear war (The War Game, 1965), the Nixon era’s punishment of so called ‘disruptive’ elements of society (Punishment Park, 1971) and unemployment and racism (La Commune, 2000). Two other films depict the well-known artist Edvard Munch and writer August Strindberg and their struggles against the conventions of the societies they lived in (Edvard Munch, 1973, The Freethinker, 1992-94).

What is special about these films, and Watkins’ body of work in general, is the enhancement of the subjects’ controversiality through style and form of narrative. The established narrative techniques of the documentary genre are deconstructed and reused in completely new ways by Watkins: scientific quotes and the neutral comments of experts are juxtaposed with dramatic scenes and the slightly overacted, naturalistic manner of amateur actors. The result is a stylised and yet realistic universe that prompts the audience to think. This form has often been described as ‘documentary reconstruction’ or ‘documentary drama’ and has inspired a generation of filmmakers.

In 1966 the film The War Game won an Oscar for best documentary, paradoxically, as it is in principle a work of fiction. However the creation of reality was convincing enough for the BBC to ban the film. Since then Peter Watkins has continued to work as a filmmaker, but outside the establishment. He has also developed a career as a writer and lecturer. Lately his films have again received attention, a development that can be seen as a consequence of the general interest in documentary film making and the possibilities of images and the media to depict reality. Pressetext

Douglas Gordon - 24 Hour Psycho

Peter Watkins - Film programme in the Microcinema