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Douglas Gordon’s K.364 at the Gagosian Gallery

thumb_308doug_1826434bGagosian Gallery   
After having acclimatized myself to a gallery setting smelling of baked potatoes and cheese (and the customary hungry reaction it produced in me), it appeared from the oversized reception area the various ladies working there were having a rather late lunch. After this initial observation I attempted to absorb the work. However before this could take place I was also struck by the number of security attendants present in the gallery. These men gave off a certain menace actually; resembling a mixture of the ‘agents’ in the Matrix and your local nightclub bouncer. Perhaps part of the shows Israeli subject matter was the reason behind their presence? Anyway this was not the most typical gallery visit.

The presentation and appearance of the film k.364 shows a mixture of two different features evident in earlier Gordon pieces. When you enter the vast projection room, the double screen (a split screen) layout, like that seen in Through a Looking Glass (1999), is mixed with the live recorded footage of the kind evident in Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait (2006). The screens positioning in the middle of the room encourages the audience to circumnavigate them. This is further emphasized by a two way projection.

The work is intentionally “coded” as described by Gordon himself. There seems to be a far more subtle feel to this piece, than there is too many of his previous works. It certainly has an impact, but is more of a ‘slow burner’. This is in contrast to works like 24 Hour Psycho, with its instantaneous impact heralding in the viewer’s intrigue.

The work’s subject matter involves two Israeli musicians, their names Avri Levitan and Roi Shiloah, travelling from Berlin to Poland by train, which is depicted at the start. Importantly they travel through Poznan ‘home of the celebrated Amadeus chamber orchestra, where the former synagogue is still used as a swimming pool’ a fact we are reminded of. They are going to Poland to perform Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat minor - or k.364 - at the Warsaw Philharmonic concert hall.

What we see and hear during both the train journey and then in the musician’s performance is a multi-screen display, which uses layered sounds to fill the space. The combination of all these dynamics help to support the films main themes, based around the relationship between individuals and their love of music. However this is the trigger in the artwork for its more significant meaning. This meaning alludes to a collective social history and conflict. The barren landscape we see on their journey, with its uncertain nature which it helps to connotes. The artist himself describes the underlying theme as being “the battle between history and the fleeting beauty of music.”

In my view the beauty of this music and the knowledge of historical violence work towards a calm reflective nature in the imagery, quite unlike any other work I have seen by this artist.

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