Stan Douglas: Discordant Absences (2006)

Stan Douglas: Discordant Absences, Cologne: DuMont Literatur und Kunst Verlag, 2006.

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From the dark European woods of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales to the misty rain forests of Canada’s West Coast, the Old and New World distantly communicate through Stan Douglas’ film and video installations. In these circuits of exchange that link global to local, the past returns to haunt the present. Douglas’ installations are mediumistic machines that reproduce these circuits and transmissions in the guise of literary and movie remakes, Gothic fictions that crank the machinery of obsolete technologies. These uncanny automatons—from which an author seems absent and which enmesh the viewer in their mechanisms—only function, contradictorily, by invisibly breaking down. Much is concealed and revealed in this process of the repressions and absences of history, each work a complex moment in the archaeology of formation of the modern subject from the colonial, revolutionary and romantic period on to today.

I’m interested in what the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze calls philosophy as the invention of concepts. So I try to find what I call the operational concepts by which an art work functions—that is, functions as a machine. This is the deep structure that not even the artist may be aware of. Here, against a story of the relation of the degraded, mechanically iterated New World artist—and in this case, black artist—to the Old World, I attempted also to find the minimum number of concepts by which Stan Douglas’s very complex work functioned. I discovered two: repetition and suspension. These two concepts determine every aspect of Douglas' work.