Stan Douglas and Diana Thater

The eponymous exhibition of Stan Douglas and Diana Thater investigated the similarities and the differences between film and video. The installation, which transformed Witte de With into a megacinema, thus became an artwork in itself, playing off interior against exterior, opacity against transparency, black-and-white against color, image against sound, and screen against off-screen.

Canadian artist Stan Douglas (1960) represents and analyzes the history of television and cinema. His works investigate technologies of image and sound as producers of culture, and comment on the notion of the spectacle and the status of the viewer. Hors-champs (Off Screen) (1992), for example, questions the mechanisms of television in the form of its music broadcasts. The work presents the performance of four American musicians living and working in France in the late sixties during the revival of Free Jazz. In Europe, Free Jazz was associated with the civil rights movement, especially in France around 1968 where it was even sponsored by the French communist party. In the style of French television productions from the sixties, the work was shot with two camera’s; the takes are simultaneously presented on the front and back sides of a suspended screen. One side of the screen shows a ‘program’ montage, while the other side shows a counter-narrative of the footage that was edited out. The work thus simultaneously shows what is on and what is off screen. Reflecting on the conditions that govern the presentation of image and sound and the techniques of montage, Douglas’ works analyze the relationship of the video or film image to what takes place off the screen.

Douglas presented five installations including Hors-champ which acted as the exhibition’s keynote piece, transforming his exhibition spaces into a cinema theater.

American artist Diana Thater (1962) creates spatial videographic works that explore the relationship between film, video and architecture. Inspired by the tradition of landscape painting and the representation of landscape in westerns and experimental films, Thater shows videotaped images of the landscape, broken down into the component colors of video: red, blue and green. In The Holy Mountain (1994), for example, the three component colors of a single shot of an image of Mount Wilson in Attadena, California, are separated onto tapes and rolled at different speeds. When the three colors come together, everything which is stationary, the mountain and the trees, remains in black-and-white throughout; while the clouds, which move, reveal all of the colors of the video spectrum. Movement and time seem to separate themselves. With this procedure of deconstruction, Thater investigates and tests the architecture of cinema as described by the French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, using the notions of “image and movement” and “image and time” so that spatial time enters, both literally and figuratively, into a relationship with filmic time. Thater’s greater than life-size video images are projected directly onto the architecture of the exhibition spaces. By entering the space, the viewer changes the image of both the space and the projection.

Thater presented six video works, transforming her rooms at Witte de With into a Deleuzian “smooth space,” into a rhythmic space without size or border.