Wednesday, 9 March 2011

An Immersive Journey

Douglas Gordon k.364 installation view, courtesy of Gagosian Gallery

I walked into a mirror on my way into the space, but was mesmerised until a group of shrill American teenage girls bounded in hysterically, as only shrill American teenage girls can, and do. Otherwise, the Mozart concerto is exquisite, and one finds oneself sharing with the two violinists the beauty of performance and observation. The alternate expressions of glee and intense concentration on their faces is affecting.

It is rare to experience such an intimate perspective on an orchestral performance, unless a musician buried in the orchestral pit, but even then one is too entirely preoccupied with the nuances of one's own sheet music to worry about the fit of a violinist's trousers at the ankle. The conductress looks like Iris Murdoch.

k.364 is as dissonant as it is harmonious, a document of two journeys happening simultaneously, each with the same end. The entire film is a diptych, a duet. The first part of the film - detailing ethereally the journeys of two Jewish violinists as they make their way by train to perform in Warsaw - is free of music but not of sound, and even then, two soundtracks are layered over one another to denote the performance of a duet.

Music only exists when it reaches our ears, the subtitles say. Otherwise it is written notation, or drawing, or maybe even less: Gordon sets fire to the score, yet still sees fit to frame it. There is destruction elsewhere - the November 2006 issue cover of Awake! magazine, published by Jehovah's Witnesses, makes an appearance amongst the adjoining miscellany: '"Why?" Answering the Hardest of Questions' is its title. References to the Holocaust abound, clumsily or tastelessly according to some critics. Perhaps the allusion is a little trite, but as an expression of eulogy this exhibition is triumphant, mourning the great lost whether profound or trivial, whether lives of the great and good or the ephemera we collect, into which our identities bleed indelibly when we die.

Douglas Gordon k.364, Gagosian Gallery, Britannia Row, London WC1X, until 26 March 2011

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