DISCUSSION: In what ways do video installations differ from films shown in a cinema?  List the physical differences and use these as evidence to explain the differences in experience and aesthetic appreciation.  Think about the environment as well as the immediate space in which a film is shown.  Consider the types of film and select an example for more detailed discussion.  (1000 words) I am immediately aware of the difference of seeing a video installation in a gallery, rather in the contained space of my own home (tv/video) or visiting a movie theatre, which has do to with my own experience and expectations. I decide to use a video installation of Douglas Gordon, Feature Film (1999),  and compare it with a Hitchcock film, Vertigo (1958) for the discussion. I also read the chapter on The Role of the New Viewer (Elwes:2005) to understand the complex artist/viewer relationship.

I will first list the physical differences and then in the next paragraphs attempt to discuss these differences in experience as well as aesthetic appreciation.

Physical differences between the video installation of Future Film and the film, Vertigo shown at the cinema

  • no dialogue
  • showed in an art gallery as art by projecting the footage on to two opposing walls
  • the walls were black and the image was flipped horizontally so that the images mirror one another
  • film work focus only on the music conductor and sound of the music
  • edited to reinforce the visceral nature of the music with the movements of the conductor
  • almost as if with a fetish for the gaze and the hands and arms movement
  • as if an artist at work with his hands/brush – seeing the effort behind ( performing the music as well as directing a movie and or an artist’s work process)
  • without seeing the orchestra or Vertigo the movie, is to appreciate the music on a whole other level- does it challenge our limitations/imagination and make one aware of music/sound?
  • the idea is to show a film about directing a film – and could it also be to show the new digital technology that could help so much and giving the viewer a better understanding of cinema culture
  • Using fragments of movement and focusing only on the hands and face the artist shows a collage of ideas of abstract thinking about expression
  • the viewer will understand this work if acquainted with the Alfred Hitchcock movie, Vertigo – the tension for Gordon is between seeing and remembering and for Hitchcock it is between the exterior and the interior images, this then creates a form of visual thinking.
  • Gordon makes his viewer see – shows what is real in the film, namely a conductor busy directing music as played by a life orchestra – but we are not seeing that, it is only about what the conductor is doing – and the music makes us experiencing it.
  • Feature Film was co-produced by Artangel & Centre Georges Pompidou, Musee National d’Art Moderne, Paris as The Artangel / Beck’s commission in association with Kolnischer Kunstverein.


  • dialogue between many characters
  • showed in movie cinema, can view online
  • focus on many characters and scenes indoors and outdoors
  • music is s strong visceral force of this psychological thriller -swirling and arpeggiated chordal sequence of music score works with the scenes and the emotions of the main characters, as well as give the viewer a similar experience.
  • The harmonies contain references to Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde, another tale of obsessive love that ends in death.
  • Hitchcock is famous for having planned every detail of his movies to the smallest one, but he left the area of music open to Bernard Herrmann – this type of collaboration made for a successful career for both.
  • A film directed for the Hollywood entertainment market. specifically as a suspense thriller
  • camera Zoom techniques to give the vertigo effects was newly invented
  • Close up shots and point of view shots are used to penetrate the fear/ tension in the scenes and this makes the movie a good thriller, it is almost as if you see and idea rising
  • The story is a murder plot about an ex-police officer who suffers from an intense fear of heights and is hired to prevent an old friend’s wife from committing suicide, but all is not as it seems.
  • Hitchcock’s haunting movie could also be seen as revelatory about his own hang-ups about how we are seen by the world and how deceiving what people say can be – taken into account thinks such as our ignorance, our fantasy thinking as well as self-deceit.
  • This film was widely considered to be his masterwork.

the original soundtrack as sold by Amazon, it is 128 minutes long

Discussion of these differences in experience and aesthetic appreciation

In many of his work, Douglas Gordon has made use of Alfred Hitchcock movies as reference, inspiration and exploration. Feature Film was a commissioned work for the Centre Pompidou and has two versions, one a single screen, 35mm projection running seventy four minutes that can be seen in a movie house, the other, an installation containing a suspended screen with a two-sided projection of the 128 minute version of Gordon’s film (the same length as Vertigo) plus a copy of Hitchcock’s Vertigo playing on a small television set in a corner of the gallery space. I read on Centre Pompidou website that their cinema collections holds experimental films, artists’ films, film installations, video, HD, and now includes 1 300 works by visual artists and film directors from a wide range of geographic and cultural backgrounds. https://www.centrepompidou.fr/id/cL9bagk/rKna8M/en I also understand from listening to a discussion with Gordon on Youtube that he all most ‘discovered’ the delay effect of a VCR which made him intrigued with slowing down/delaying filming process to 2 frames per second, rather than the normal film speed of 24 frames per second. In this he saw how perception and memory images are delayed in the human brain – how an image seen now can be seen later. (Rossaak:Youtube) This puts focus on the influence of the image and how technology is still advancing film culture. I think that Gordon attempts to bring his viewer in contact with a purely optical and auditory experience within the space of the video being filmed in the way he did. I read that Deleuze wrote about a mental image (Hitchocks movie) used to invert the viewer’s perceptions of the sensory-motor image. He talks about neorealism where the characters themselves have become viewers – thought has come into play. I also understand there is the position of the emasculation of the male protagonist – a cliché very much part of the tradition of film history, one based on sexual difference and love dramas. This makes me think that Gordon has brought the idea of the image (character/ protagonist) to a space of aesthetic in Future Film.

Gordon use the same music score, namely that of Bernard Herrmann’s,  which Hitchcock used in Vertigo in 1958 and both films are film noir.  His video has no dialogue, only music done by the Paris Opera Orchestra , and cropped  footage of a conductor’s hands and face whilst gesturing an orchestra, which is never seen, to the lines of the music script. 

It seems the maestro is immersed in his own space, performing with and at the same time abstracted from everything (orchestra) around him. Bernard Herrmann’s score is largely inspired by Richard Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde” which, like the film, is also about doomed love.  Two versions of Feature Film exist. The one in Tate’s collection depicts Conlon conducting Hermann’s score straight through. The other version mirrors the use of Hermann’s score in Vertigo itself; when there was no soundtrack in the film the projection in Gordon’s work goes black, and a monitor showing a muted version of Vertigo is installed at an oblique angle. The installation version gives the impression that he is also creating a type of vertigo (an experience of disorientation and dizziness) as viewers try to simultaneously balance the visual dual between Gordon’s film of the music performance and Hitchcock’s engaging, fast-paced mystery. Viewers are never sure where to focus: They are drawn to the familiar film noir on the small television, but the large, full colour projection demands that they look at the conductor as he engages with the music. But there is no orchestra to be seen, and the conductor’s hand movements are at times out of synch with the music you’re hearing. Gordon hereby creates disjunctions. It seems this almost fragmentation creates a type of delay where the viewer can think about what is experienced.

Hitchcock also uses delay to create tension between the characters and the unfolding story. The viewer sees, through his use of direct close ups how a character, normally a woman protagonist, realises what is unfolding. Describing Feature Film, Douglas says, “it involves a slight but serious rupture in cognition by taking one thing from its natural home to another place, another time….(I am) taking this score and divorcing it from one film (Vertigo) and arranging an affair with another (Feature Film).” For Gordon, this is “an interesting game to play.” In this way he refers to our memory as our delay system and the fact that as a human we can exist in various levels simultaneously. Problematic mental states such as psychological splitting and anxiety (including hysteria) often become materials for his art. In Vertigo there is psychological disabilities including paranoia, guilt, deception, suicide, cross-dressing fetishism, to name a few.

The film was made in super 16 mm before being blown up to 35 mm. The soundtrack of the film, which consists of the music that the subject is conducting, is played at high volume. Interesting that this Hitchcock film was reproduced. When this movie opened at San Francisco’s legendary Castro Theatre during its restored re-release in October of 1997, a few months after the death of  lead male star James Stewart, it did more business there than any other theatre in the US that weekend.

Showing Feature Film at Tate, it comprised of two large wall projections showing the same closely cropped footage of a conductor’s hands and face. The projections, measuring at least 3 x 5.5 m, were shown on opposing walls in a blacked-out room, with one image flipped horizontally so that the images mirror one another. In the editing process the footage was cut into a study of only the conductor’s body and face, sketching his gestures and creating intense close-ups of his lips, hands and bulging eyes. The rhythm of the cuts in the film was determined by the rhythm of the score. In the movie situation the film tells a story of love, obsession and murder, and Herrmann’s score heightens the suspense of its gripping plot- the viewer experience these thrills. Vertigo uses repetition and reflection throughout – mirrors and metaphorical dream mirrors, sitting next to a self portrait, or reflections in glass of a window, blurring is used. (examples are:Judy as Madeleine’s reflection. Madeleine as repetition or reflection of her ancestor. Scotty repeating his former life. The zoom out/track in shots were done with miniatures laid on their sides, since it was impossible to do them vertically.
Uncredited second-unit cameraman Irmin Roberts invented the famous “zoom out and track in” shot (now sometimes called “contra-zoom” or “trombone shot”) to convey the sense of vertigo to the audience. The view down the mission stairwell cost $19,000 for just a couple of seconds of screen time.




Centre Pompidou: https://www.centrepompidou.fr/id/cL9bagk/rKna8M/en

Website of classicmoviehub.com

Eivind Rossaak, From Hitchcock to glitch – video lecture downloaded on academia.edu

Elves, C, 2005, Video Art a Guided Tour. Amazon kindle download

Tate and Gargosian websites

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