Stan Douglas: The Secret Agent at Victoria Miro Gallery
Turning the motion picture around on its head, The Secret Agent does wonders for creative cinema. The short film astounds with a dizzying array of screens that bring layers of perspective to an intriguing story. Adding to its presentation is a series of detailed architectural photographs. These large prints give a sense of hyper realism in a gritty post-war Vancouver. With shots of high rises and hobo communities the series offers a terrific counterpoint to the movie. Both are equally steeped in stimulus; one distracts and creates multifaceted scenes while the other offers beautiful images to slowly soak in.
The Secret Agent, created by Canadian Stan Douglas, is an entertaining film about political intrigue and turmoil in the 1970s. The movie is shown on six screens, usually with two or three simultaneously offering insight into a scene, another providing a view of the main scene and the other showing a nondescript hallway, the outside of a building, or an uninvolved character’s face. This is all done to great effect as the viewer is given more from the subjects than one view. With a nuanced impression of every scene Douglas alludes to the subtleties and complexities of the political climate at the time. As a balance to this neck-craning masterpiece, there are three photographs from the other side of the earth. In post-war Vancouver the viewer is shown incredibly detailed scenes. With dark tones and subject matter ranging from the grandiose to the slums of poverty, these pictures also bring to mind the entanglement of a situation that is not easily teased out.
This exhibition is entertaining and wonderfully presented. The audience leaves wanting more, fulfilled but wishing everything could have been extended. The cinematography of the short movie is fresh and, even if a bit uncomfortable at times, pioneers an effective technique for storytelling.
Stan Douglas: The Secret Agent is at Victoria Miro Gallery from 2nd February until 24th March 2016, for further information visit here.