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Thursday 27 May 2010

Johan Grimonprez at the Fruitmarket in Edinburgh

Belgian artist Johan Grimonprez was propelled to international prominence when his highly acclaimed one-hour video Dial H-I-S-T-0-R-Y, a smart, visually complex and imaginatively compelling cultural history of aeroplane hijackings, was first shown at Documenta X in 1997. In 2008, a first version of his new film Doubletake took the Basel art fair by storm.

After recently chatting with Fiona Bradley, the Director of Fruitmarket, this film is critical in understanding the modern world. Grimonprez is a politically engaged artist and really hitting the major topics of today. Read the interview with Fiona in Aesthetica's June/July issue.

This exhibition is the first British gallery showing of Doubletake which, like Dial H-I-S-T-0-R-Y, mixes film, television and documentary footage, fact and fiction, to make a complex blend of meanings and counter-meanings, this time held together by a narrative written by British novelist Tom McCarthy in adaptation of Jorge Luis Borges’s novella The Other where Borges imagines an encounter with his own aging self. The film charts the global rise of fear-as-commodity in a tale of odd couples and double deals that casts Hitchcock’s work and persona as central to and reflective of a world in flux. It skips, or to use Grimonprez’s word zaps, from image to image and from plot to plot, weaving together footage from the kitchen debate between Kruchev and Nixon and the presidential debates between Nixon and Kennedy; the space and technology race; Folgers coffee advertisements; episodes from ‘Alfred Hitchcock Presents’; reports of the Cuban Missile Crisis and an account of a fictional encounter between Hitchcock and his double on the set of The Birds.

Doubletake will be shown together with Dial H-I-S-T-0-R-Y and two earlier films, Kobarweng or Where is Your Helicopter, 1992 and the multi-screen installation It Will Be Alright If You Come Again, Only Next Time Don’t Bring Any Gear, Except A Tea Kettle, 1994. A sustained presentation of the work of this important international artist, the exhibition offers the chance to trace the development of his interest in the power of popular culture to create new mythologies and cultural narratives.

Doubletake is also screening on 2 June 2 at Film Forum - West Houston Street (West of 6th Avenue), with screenings daily at 1:00, 2:45, 4:30, 6:15, 8:00, 10:00. www. filmforum.org

Here’s what The New York Times and Variety had to say:

May be the most intellectually agile of this year's crop of essay films and also the least classifiable… Combines Hitchcockian dread and cold war paranoia in a wry meditation on the rise of the image and the commodification of fear." – Dennis Lim, The New York Times

"Galvanizing, elegant and wildly entertaining. Thoroughly inventive in its experimentation with the line between myth and history. As gripping a suspense movie as one of Hitchcock's own, and shows remarkable breadth of vision." – Robert Koehler, Variety

If you’re in New York or Scotland – it’s really worth seeing. The show runs at the Fruitmarket until 11 July. www.fruitmarket.co.uk

Images (c) Johan Grimonprez

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