Scott Harding and John Medeski
Special six-sided 10th Anniversary Edition vinyl
Suspiria (2003) is the final state of a work that Stan Douglas first presented during the summer of 2002 at documenta XI in Kassel. In the earlier version, pre-recorded videos of scenes from the Grimms’ fairy tales were superimposed in a random rotation with live, black-and-white feeds from surveillance cameras inside the labyrinthian corridors of Kassel’s Herkules Oktagon monument. A computer mixed this material in real-time, adding sporadic narration and musical accompaniment, and as a result, an effectively endless number of possible permutations were generated: there were no repetitions during the one hundred days of documenta XI.
Further elaborating upon this work, Douglas taped the random mix of pre-recorded material and surveillance feeds in Kassel and re-edited it with additional scenes and revised narration. First shown in 2003 as a projected installation controlled by an apparatus with a generative algorithm, the present monitor version is derived from this system.
The visual presentation of the pre-recorded fairy tales in Suspiria presents a link with Dario Argento's eponymous horror movie from 1977. Argento's film was shot in Technicolor, a now obsolescent process which confers a lush, highly saturated palette to the material. Douglas’s scenes capture the style and sound of the film, and their juxtaposition with the muted aesthetics of the Kassel surveillance feeds creates a visually complex, almost delirious effect.
As Nell McClister notes, “Douglas’s overall project involves modernism’s promise and the nostalgia that results from its failure. With Suspiria the artist turns explicitly to a few historical moments of utopian aspiration. Referring to both Das Kapital (in which Marx repeatedly nods to a fairy-tale idiom of drama and transformation) and The Communist Manifesto (which famously opens with the 'spector of communism' hanging over Europe), Douglas mines the Grimms’ stories for economic and social allegory.”1