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Monday, August 9, 1999 Published at 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK


Art's dark celebration of Hitchcock

Douglas Gordon's 24 Hour Psycho features in the exhibition

By the BBC's Ryan Dilley

Alfred Hitchcock may well have changed the way films are made - but his influence does not stop there.

His complex and highly-crafted movies have inspired artists worldwide.

Oxford's Museum of Modern Art is hosting a show of works - some old, some specially commissioned, but all delving into the eerie world of Hitch.


[ image: Hitchcock: An inspiration to generations of artists]
Hitchcock: An inspiration to generations of artists
The exhibition's title - Notorious - is not just a reference to the great man's 1946 thriller.

In the art world the director has achieved a special notoriety.

His fascination with the uncanny, with voyeurism, with the inner workings of the mind, are also the concerns of modern art.

Hitch delighted in creating complex storylines, each twist drawing his audiences further under his thrall, only to break his own spell and bring viewers back to their seats with a bump.

Stylised special effects, intrusive music and his infamous cameos all served to remind even the most unwary that they were watching nothing more than a film.

Such maddening trickery is also common to the arsenal of contemporary art.

"Hitchcock is a very contemporary figure," explains the museum's Head of Exhibitions Michael Tarantino.

"There are an extraordinary number of artists who use him as source material."


[ image: Douglas Gordon - Surface Mail White Portrait (1999)]
Douglas Gordon - Surface Mail White Portrait (1999)
Indeed, an extraordinary number of top artists are included in the show - from acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Atom Egoyan, through the American high-roller Cindy Sherman, to Turner-Prize-winning Glaswegian Douglas Gordon.

Egoyan contributes a video installation based on his upcoming "Hitchcockian" movie Felicia's Journey.

Cindy Sherman's 1980s photographic self-portraits also borrow from the language of Hitchcock.

Her Untitled Film Stills conjure up all the suspense and menace of classic Hitch, but like his films they make us uncomfortably aware of our role as a viewer.


[ image: Sean Connery and Tippie Hedren in Hitchcock's Marnie]
Sean Connery and Tippie Hedren in Hitchcock's Marnie
With Sherman herself in the frame, in an array of disguises, we realise they are not part of a film. There is no story, no before or after - just the visual cliches Mr Hitchcock's films have taught us to respond to.

Like Pavlov's dogs, we're left salivating, wanting.

Others don't just recreate the Hitchcockian, they build from the master's own bricks.

Copying? Well the man himself made a virtue of recycled ideas and even entire films.

Douglas Gordon has contributed his 1993 work 24-hour Psycho - the 1960 slasher projected in unfamiliar slow motion.

Those lucky (or patient) enough to catch the shower scene see Janet Leigh's ablutions transformed into a sexually-charged ballet.

Germans Matthias Muller and Christoph Girardet also monkey around with original footage, making what Muller calls "seamless stories" and "nasty, trashy, surreal patchworks".


[ image: Victor Burgin - The Bridge (1993-1984)]
Victor Burgin - The Bridge (1993-1984)
The duo draw out different motifs and trends from the films - Freudian trains, Oedipal mothers and elegant cads.

"Is there a Hitchcock world? Definitely," concludes Girardet.

A man's world it would seem. Muller identifies another common trend in the films - "explicit brutality and aggression against women".

Hitchcock's misogyny has long filled film and feminist journals alike.

Notorious again airs these charges, but the plight of his female characters has not diminished from the director's contribution to modern culture.

As a great film auteur he embodied what Michael Tarantino calls "the notion of obsession and the notion of manipulation" as fully as Salvador Dali, Pablo Picasso or even Damien Hirst.


Notorious - Alfred Hitchcock and Contemporary Art is at the Museum of Modern Art in Oxford until 3 October.



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In this section

Hitchcock's spooky centenary

A chilling moment with Hitch

Hitch's mark on a century

Hitchcock: A life in film

Dial A to Z for Hitchcock

The hallmarks of Hitchcock

Honouring the Master

Which raises the question...

What if Hitchcock directed...

Celebrate in Hitchcock style