Thursday, October 4, 2012

DOUGLAS GORDON "The End of Civilisation"

Douglas Gordon’s The End of Civilisation at Gagosian Gallery is a visually striking installation with three large video screens. The entrance to the exhibition is through a completely dark hallway into an equally dim and cavernous room containing the screens. Each screen projects different images from an abandoned British landscape. One pans across the land, and smoke is seen from a distance behind green hills. The crackling sounds of fire pervade the room, and one of the screens shows a burning object. The charred remains recall a funeral pyre in the desolate landscape. The final screen reveals the object to be a flaming grand piano.
The grand piano, an object of refinement, is ignited to symbolize civilization's demise. The piano represents order and beauty. Music is a complex system built to organize sound; one vehicle to do so is the piano. Simultaneously, the piano is also a piece of aesthetically pleasing furniture. These qualities combine to represent an object of high society and cultured education.
          The act of arson (demolishing the piano) and the panorama of empty land both communicate the end of civilization to the viewer. They also raise the question of what civilization really is. Is it an inhabited land, a taste for finery, a well educated population? It is easy to become immersed in the videos; enveloped by darkness, the viewer is drawn to the enormous screens and to the questions they provoke. 


  1. This review does a great job concisely describing and explaining the exhibit. Your writing is clear , easy to follow and I can imagine everything you're describing. I do find your tone somewhat detached or reserved. The argument you lay on in paragraph 2 is effective but presented in a cold and dry way. Maybe try varying your sentence length as well; it becomes repetitive. I think this review would benefit from more of your perspective.

  2. The description of the work is very effective. Going beyond the description of the physical attributes of the show, you build an atmosphere and ethos to the work. However, when describing the “effectiveness” of the piece, I feel we lose your opinion. You break down the the piece semiotically in what the elements in the piece represent, but i feel that the exploration in concept can be pushed further. What do you feel about the claims the artist is making? What is civilization? You make the work seem digestible for the viewer, but how does that content sit with you as a viewer?