Belgian artist and MFA Fine Arts Department faculty member Johan Grimonprez is having a moment…or two. Just as his current exhibition, “Double Take” at the Sean Kelly Gallery, is getting positive attention from the media, the show’s eponymous experimental film has been singled out as one of the highlights of the 2009 Berlin Film Festival.
Just before heading off to Los Angeles in advance of a Double Take screening at the Hammer Museum, Grimonprez spoke to the Briefs about his work:
What is the central idea of Double Take?
I take on the Hollywood icon of Alfred Hitchcock as he’s been viewed through TV. I zoom in on a specific period, the end of the 50s/start of 60s, and compare the Hitchcock of cinema and the Hitchcock of TV. I found a professional Hitchcock double who’s been doing this for 20 years, and he becomes the mirror, embodying another Hitchcock. So there’s a lot about doubling – the media is already the doubling of reality.
A lot of Double Take’s focus is on politics and mass media in the 1950s and 80s.
That’s the political layer, the changes that TV would embody and the lies it would embody, including the paranoia about Communism spreading in the U.S. that was spread through TV. The whole subject of nuclear proliferation in the 50s and 60s, they were drilling people with this industry of fear. Eisenhower was warning people about the danger of Russia attacking us. It’s the same thing now with Iran. Fear becomes a commodity to sell to the American public. The 60s was a mirror of the 80s, with Reagan and Gorbachev. I mirror those in the film.
Tell me about the film’s big moment at the Berlin Film Festival.
I was surprised! It was one of 10 films mentioned out of 500. It’s interesting to be part of the film world: the premiere there was at a film festival, and here in NYC it was at an art gallery. So I’m part of both the film world and the art world.