Stan Douglas returns to Remai Modern on February 3 with the opening of 2011 ≠ 1848, marking the second time his work has been exhibited at the museum.
As one of Canada’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, his multidisciplinary practice includes photography, film and video is characterized by imagination, ingenuity and a deep commitment to social enquiry. In 2022, he represented Canada at the Venice Biennale, the prestigious international exhibition that takes over the Italian city every two years.
Keep reading to learn more about the artist.
Douglas was part of Remai Modern’s first-ever exhibition
Douglas was first introduced to Saskatoon audiences at Remai Modern in 2017. His work The Secret Agent (2015) is one of his most elaborate video installations, featuring six screens on two walls. Douglas is known for the rigorous aesthetic execution of his projects, which are informed by intensive research. His combined interest in history, theatre, photography and technology has resulted in an internationally celebrated body of work. The Secret Agent was acquired for Remai Modern’s permanent collection, and it was the first time the installation had been shown in Canada.
This work is an adaption of Joseph Conrad’s 1907 novel, The Secret Agent: A Simple Tale. While the book recounts an anarchist’s failed bomb plot in London, Douglas’s version is set in Portugal’s so-called “Hot Summer” of 1975. During Portugal’s transition from dictatorship to democracy, the country was rocked by numerous terrorist acts by extreme right- and left-wing groups. Douglas’s work delves into the context of the modernization of political, economic and social structures, and the complexities of the promise of revolution.
Characteristic of Douglas’s multilayered and nonlinear video installations, scenes depict moments taking place both before and after a climactic event that is never explicitly shown. Douglas’s insightful adaptation acknowledges the slippage between historical record, lived experience and retrospection, foregrounding the importance of truth while problematizing any authoritative certainty.
“Stan has a kind of skepticism of the historical document and the straight archive. He seems to be most interested in the way you can’t trust the accepted history but he’s attuned to how it can still give clues to the past and to the future. Art gives you a way to find those things that sit outside the official story.”
—Curator Naomi Beckwith for The New York Times
He represented Canada at one of the world’s most prestigious exhibitions
Operating since 1895, the Venice Biennale is one of the oldest art exhibitions in the world — and one of the most culturally significant. Countries around the world choose an artist to host at their national pavilions, and while Douglas had shown at the biennale before, 2022 was his first time exhibiting as the official artist at Canada’s pavilion.
“I have a problem with the idea of identity, so in representing Canada, I’m not representing Canada —
I’m representing international interconnectedness.”
—Stan Douglas for CBC
Douglas’ exhibition was well-received and noted for its technical complexity. After the biennale, 2011 ≠ 1848 was shown the Polygon Gallery in Vancouver before coming to Remai Modern. Following its run in Saskatoon it will travel to the National Gallery of Canada.
His works engage with moments of protest and social upheaval
The exhibition features five large-scale panoramic photographs depicting different protests and riots from 2011: the start of the Arab Spring in Tunis on January 12 with sit-ins and protests along Avenue Habib Bourguiba; the Stanley Cup riot in Vancouver on June 15; clashes between youth and police in London on August 9; and the arrest of Occupy Wall Street protestors on Brooklyn Bridge in New York on October 1. Douglas created the images by combining meticulous and elaborate re-enactments of the events, high-resolution plate shots of each city site, together with aerial documentary footage.
“During my research, it took me a while to figure out where everything happened. I got GPS coordinates by referencing hours of Sky News footage of the event and Google Maps, and then I flew overhead in a helicopter and shot my plate shot. I chose this vantage point because it showed the entire housing estate. Once I had the backdrop, I had to add the protesters, police, onlookers, fire and smoke, which we clipped from video footage of the actual event. I enhanced the flames and smoke with CGI.”
—Stan Douglas for Maclean’s
The exhibition also features a two-channel video installation ISDN, an immersive installation that depicts a fictionalized collaboration between rappers from London’s Grime and Cairo’s Mahraganat music scenes. Titled ISDN, after a now-outdated mode of transmitting high-quality audio over telephone lines, the video imagines rappers from the two cities exchanging beats and lyrics in improvised studios, working across space and time to create music collaboratively. The total running time of the work is more than 95 hours, ensuring you’re unlikely to see the same part twice.
“Music is a model of how people endure time together. Is it a time of harmony, independence, collaboration? All these aspects play out in musical form.”
—Stan Douglas for Artnet
Learn more about his practice
With a career spanning decades, Stan Douglas has created a fascinating body of work that demands a deeper look. Listen to and watch some select interviews online:
- Stan Douglas on his 40-year career and representing Canada at the 59th Venice Biennale – Q with Tom Power
- Stan Douglas: Channeling Miles Davis – an interview with Art21
- A brush with… Stan Douglas – an interview with Ben Luke for The Art Newspaper
Stan Douglas: 2011 ≠ 1848 runs from February 3 – June 4, 2023 at Remai Modern.
This exhibition is curated by Reid Shier, Polygon Gallery and is presented as a partnership between the National Gallery of Canada, Remai Modern and the Polygon Gallery.
Stan Douglas (b. 1960, Vancouver) is a visual artist who lives and works in Vancouver and Los Angeles. His films and photographs have been included in exhibitions internationally since the early 1980s, including at documenta IX, X and XI (1992, 1997, 2002) and in four previous Biennale Artes (1990, 2001, 2005 and 2019). A survey of his work, Stan Douglas: Mise en scene, toured Europe from 2013 until the end of 2015. From 2014 until 2017 his multimedia theatre production Helen Lawrence was presented in Vancouver, Toronto, Munich, Antwerp, Edinburgh, Brooklyn and Los Angeles. Douglas received the International Centre of Photography’s Infinity Award in 2012, the Scotiabank Photography Award in 2013, the Hasselblad Award in 2016, the Audain Prize for Lifetime Achievement in 2019 and the Chevalier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Minister of Culture in 2021. Between 2004 and 2006 he was a professor at Universität der Künste Berlin and is currently Chair of the Graduate Art Program of ArtCenter College of Design in Pasadena, California.