Learn about the process and difficulties of engineering a multi-screen rendering of “The Secret Agent”, in this clip of season 8 of Art21’s Art in the Twenty-First Century, as Stan Douglas and his team are preparing the screen production of Joseph Conrad’s political novel, which deals with the notions of anarchism, espionage, and terrorism; concepts and ideas that have been around for decades, yet are just as current in today’s society.
Restaging “The Secret Agent”, the first literary depiction of terrorists operating in the late 19th century, the artist transposed the story to the 70s, in order to discover hidden concepts in an existing narrative and draw connections to more current events. The exhibition is set up in Brussels, Belgium on six screens in a darkened room in the gallery, each scene shot from different points of view, but occurring and being played alongside the other incidents happening on screen. Only two of the six screens are depicting a progress in the story, forcing the viewer to focus on two scenes at the same time. That way, Douglas attempts to create a kind of confusion and uncertainty of everyday life that anyone can relate to, at the same time, he is able to make the audience take in two different ideas simultaneously, connecting the original setting of the 1907 novel in London and his interpretation, set in the 70s in Lisbon.
The artist goes on to draw a parallel to the topic of terrorism in today’s modern society, which is as real as ever before in the wake of several attacks around the world. He claims history is bound to repeat itself if the causes never actually go away, so with his work, he also wants to discover the possibility of these events developing in a different way and question whether society is truly in a irreversible situation.