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Turner prize-winning Scots artist Douglas Gordon a coup for the DCA

A still from Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon's k.364.
A still from Turner Prize-winning artist Douglas Gordon's k.364.

He won the art world’s Turner Prize in 1996 and has filled cinemas with a unique film that simply showed football star Zinedine Zidane over the course of a game.

Now one of Scotland’s most celebrated working artists finally receives a show in Dundee.

From tomorrow, Dundee Contemporary Arts is showing k.364, a multi-screen presentation of a work that dates back to 2010, yet finds uncomfortable echoes with current events in Eastern Europe.

Douglas Gordon’s k.364. is eerily prescient today.

It is the creation of Douglas Gordon, the artist perhaps best known for Zidane: A 21st Century Portrait, the 2006 film scored by Glaswegian alternative rock band Mogwai that captured the movements of the French international footballer for an entire match.

This work, though, focuses on the train journey from Berlin to Poland of two Israeli musicians, viola player Avri Levitan and violinist Roi Shiloah, who both share Polish-Jewish heritage.

They stop off at Poznan, home of the celebrated Amadeus Chamber Orchestra, to rehearse Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante in E-flat major – its catalogue number provides the work’s title – before a performance at the Warsaw Philharmonic concert hall.

A coup for Dundee’s DCA

It is the first time k.364 has been shown in a UK public institution, a coup for the Dundee venue.

It also meets a long-term ambition of its director, Beth Bate, since she took on the role in 2016, not least because it was originally scheduled to open in 2020.

Showing the work completes a long-term ambition for DCA director Beth Bate.

“This is the fruit of a very long process working together and finding the right moment to open this show,” she says.

“It means a lot that we’re able to show his work to audiences in Dundee. We’re really excited to be working with one of the most influential artists that the UK has produced.”

For Beth, Douglas was at the forefront of a celebrated generation of Scottish artists, including Christine Borland and Martin Boyce, that emerged in the ’80s and ’90s to become internationally successful.

Connects with people instantly

“Douglas’s work is beautiful, powerful, dark and joyful; it really contains a huge depth and richness of emotion and power,” she adds. “It connects with people immediately and k.364 will do that particularly.”

This work by the Glasgow-born and Berlin-based artist portrays on separate screens two contrasting journeys: on one hand is the musical story that culminates in a triumphant orchestral rendition of Mozart’s elegant composition.

Artist Douglas Gordon.

Facing it, though, is Douglas’s intimate portrayal of the two protagonists’ experiences on their travels. They muse on a close long-term relationship, shared backgrounds and their own families’ memories of the Holocaust.

Born and raised in very different surroundings, the dense, chilly woodlands they travel through are unfamiliar, yet passing sites of atrocities and great hardships makes a particular impact on the descendants of those that survived.

Power of culture

With both films shown together, Douglas explores wider ideas around the power of culture, folk traditions and music to cross man-made, often arbitrary, borders.

Alongside k.364, DCA is showing Dark Burnt Scores, a presentation of Douglas’s texts alongside the viola and violin scores played by Avri and Roi.

These have been charred and sometimes wholly burnt – representing the fragility of culture in the face of destructive forces.

k.364 is a journey in many senses.

These are important historical themes, though Beth sees the work taking on extra layers of resonance since its creation, through current affairs at home, wider political currents across the continent, and now a new wave of destruction and displacement in Ukraine, on Poland’s own borders.

“It’s about the concept of modern Europe coming out of the Second World War,” she says.

“This is the perfect film for us to think about shifts we’ve had over the last few years, particularly as a result of Brexit: how we think about nationhood, what it means to be European, having a shared culture and music being a huge part of that.

Gaining meaning from events

“It seems remarkable to me that it has gained meaning over the pandemic, a striking comment on how close we can be, our proximity to each other and watching live music together.

“Even more recently, because of Russia’s actions, we think of the impact of militaristic violence on nations and families, but at its heart it’s about the joy of music, performance and friendship.”

k.364 runs at the DCA, Dundee, from  May 7 to July 31 2022.

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