Alexander Storey Gordon These Are The Days My Friends, And These Are The Days My Friends, 2017. Video. Courtesy the artist
The phenomena that we blame for making us forgetful and fragile; that we expect to heal us after a crisis; the invisible paradox that has been always attractive to artists, is time. Entropy and time go hand in hand, and when Alexander Storey Gordon mentions entropy, I think of failing bodies, the expanding universe; an increasing complexity of systems that grow into disorder.
The idea of entropy derives from thermodynamics and explains the transfer of heat from hot objects to cold, and never the other way around. It is also the only law in physics that ‘distinguishes the past from the future’
The idea of entropy feeds this artist’s interest in video glitch, the dynamic interaction of image and sound. It also informs Storey Gordon’s creative process, and strong interdisciplinary interest in differing moments in cinema history, from digital aesthetics to Brazilian Cinema Novo and Cinema Marginal. As audience members, we followed these references as the vectors of ideas informing and shaping the work, allowing the creation of their own specific time and space. This is reflected most strikingly in Storey Gordon’s use of film language, the sonic and visual rhythms in his work.
I recognise later that pace from Storey Gordon’s work in the rhythm of my footsteps, and the kinaesthetic movement of the body through the crowd on the street, while immersed in the inner dialogue of my mind. The exchange of looks with a stranger, the ambient noise of traffic and beats from the headphones of a passer by with a bright coat remind me of LaBelle’s Acoustic Territories (2010), describing how the sound of the street directs the pace of walkers, constantly interweaving the inner workings of the body with perception and imagination.
Storey Gordon’s work These Are The Days My Friends, And These Are The Days My Friends (2017) works with intimate experiences emerging from the fringes of consciousness. The video depicts crowds engaged in sky-gazing in Scotland’s public observatories, and the audio recollections of individuals, describing their dreams of two suns. The testimonies I hear become my inner dialogue as the body of sound moves across the room.
Do I believe in two suns? -I wonder.
Mark Fisher comes to mind, in the references to conspiracy theory and alternative understandings of the world, with images of the heliocentric system from school, BUT, the voice re-emerges from Storey Gordon’s work saying: ‘there was another sun beside it’ and another: ‘everything was happening before my eyes’. Many voices are heard now, selected from the universe of YouTube testimonials. The panopticon of the contemporary surveillance state makes us turn away from its gaze and question the source of light coming through the small window of our cell.
Gordon collects materials meticulously over years, with research drawing from a range of authors who have established interdisciplinary dialogues that are poetic, and inclusive to readers from differing backgrounds. This also informs those of his works that deal with the subjective perception of time, from the point of view of the individual. One such author is Julietta Singh, an academic who explores environmental humanities, focusing on queer and feminist theories and postcolonial studies.
Storey Gordon’s video works emerge from an almost compulsive urge for archiving and documenting life. Works are brought together by a process of editing film, and some of them are continuously negotiated and change from screening to screening. Storey Gordon challenges the idea of finality that many artists struggle with, in his work; he embraces the evolution of the work prior to and after screenings, as part of his developmental process.
The triangulation of artist-subject-audience is interesting in these works. In ANALEPSIS/ PROLEPSIS (2016), made during an artist residency organised by the British Council and Phosphorus Gallery in Brazil, Storey Gordon is astutely aware of his position as ‘the other’ through the gaze of his Lumix camera. He takes us to the streets of Sao Paulo that provide both familiar and exotic and novel references. Charting an Anabasis ( a journey from the exterior to the interior ) Storey Gordon’s film starts on the coast of Sao Paulo state near to where the famous settler João Ramalho was shipwrecked, to the centre of old Sao Paulo city an area called Se where we see footage of the local streets and architecture, old cars and residents. The feel of the film is one of a diary, and I relate here to my interaction with foreign places, filming with a hand-held camera that simultaneously captures my movements, subjects and on-going relationships.
ANALEPSIS/ PROLEPSIS (2016) begins with footage of what we assume to be Storey Gordon driving a car through the landscape reminiscent of some aspects of the North East of Scotland. For me, the connection is in the partly neglected condition of the road and the glimpses of the landscape we see in the footage. I am aware that my mind is making the unfamiliar look more familiar by bringing details forward into my consciousness. The feeling of melancholy is brought into this work with 1990s Brazilian pop music.
In the process, Storey Gordon also refers to Cinema Novo, or the Brazilian New Wave, preceded very quickly with Cinema Marginal as an even more direct, politically engaging and visually more diverse approach to film making.
The final film that we watched together was In-itself (2015–17), a work that took Alain Resnais’ Last year at Marienbad (1961) as a starting point. The subject matter of this work is very personal to Storey Gordon and portrays the house, garden and things that surrounded his grandmother who passed away in 2015. Through this film, the artist travels back in time and visits her home, capturing some of the familiar sights through rituals she used to perform in her daily life. Referring to structuralist film practices in the filming of everyday life, in order to counterbalance the illusionary nature of film, Storey Gordon’s film captured the attention of the audience. The work was initially created as a three-channel video installation that would gradually, over time, fall out of sync during the exhibition.
The audience pointed out that a video clip showing some garden clippers cutting branches of foliage in the old woman’s house was especially effective. The sharp sound of the clippers that made an appearance throughout the film created the rhythmic score referring to a passage of time: maintenance versus neglect. It brings the viewer back to the idea of entropy, but this time related to the ephemeral nature of human life, and the experience of aging from the perspective of family members trying to cope with their sense of loss.
What stays with me after the screening is a more profound awareness of everyday dialogues with inanimate objects, as well as people, that often remain undetected. These relationships shape the ways we pace, listen and bond.
Maja Zećo [Zecho] is an artist from Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, based in Aberdeen. She is interested in the political agency of sound in relation to personal identities of migration and diaspora. Her work is interdisciplinary with a focus on performance art and video/sound installation.
This text was commissioned as a response to SUPERLUX Screening and Discussion with Alexander Storey Gordon: High Entropy that took place at The W OR M, Aberdeen on Saturday 16 March 2019. Both text and event are part of LUX Scotland’s pilot programme of events in Aberdeen, supported by Aberdeen City Council’s Creative Funding Programme.
 p. 22, The Order of Time, Carlo Rovelli, 2018).