Douglas Gordon on Feature Film

3 May 2002

My first encounter with Artangel was with James Lingwood, in a cafe, over a beer, on a wet, windy day, under a cloud, in Glasgow. That was in 1993.

Six years later, in London, we realised a project that had evolved over further drinks, in many bars, in other cities and with other people.

When we began discussions, we talked around and about the many possible and even more improbable ideas that I had hidden away in the back of my head – imagining that they would never exist outside of my late-night, half asleep, mostly-forgotten, hallucinations.

These included an idea to try and communicate with Barnett Newman's ghost via a seance from his favourite bar in New York. Seriously.

When I introduced this idea to James, over a coffee, he didn't blink an eye, never cast a doubt, but asked me, seriously, if I was prepared enough to enter a discussion that might involve terms unfamiliar to my own practice - colour, scale, aesthetics, faith, restraint, and so on.

Needless to say, I dropped the idea after some initial research, and that seemed to suit both of us.

As the years passed, and we grew older, it sometimes seemed as if we might never focus on any idea worth pursuing. I grew anxious but the Artangel team held firm and remained calm.

Eventually, about five years after our courtship began, we engaged quietly, and began planning my 'feature film'.

The making of the work was an incredible challenge for everyone involved - we managed to convince a conductor, his entire orchestra, a radio studio, a film crew, and many others, to join us on a venture with no real idea as to what might transpire.

I managed to masquerade as a film director for a while ducking questions from the musicians about "what was your last film, Mr Gordon?" and nodding wisely when the film crew talked in those technical terms that only 'insiders' would understand.

However, the making and doing of the work were a clear indication that our project would end soon. This was depressing. I knew why.

As I look back and try to remember the 'why' question, I realise that the most important part of the process was the gestation period we allowed for a project to evolve. It was a unique situation - then and now.

These days, and as a result of this experience, I do tend to imagine and attempt to pursue ideas, small and 'obese' - as one critic noted - without any curb or collar.

Anything can happen.