Stan Douglas, the Canadian video artist and photographer, likes to think about when things go awry. This is the premise of his video installation, Doppelgänger, currently on view at David Zwirner in New York and Victoria Miro in London. As its title suggests, the work, which premiered at the Venice Biennale in 2019, is a tale of doubles. Douglas’s video, projected on two translucent screens, visible on both sides, centers around two parallel realities – two Earths orbiting at opposite ends of the galaxy, unaware that they’re identical to each other.
On each Earth, an astronaut named Alice is copied via stem cells and teleported to a spaceship light-years away, bound for a distant planet. Scientists at Mission Control are shocked, however, when the vessels, thought to be progressing deep into the cosmos, inexplicably return to Earth’s orbit. Unbeknownst to them, the Alice clones have actually crossed the galaxy, arriving on the Earth opposite from that which they emerged. The astronomers, a political official, and the original Alice together grapple with how to treat this uncanny other. In one case, Douglas says, “Alice is treated like a returning citizen who needs comfort, B12 injections, and bed rest. The other one is treated like a dangerous alien who gets quarantined, interrogated, and shot up with sodium Pentothal.” For Douglas, the work functions as an allegory for immigration, pointing to the artist’s penchant for deploying speculative fiction as a mode of social inquiry.
Image: Stan Douglas, Doppelgänger, 2019
Installation view, Victoria Miro, 31 January–14 March 2020
© Stan Douglas, courtesy the artist, Victoria Miro, and David Zwirner
Photography: Ben Westoby