The Fruitmarket Gallery is midway through staging a major spring exhibition in the Scottish capital titled Print The Legend.
With its theme as the American West, one of the most breathtaking features of the exhibition has been Douglas Gordon’s Five Year Drive-By (The Searchers) — a spectacular outdoor projection of John Wayne’s classic film The Searchers, set high above Edinburgh’s Market Street. The difference is that the movie is slowed down to match the five-year fictional duration of the action, the frame changing at a rate of approximately once every 23 minutes.
Faithful to the spirit of the drive-in (or drive-by) movie, this work is projected 24/7 using a Christie Roadster S+20K 20000 Lumen SXGA+ DLP® projector, newly acquired by Liverpool-based project team MITES (the Moving Image Touring and Exhibition Service). A technology resource for artists and exhibitors, this is the second Christie S+20K to be added to an inventory dominated by Christie products, and according to MITES manager Lian Harter, was acquired specifically for this event.
MITES became involved with Print The Legend, which is curated by Patricia Bickers, in view of their past association with Fiona Bradley, The Fruitmarket Gallery’s director. “We have worked with Fruitmarket in the past but this is the biggest event we have undertaken with them,” said Ms. Harter.
She said the success of a unique presentation that becomes breathtaking after dusk was a tribute to the relationship between MITES’ technician Alex Gibson and the Gallery’s manager (and AV technician) Matt Kelly following the initial site test. Fitted with a 1.5-2.1 zoom lens the Roadster S+20K has to fire diagonally over a 16.5m distance, from the second floor of the City Art Centre building opposite.
According to Kelly, “The room is perfect for the projector as it had two large windows looking out into the gap site where the screen was to be constructed; the room could also be locked which meant all the equipment would be safe and secure; in fact the City Art Centre were very accommodating.”
The Fruitmarket Gallery worked with The Big Advert Company and KC Scaffolding, who designed a buttress scaffold ground support structure for the 12m wide by 9m high screen — positioned 4m off the ground — utilising the corner of the gap site. They used ten ties to the adjacent building, each tested to 6.5 Kilonewtons, while the PVC skin screen was then installed by GESS to the purpose-built scaffold frame. “As a result the image can be seen clearly from various positions around the city, the east end of Princes Street, The Bridges and Calton Hill.”
To accomplish this the Gallery had to bring in a three-phase power supply.
Douglas Gordon’s Five Year Drive-By was first shown in Twentynine Palms, California in 1998. The artwork was sited near a functioning drive-in cinema, the idea being that people would drive to this area, see a movie and then see the artwork.
In Edinburgh the work runs from a Pioneer V7300 DVD player that is controlled by a purpose built synch unit that slows down the playback so that it takes five years to play the whole film. With the aid of Dataton Watchout processing, over the entire ten-week exhibition just under three minutes of the film will have been broadcast.
Summarised Matt Kelly: “We have been very impressed with the brightness and clarity of the projector — which is the most powerful projector that I have ever used. From working with Alex Gibson at MITES I feel very confident about using this spec of equipment in the future, as it was very user friendly.
“This is the first time I have worked with MITES — and I hope it is the first of many as it has been a pleasure.”
And as a tailpiece, he added this comment from a Gallery visitor: “It is brilliant to see clever public art with a sense of humour. I noticed Douglas Gordon’s, Five Year Drive By on my way home on the bus. It was so vivid and cheered up the mundane daily commute and made me smile.”
How The Fruitmarket Gallery Funded The Project
The Gallery is revenue funded by the Scottish Arts Council. It is able to allocate a budget toward exhibitions, but must raise an additional £150,000 each year towards the exhibition costs..
While this is a relatively expensive work to present, the Gallery committed to making it part of the exhibition, juggled budgets to enable this to happen and sought the best deals it could from the suppliers concerned. The scaffold and screen were vastly reduced in price and the projector was also lent by MITES on a very competitive basis. The Gallery also received a donation toward costs of the piece from Edinburgh College of Art, where Gordon is a Research Fellow.