Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Douglas Gordon - Meaning and Location

Douglas Gordon Meaning and Location
Installation view at Tate Britain

In Douglas Gordon's early text work Meaning and Location the artist has taken a passage from the Gospel of Luke (Luke 23;43) and created a cyclical composition in which, at first glance, the text comes round on itself and repeats. The simple shift of a comma, however, demonstrates the change in meaning made possible by such a slight alteration:
Truly I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.
Truly I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise.
The phrase itself is an oft quoted promise, purportedly made by Jesus on the cross to the repentant thief, crucified with him. The work calls into question the possibility of exegesis of this text  in the face of such ambiguity. This change in meaning, simply caused by the change in the comma's location, draws attention to the specificity of our grammatical system. The book of Luke is translated into English from an ancient Greek manuscript, here documenting words presumably spoken in Aramaic; how can we hope to be sure of the intended meaning of these words?

Installation view at University College London