The Vanity of Allegory also features "Fragile hands
collapse under pressure" (1999), which is a byproduct of a special project
for which you commissioned a wax effigy of yourself from the
Musée Grévin in Paris. Since 1999, you’ve been taking
photographs of yourself alongside your wax double every year on the same
day. Could you tell us more about this project? What actually happened to
It’s a project I’m doing with
my gallery in Paris, Yvon Lambert
. I told Yvon that I wanted a wax model, and he said, let’s go to the Musée
Grévin and have their people do it. It’s meant as a very straight reversal
quotation of Oscar Wilde
, where Dorian Gray
can live life with no change because the painting takes everything. As
soon as I started this project, things started happening to me. I fell,
and now I have this scar on my head; I had an operation on my back; I have
another scar here [points at his cheek]. I kept falling down. So: the wax
figure is flawless, while I’m the one being ravished – the exact opposite
of the Dorian Grey thing.
Douglas Gordon, Fragile Hans Collapse
under Pressure, 1999
So, to document this, you have your picture taken every year?
I’m supposed to do this. Let’s say: yes, it’s good for the idea.
And what about the hand?
Well, there are others. But this one in
the show is the “fragile hand.”
Photo: Eva Maria Ocherbauer
Which fell off?
No, it didn’t even go on. What they do is this: they use a sculptor to form
the head, but the hands are made with a cast. It’s a weird and nice thing:
for the head they take an artist, so it’s an interpretation. The hands are
casts so realistic that they even have your fingerprints on them. It’s
kind of bizarre. So when I had my hands done, they said, oh, Mister
Gordon, we’re sorry, your hands were so fragile that they collapsed under
pressure [looks at his rather big hands]. They don’t look very fragile to
me [laughs]. So I kind of liked the joke. But, you know, the first finger
to fall off was my ring finger, which happened just as I was having this
break-up with my girlfriend. I like to read this as a sign. But then the
next finger will be this one [holds up his little finger], so the hand
will be like this [makes a blessing gesture]. Pax. It’s the nearest I get
to the Pope, when my pinky finger falls off.
If you look at the
artworks and the films you’ve chosen, there’s a definite taste for
camp and queer motifs.
Images like Warhol and Duchamp in
drag are part of the gay canon, just as
The Swimmer, Kenneth Anger’s
films, or Bette Davis in
All about Eve.
. Oh, I don’t know where this comes from. If you
look at my work, normally it’s not camp. I’m asking myself: where does
this come from?
Still, you make a great Marilyn Monroe. Would
you say that Vanitas also has a burlesque and sexy side?
I don’t know about sexy. About the burlesque: I would absolutely say yes.
Questions: Ulrich Clewing