Glasgow-based artist Stephen Sutcliffes film Despair (2009) is inspired by and titled after the 1934 Vladimir Nabokov novel, a story of mistaken physical resemblance, murder and identity theft. Nabokovs themes of power and delusion, doubling and gameplay are anchored in Sutcliffes collage through a prismatic treatment of visual material and sound.
Sutcliffe quotes a parade of society portraits, photocopied handouts from a lecture series entitled Theories of Montage, and Rainer Werner Fassbinders 1978 adaptation of the novel in a dense sequence punctuated by baroque music composed by Jean-Baptiste Lully for the seventeenth century French king, Louis XIV.
There is something predatory about the use of the moving image in the work of Stephen Sutcliffe – it is both determined and persistent. Gestures and movements, cultural legacies and histories are carefully observed, identified and cut-up. Severing with surgical precision, and splicing words and images together to present a mood or attitude, Sutcliffe reaches into the archive and pulls out his version of its heart. Mark Beasley