The street is dark, but lights can be seen through a few of the windows in the tall apartment block, while friends linger in dim light on the staircase. Nearby, looters have been at work, helping themselves to an unprotected jewellery store and young people are sitting, chatting, smoking and drinking of the steps of the New York Public Library, with lights coming through the windows, but the doors firmly locked shut. Stan Douglas’s photographs record images of how New York might have looked in an imaginary power shutdown in 2017. Little did he know that three years later the doors of the New York Public Library would indeed be locked shut, but there would be no crowds outside, no-one enjoying themselves, as they stayed indoors as part of the shutdown for coronavirus, with a different atmosphere with the streetlights burning brightly, but in eerily deserted streets, the silence broken only the noise of music or televisions from apartments, the whirring of air conditioning units and the occasional police car.
Douglas’s photographic series explore what he calls ‘speculative histories’, as he considers people’s responses to adverse and unusual situations such as power cuts and riots; perhaps the current situation perhaps gives him something new to work with.
Upstairs at the Victoria Miro Gallery, Douglas’s two-screen video ‘Doppelgänger’ explored parallel worlds. When I googled Doppelgänger I found an app where you can upload a selfie to find your mirror image in another place, perhaps another country. Douglas’s Doppelgänger comprises two parallel worlds which are apparently contemporaneous but in different universes with the astronaut Alice transported to a distant planet at the same time as her double makes a similar journey in a different universe. On returning home, she (or is it her double) returns to two different environments, one of celebration and success; the other of doubt and mistrust. These two world run on the screens side by side – a fascinating juxtaposition that challenges the viewer to question what is real in our modern world, again a fascinating work in the current crisis with all its uncertainties and claims of misinformation.