Hors-champs, a two-channel video installation by Vancouver-based artist Stan Douglas, presents a jazz performance staged and recorded in a Paris television studio. The title of Douglas’s video installation borrows from the language of film. Translated from the French as “out of field,” or more colloquially “off-camera,” the term “hors-champs” refers to the capacity of certain images to create a sense of narrative space beyond what is immediately shown by the camera.
In Douglas’s installation, four musicians interpret Spirits Rejoice (1965), one of the seminal compositions of 1960s free jazz, by the iconoclastic American saxophonist and bandleader Albert Ayler. Alternately wobbling and soaring, plaintive and ecstatic, the music’s field of reference moves from the blues and spirituals to refrains of the French national anthem, all in a tangle of virtuosic soloing and collective improvisation. At the same time, the installation asks us to consider the relationship between the era the music evokes—the turbulent 1960s—and the moment of the work’s creation. Made in 1992, a year that saw widespread and painful rioting following the acquittal of white police officers in the beating of Rodney King, the work was dedicated by the artist to the people of South Central Los Angeles.
This installation is part of the exhibition Blues for Smoke.