Douglas Gordon Play Dead; Real Time 2003

  • Not on view

Douglas Gordon came of age with a generation of artists drawn to critiquing and deconstructing media technology. Over the past two decades, he has produced text-based and photographic works as well as video installations, often based on cinematic imagery, that investigate the construction of meaning and the notion of the sublime.

For the monumental installation Play Dead; Real Time, Gordon arranged for a circus elephant to be transported to Gagosian Gallery, in New York City, where he filmed it obeying a series of commands (repeatedly lying down and then awkwardly struggling to rise). Like many of Gordon's protagonists, the elephant is subject to greater forces, beyond its controL Simultaneously presenting several different versions of the scene, in front and rear projections and on a monitor, the work depicts the event from a range of perspectives rather than from a single static viewpoint.

Gallery label from 2013.
Three-channel video (color, silent), two projectors, two screens, monitor
19:11 min., 14:44 min. (on large screens), 21:58 min. (on monitor) Minimum Room Size: 24.8m x 13.07m
Acquired through the generosity of Richard J. Massey
Object number
© 2024 Douglas Gordon
Media and Performance

Installation views

We have identified these works in the following photos from our exhibition history.

How we identified these works

In 2018–19, MoMA collaborated with Google Arts & Culture Lab on a project using machine learning to identify artworks in installation photos. That project has concluded, and works are now being identified by MoMA staff.

If you notice an error, please contact us at [email protected].


If you would like to reproduce an image of a work of art in MoMA’s collection, or an image of a MoMA publication or archival material (including installation views, checklists, and press releases), please contact Art Resource (publication in North America) or Scala Archives (publication in all other geographic locations).

MoMA licenses archival audio and select out of copyright film clips from our film collection. At this time, MoMA produced video cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. All requests to license archival audio or out of copyright film clips should be addressed to Scala Archives at [email protected]. Motion picture film stills cannot be licensed by MoMA/Scala. For access to motion picture film stills for research purposes, please contact the Film Study Center at [email protected]. For more information about film loans and our Circulating Film and Video Library, please visit

If you would like to reproduce text from a MoMA publication, please email [email protected]. If you would like to publish text from MoMA’s archival materials, please fill out this permission form and send to [email protected].


This record is a work in progress. If you have additional information or spotted an error, please send feedback to [email protected].