Pocket Telepathy


Douglas Gordon’s work Pocket Telepathy involves of a slide of a hypnotist that is placed into the coats of gallery visitors without their knowledge. The hypnotist has a ruddy and wild expression with his hand raised up near his forehead with outstretched fingers, suggestive of mental energy radiating out from under his skulls to capture attention of viewers. Many viewers felt that something was taken from them, that the experience of finding an object in their coat pockets was less of a gift and more of a tricky violation. Douglas Gordon has worked with postcards as conceptual art objects/ideas. Gordon’s A4 format book g incorporates A5 perforated postcards, in which a number of postcards consist of minimal visuals consisting of monochromatic telepathetic texts, such as: “I am aware of who you are and what you do.”1Other pages in g simply enlarge the coloured text postcards so that they are also represented as whole A4 pages. Another example of Gordon’s somewhat disturbing and precognitive suggestions, appearing on page 155 of g, suggests that Gordon identifies as telepathic to first person readers in the statement “I am aware of what you have done.” An image used in another tear-out postcard in g is the same image of a mind reader used in Gordon’s interactive artwork Pocket Telepathy.2 Gordon’s work with telepathic postcards resonates with Jacques Derrida text Telepathie, which ‘fell off’ his better known text La carte Postal, as well as the mail art precedents of Fluxus and the global art collective The Eternal Network who also combined their interest in mail art with telepathy and hypnosis.



  1. Douglas Gordon, Douglas Gordon Black Spot (London: Tate Gallery, 2000) 152.
  2. Douglas Gordon’s Pocket Telepathy sets up a situation of compulsory interactivity and subtle forms of thought insertion. The image of the mind reader is inserted into the coat pockets of gallery goers without their knowledge as they are hung in the cloakroom. Most of the surprised participants could not help but check their coats in fear that something was taken as well. Douglas explains the psychical trade, group interactivity and ‘second hand thought’ in Pocket Telepathy “I thought this might be interesting for people to play with – parallel thoughts and residual power.” Douglas Gordon, and Jan Debbaut [conversation between the authors, annotated by Francis McKee], “…in conversation: jan debbaut and douglas gordon,” Kidnapping, by Douglas Gordon et al., ed. Marente Bloemheuval (Eindhoven: Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, 1998) 11-55, 22. Rather than sell people a work of art, Gordon experimented with giving people a work of art as a way to create conceptual residue. Treister’s readily consumable No Other Symptoms works with the currency of affordable book store commodity rather than gift exchange, but both explore objects as possessions that can be possessed, and can in turn possess people.