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18,000 Dead in Gordon Head

by Clive Holden
Canada / 12:54 / 2003
sound / colour

“In the summer of 1982, during a visit to the my hometown of Victoria, I witnessed the murder of a teenage girl – killed by a sniper on a quiet, suburban street, in the middle of the afternoon. I returned a year later to lie with my camera on the spot where she died, and to roam the neighbourhood searching for footage. The title of this film comes from the oft-quoted statistic that the average sixteen-year-old has witnessed 18,000 murders, on TV and at the movies. ‘Gordon Head’ is the Canadian suburb where the film takes place.

“The original footage for ‘18,000 Dead in Gordon Head’ was shot in Super 8 film. However, before it could be edited the footage was lost, and it wasn’t until twenty years later that I found a crude VHS video dub. This wrecked, out-of-sync and damaged footage, with its strobing, water colour-like hues, was evocative of
the my marred and murky memories of the original event. It inspired the writing of a narrative poem, and finally formed the basis of this completed 35mm film.

“In 1982, as remarkable as the girl’s sudden death was, I also found it devastatingly normal. I’d already seen it, thousands of times. The state of shock that it engendered, was simply more of the same, a state of mind very familiar. As was the ensuing series of violent events that I went on to witness – until... a small, positive action broke the spell.

“‘18,000 Dead in Gordon Head’ is partly a treatise on the omnipresence of violence in contemporary culture, even (or especially) in the banal context of a Canadian suburb. Composed as a poem, the final work is a hybrid of several film stocks and video formats, processed to create a kinetic, lyrical collage of textures, loops, rhythms and visual rhymes, and in the end finally completing the work’s cycle back to its intended film format.”

Exhibition Formats

  • 35mm
  • Beta SP NTSC


  • art and artists
  • autobiography
  • film studies
  • found footage
  • hand-processed
  • literary/theatre
  • media studies
  • music
  • psychology/mental health


  • documentary
  • experimental
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