Doug Aitken: Additional Thoughts

by Art Fag City on February 5, 2007 · 4 comments Events

Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers.
January 16-February 12, 2007. A Joint Project of Creative Time and The Museum of Modern Art. Pictured: Donald Sutherland © 2007 Doug Aitken


There are a few loose ends I wanted to address vis-a-vis Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers, most of which were brought up by Tom Moody last Friday. My original write up can be read here for a bit of background, and the Q & A begins below!

TM: If the piece is supposed to be about a day in the life of ordinary New Yorkers, isn’t that ruined by using celebrities such as Cat Power, Tilda Swindon, and Donald Sutherland, in the roles? If Aitken wants to flout the conventions of cinema, why use movie stars? Is Sutherland’s “dancing on top of a cab” something ordinary people do, or only Michael Jackson?

Sleepwalkers is more about the symbiotic relationship that the body has with the city (both being nervous systems of a sort) than it is a day in the life of an average New Yorker, though ordinary characters represent “the body”. I’m not going to take issue with the fact that he’s used celebrities to play these roles, as I can suspend my disbelief, but I am rather skeptical of his practice of employing stars in light of his professed interest in thwarting the conventions of cinema. He talks about distrusting the “safety of the screen”, but I remain unconvinced that his choices are risky. The work reminds me of the suburban raver phenomenon, or “alternative music” in the 90′s, in the sense that he flouts conventions conventionally.

TM: Isn’t a “non-linear narrative” the ultimate art world cliche at this point? What does this piece do to surmount that?

Nothing.

TM: How do the moving images on sides of buildings differ from the corporate displays a few blocks over in Times Square?

Sleepwalkers is put together better than the average ad, but it never surmounts the connotations associated with being a projection on the side of a building. Were it projected on the apple istore, the piece would be indistinguishable from a mac ad. As it stands now the video is a promotional piece for Douglas Aitken’s thoughts on what video art should be, and while his thoughts on the subject may be more complicated than the piece, he really presents a limited vision at best of what video art can be.

  • toni jean

    I certainly agree your comments. This “sleepwalkers” art piece and Doug Aitken are boring. I have read many articles and Interviews with Doug Aitken. He is an ultimate artworld clique. I can’t understand anything he says, because he talks in meaningless artworld circles conveying almost no content in long winded art world academia language.

    Sleepwalkers is certainly not as good as the ads in Time Square a block away.

    Aitken’s notion of “non-narrative” and “non-linear” is the ultimate artworld clique for conveying “no coherent” ideas that are meaningful.

    If people view Sleepwalkers 100 years from now, it conveys nothing on “life” as it exists in New York City in 2007.

    This is not a representation of our culture today, or a representation of anything meaningful, except justification by the public artist people for giving an artist way too much money to deliver almost nothing.

  • toni jean

    I certainly agree your comments. This “sleepwalkers” art piece and Doug Aitken are boring. I have read many articles and Interviews with Doug Aitken. He is an ultimate artworld clique. I can’t understand anything he says, because he talks in meaningless artworld circles conveying almost no content in long winded art world academia language.

    Sleepwalkers is certainly not as good as the ads in Time Square a block away.

    Aitken’s notion of “non-narrative” and “non-linear” is the ultimate artworld clique for conveying “no coherent” ideas that are meaningful.

    If people view Sleepwalkers 100 years from now, it conveys nothing on “life” as it exists in New York City in 2007.

    This is not a representation of our culture today, or a representation of anything meaningful, except justification by the public artist people for giving an artist way too much money to deliver almost nothing.

  • Matt

    Doug Aitken’s work is merely a snapshot of a few inhabitants of a modern day city (it doesn’t have to be interpreted as NYC) so I think that it’s unfair to attack this art on the basis that it won’t be “relevant” 100 years from now. It IS relevant now and that, it my opinion, is more important than it’s future longevity or relevance.

  • Matt

    Doug Aitken’s work is merely a snapshot of a few inhabitants of a modern day city (it doesn’t have to be interpreted as NYC) so I think that it’s unfair to attack this art on the basis that it won’t be “relevant” 100 years from now. It IS relevant now and that, it my opinion, is more important than it’s future longevity or relevance.

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