Installation view, Doug Aitken, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Maag Areal, Zurich, 2012
For its next exhibition, Galerie Eva Presenhuber is pleased to be showing new work by American artist Doug Aitken.
With the presentation of his video work Song1 on the circular façade of the Hirshhorn Museum in Washington D.C. last spring, Aitken proved once more his ability to identify and explore the possibilities for using almost anything as a projection surface. The video installation, visible and above all audible from afar, used the museum’s special architecture to suggest a unique, timeless loop of partly fragmented, partly overlapping moving images.
In the gallery space, the linear presentation of the work becomes a far more intimate affair. The basis for the film is a song composed in 1934 by Harry Warren and Al Dubin for Ray Enright’s film Dames with the catchy title I only have eyes for you. In the decades since, countless new versions have been recorded, each with its own distinctive mood and musical interpretation.
The central juxtaposition of music and image in Aitken’s work addresses the different possibilities for perceiving the two media. While music can only be experienced in linear time, images can be identified and processed in many states of overlapping, sequencing, and even merging. Rather than submitting to this reality, however, Aitken tries, in Song1, to offer a different, multiple experience of music. Within the work, the various strongly rhythmic image sequences, some ending abruptly and others flowing smoothly into one another, play the role of a translator for the many and varied versions of the song I only have eyes for you, always the same but always different.
Over recent years, alongside his films and individual photographs (that also have a narrative dynamic, as in the fantastic visual atlas 99cent Dreams in the artist’s last show at Galerie Eva Presenhuber), large-format lightboxes have played an increasingly important role in Aitken’s work. Here, too, as in Song1, he combines two differently motivated fields of expression, i.e., text and image. Here, too, Aitken’s attention is focused on the possibility of finding new, strangely fragmented forms of representation: the terms seemingly chosen at random from an endless store of words only cut out the areas of the photographic image covered by the outlines of their individual letters.
In his latest works, Aitken goes one step further. Alongside his continuing use of photographic likenesses and source materials, the surfaces of the works increasingly include mirrors, drawing the viewer and the immediate surroundings into a predefined form and occupying them. Other works display an entirely altered surface structure: deep craters are dug into the pictorial space, leaving behind a peculiar, seemingly self-erasing impression.