Installation view, Doug Aitken, Sell yourself for nothing, Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Löwenbräu Areal, Zurich, 2005
Galerie Eva Presenhuber is pleased to announce a show featuring the new installations by Doug Aitken, the moment (2005) and lighttrain (2005).
Doug Aitken’s installation works explore human perception in a technocratic, accelerated environment, a world in which everybody is either constantly on the move or engaging in mediatized shifts of space. These works, described as “pure communication” by the artist, attempt to create new narrative structures that are outside the realm of linear narration. His video installations captivate viewers with technically perfect images and sounds that affect their movements and have them thrown back on their own perception by refusing them protagonists to easily identify with. For example, he takes almost static nature shots, where the “action” is focused on tiny details or camera movements and contrasts them with the accelerated image effects typical of our media and information society. This strategy opens up a space for viewers to become the protagonist of an inner journey of perception that helps them to experience a moment of immediacy.
In Europe, Aitken’s work became known to a wider audience in 1999 with his electric earth, which earned him the International Award at the Venice Biennale. A lone young man watches TV and wanders about the urban wasteland, recording the movements and sounds of neon adverts, vehicles, security cameras, and vending machines, until his body explodes in an ecstatic dance – his only way of arriving at a momentary experience of redemption in a world permanently flooded with stimuli in which he seems to lose himself. In diamond sea (1997), Aitken transports us into the wilds of the Namibian desert, where he goes looking for traces of human life in the sealed-off area around two diamond mines. He finds the robotic movements of prospecting machines, deserted monuments, and ruined remnants of the machinery of human civilization. In these restless minds (1998), provincial salesmen are seen speaking in public about their selling techniques. As they perform their monologues, they talk faster and faster, to the point where their words become an incomprehensible, absurd singsong.
The new installation, the moment (2005), features eleven monitors suspended from the ceiling, showing a number of people in places of transition, such as hotel rooms or airport terminals. Camera movements and each individual’s movements of the eleven scenes are absolutely identical, forming a pattern that links the people together while emphasizing their individual traits. As time goes on, the scenes are cyclically repeated but with subtle changes, uniting the people depicted in an imaginary landscape of movement. The work simulates a new kind of acceleration, one that enables us to move everyplace and no-place at once
The second work, lighttrain (2005), explores the effect of a transition from a sunlit to an artificially illuminated world. The camera follows purely people’s shadows: they only exist through light. The result is a magical story of ghostly, weightless, almost extraterrestrial creatures that seem oddly detached from their surroundings. A figure moves from an unpopulated landscape to a crowded metropolis, providing the viewer with insights into his restless, searching mind in scenes sketching out a variety of emotionally charged encounters and experiences. The change in the light affects the quality of his shadow. As time goes on, it is the light that becomes the true protagonist, as it fades towards evening and makes the shadow disappear – and the cycle of the work starts again.