Doug Aitken’s recent visual installation sleepwalkers ended Feb. 12. In hindsight, thousands of people passed by the images projected on the walls of the Museum of Modern Art every night, many not even taking the time to look up to see the attraction. But perhaps this was Aitken’s point all along.
The installation comprises the experiences of five different characters as they wake in the morning and make their way to their jobs in the city. The film is not so much about who these characters are, but more about a character’s relation to their environment – specifically, life in New York City. The five films overlap structurally, drawing links between the characters. Aitken provokes the viewer to challenge the space that he creates, especially since the images were projected on the walls of the MoMA and were free and open to the public.
What this means is that people came and went. Some stayed for a few minutes, some stood for as long an hour or two. The ambient sounds of the city – cars driving by, horns beeping, people walking, voices mumbling, generators from hot dog stands, etc. all added to the feel of the films. The effort to signal alienation was not solely Aitken’s intention, because through the linking of each character’s alienation came a feeling that we are all in this together. And although characters are rarely seen with other people in their daily lives, one can start to realize how private our public lives are and how public are our private lives.
These reflections allow for a deep reading and reflection as we rise in the morning and make our way into our own cities. The form of the film comments on how mechanical we can sometimes become. The mundane becomes differently mundane, the universal becomes particular. And as viewers, standing out in the cold, looking up, we are forced to reflect on our own mechanization of life, and how the creation of movement in our own lives can produce a more calming existence. We are forced to confront the private and the public, and decide if there is a difference, if they have been inverted, or if either really exists.
© 2007 Myles David Jewell. All rights reserved.
Leave a Response
You must be logged in to post a comment.