Doug Aitken’s “Urban Earthwork”
The Seattle Art Museum revealed artist Doug Aitken’s MIRROR last weekend, a responsive, permanent installation on the exterior of the museum that utilizes an expansive collection of moving images to reflect local life. Aitken explains:
“I was interested in the idea of creating a living museum, a downtown building that could change in real time in relation to the environment around it. It‘s like an urban earthwork.”
The narrative that unfolds on the exterior of the museum relies on hundreds of hours of footage that Aitken filmed at various locations in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, capturing both natural and manmade environments, such as the snow-covered Cascade Mountains, the city’s skyscrapers, and workers assembling jets on the floor of a Boeing factory. The imagery moves across the building’s facade both horizontally and vertically, creating kaleidoscopic patterns that combine and overlap. Sensors placed just outside the museum capture real-time conditions—automobile traffic, pedestrian movement, weather, and so on—that effect the sequence and rhythm of the vignettes with the help of a custom computer algorithm. When interviewed by Wired magazine Aiken explains,
“I was interested in seeing if there was a way to allow the moving image to create a constantly new and changing composition. In MIRROR, imagery at times is abstract and moves in an almost musical tempo. The work generates its own tempos and patterns feeding off the landscape, movement, temperature, light or darkness, wind or many other live organic things around it.”
Read more and see images of MIRROR–Doug Aitken’s first permanent installation for a public museum–here.