artists & participants
Large-Scale Cinematic Installation to Be Projected Nightly onto the Facades of The Museum of Modern Art
Rhythms and Energies of New York and Its Inhabitants Inspire Major Public Artwork
NEW YORK, January 3, 2007-The Museum of Modern Art and the New York-based public art organization Creative Time present Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers, a major public artwork comprising eight large-scale moving images that will be projected onto the exterior of MoMA, enlivening the building's architecture with the nocturnal journeys of five city dwellers-a bicycle messenger, an electrician, a postal worker, a businessman, and an office worker. Conceived by Doug Aitken (American, b. 1968) specifically for the Museum's broad expanses of glass, steel, and granite, sleepwalkers was inspired by the densely built environment of midtown Manhattan and portrays the metropolis as a living organism fueled by the desires, energies, and ambitions of its inhabitants. Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers will be exhibited nightly from January 16 through February 12, 2007, from 5:00 until 10:00 p.m. and will be viewable from various vantage points around the Museum and in The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The Sculpture Garden will be open to the public free of charge during the month of nightly projections.
Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers was commissioned jointly by Creative Time and MoMA and is the first collaboration between the two organizations. Its origin grew out of discussions between the artist and MoMA Director Glenn D. Lowry and Creative Time President and Artistic Director Anne Pasternak. The project is organized by Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator, Department of Media, The Museum of Modern Art, and Peter Eleey, Curator and Producer, Creative Time.
"Ambitious experimental projects like Doug Aitken's take a tremendous amount of vision, resources, and belief in the ability of art to transform people's experience of place," said Ms. Pasternak. "Sleepwalkers began as a conversation seven years ago with Creative Time, but it was the partnership with MoMA that made it possible to fully realize this extraordinary artwork, turning the museum's iconic building into a stunning flow of cinematic images, and making architecture come to life with rhythmic human presence, for the public to enjoy."
"A project like this creates a very different dialogue with the public, who we hope will be inspired to think about art in relation to the city itself, and to the larger urban experience," said Mr. Lowry. "Sleepwalkers will be easily accessible to a broad and diverse audience of New Yorkers and visitors to the city, who can engage directly with an artwork in a vital and unexpected context.
Sleepwalkers entwines distinct storylines constructed around five archetypal New Yorkers, nocturnal beings who awaken as the sun sets, prepare to set out into the night, and make their way through the city to their disparate destinations. As they move from the solitude of their personal and professional lives into the chaotic and rich interrelationships of their urban existences, their individual narratives are shown in juxtapositions on different surfaces of the Museum's exterior, with moments of parallel synchronicity in their movements emphasizing both the solitude of their lives and their membership in the same urban community.
The synchronous composition and editing dissolve as each character undergoes a transition from the everyday to an abstract, dreamlike state. While walking down the street, the businessman collides with a taxi; he then climbs onto the hood of the car and ecstatically dances on it. The bike messenger drums on a bucket on a subway platform, quickening his beat until he attains a state of frenzied rapture. Amid the routine of her job, the postal clerk enters a trance-like state and begins spinning in a tight axis, accelerating until her surroundings seem to fall away. The motion of a roomful of photocopiers dissolves to reveal the office worker onstage in a concert hall, sawing a bow back and forth across the taut strings of a violin amidst an ensemble of musicians. And the electrician, following some cables running along the street, coaxes one from a manhole, knots it into a lariat, and circles it above his head in a reverie.
The five narratives of sleepwalkers are each 13 minutes in length and continuously recombine throughout the course of each evening, offering new juxtapositions of characters in a continual cycle. Because each narrative has essentially the same duration and structure, an ever-changing symmetry evolves throughout the night.
Throughout the work, Aitken explores not just the constructed landscape upon which sleepwalker is projected, but also the architecture of the video image itself. At key moments, the images break down into abstraction, sometimes into pixels that are the building blocks of most of the moving pictures we encounter today.
"Doug Aitken's use of the volumes, surfaces and translucencies of architecture and specifically the dynamic urban fabric of midtown Manhattan is brought to a new level of complexity, scale and visibility in sleepwalkers, the first installation that was conceived and realized for the Museum's monumental facades. Aitken envisions sleepwalkers' audience as active participants in the process of experiencing the work, engaging them as nocturnal movers throughout the city similar to the protagonists of the work itself," said Mr. Biesenbach.
"Sleepwalkers is a work of art that engages the turbulence of city life, interacting not simply with the architecture of MoMA, but also with the rhythms and energies of the city that surround it," said Mr. Eleey. "As one of the most ambitious efforts to place film in direct dialogue with the metropolis, it provides a multiplex spectacle on the scale of a drive-in for a city whose pedestrians form a significant part of its traffic."
Building on Aitken's interest in collaborating with a range of artists, musicians, and filmmakers, sleepwalkers features a diverse cast of actors, including New York City street drummer Ryan Donowho (Broken Flowers, Strangers with Candy) as the bike messenger; musician and actor Seu Jorge (City of God, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou) as the electrician; Chan Marshall (singer Cat Power) (North Country, V for Vendetta) as the postal worker; Donald Sutherland (MAS*H, Klute) as the businessman; and Tilda Swinton (Orlando, Chronicles of Narnia) as the office worker.
The protagonists of sleepwalkers take viewers through the physical and psychological archaeology of New York, through its subways, electrical grids, manholes, office buildings, and processing centers. The work's setting also serves as an artistic point of departure; filming for sleepwalkers took place in all five boroughs of New York City, at locations including the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel in Brooklyn; the Staten Island Skating Pavilion; the Lettera Sign Company, where Times Square signs are repaired, in the Bronx; a mail-sorting facility in Queens; the New York Transit Museum; and numerous other settings, including the streets of Harlem and the Lower East Side. In addition to many recognizable locations, sleepwalkers takes viewers to virtually unseen areas of the city, including the abandoned subterranean tunnels under Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, a long-closed heliport atop the MetLife Building in Manhattan, and behind the monumental neon lights of Times Square.
Eight projectors installed around the Museum will project sleepwalkers onto eight surfaces: five on the Museum's facades surrounding the Sculpture Garden, two that face west and are viewable in a mid-block open lot, and one above the Museum's main public entrance on West 53 Street.
Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers continues Aitken's exploration of the ever-evolving ways in which people experience memory and narrative and relate to fast-paced urban environments. During the past decade, the artist has created innovative contemporary video art by fracturing the narrative structures of his films across multiscreen environments. His work has been exhibited in museums around the world, including The Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and the Centre Georges Pompidou, in Paris. In 1999 he was awarded the International Prize at the Venice Biennale. In 2004, Aitken's installation Interiors (2002) was shown as part of the exhibition Hard Light at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, a MoMA affiliate.
ABOUT CREATIVE TIME Creative Time presents the most innovative art in the public realm. Launched in New York in 1974, it works with artists who ignite the imagination and explore ideas that shape society. It initiates a dynamic conversation among artists, sites, and audiences, in projects that enliven public spaces with free and powerful expression. Creative Time first worked with Aitken in 1996 for Art in the Anchorage 13, in which film/video, audio, and digital media artists created environments in the Brooklyn Bridge anchorage's vast chambers, introducing viewers to a range of new digital artistic processes through sound, moving image, and interactivity.
VISITOR INFORMATION Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers will be viewable from West 53 Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues; West 54 Street, between Fifth and Sixth avenues; from an open lot adjacent to the American Folk Art Museum that can be entered from either West 53 Street or West 54 Street; and in MoMA's Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, whose gates on West 54 Street will be open to the public from 5:00 to 10:00 p.m. nightly. The last entrance to the Garden is at 9:45 p.m.
Images will be projected on 53 Street above the Museum entrance, the open space between 53 and 54 streets, and the Sculpture Garden. A map can be found on www.moma.org. There is no seating in the Sculpture Garden and portable seating is not allowed. Food, beverages, and smoking are not permitted in the Sculpture Garden. Museum staff will be on hand to assist viewers and answer questions. Last entrance to the Sculpture Garden viewing area will be at 9:45 p.m. and the projections will stop at 10:00 p.m.
Sleepwalkers will be projected nightly in all weather conditions. The Museum's galleries, main lobby, and restrooms will be closed. The exhibition is fully accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
Target Free Nights, which offers free admission every Friday from 4:00 to 8:00 p.m. will continue throughout sleepwalkers. However, there will be no access to the Sculpture Garden from the Museum building during this time.
PUBLICATION The accompanying publication, sleepwalkers, contains essays by Klaus Biesenbach, Chief Curator in the Department of Media at The Museum of Modern Art, and Peter Eleey, Curator and Producer at Creative Time, as well as conversations between Aitken and a variety of artists, architects, writers, and performers about different elements of city life-from the lit signage of Times Square to a taxi-driver's-eye view of the streets. The book, like the artwork, explores the intersection of ideas with the constant flow of life and energy that is New York. The book is published by The Museum of Modern Art and is sold in the MoMA Stores. It is available to the trade through Distributed Art Publishers (D.A.P.) in the United States and Canada, and through Thames & Hudson outside of North America. Hardcover, with 176 pages, 275 color illustrations, and five black-and-white illustrations.
MoMA AND CREATIVE TIME PRESENT:
Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers
January 16-February 12, 2007, 5:00-10:00 p.m. nightly on the exterior of MoMA
Kuratoren: Klaus Biesenbach, Peter Eleey