About this artwork
Doug Aitken’s acclaimed video installations take aim at what it means to live in an age when human experience is increasingly shaped by the mediating effects of technology and an unprecedented degree of mobility. Many of his videos unfold as journeys through desolate places in which the natural and the artificial begin to blend. Others offer technology-inflected visions of landscapes in a state of flux. Aitken described his body of work as a series of “structures which move outward in different trajectories and yet share a connection.” He went on to say, “If I create a work which is intensely human, then maybe the next work I want to make is as far from that as possible. It is a constantly evolving process of point and counterpoint.” The three works by Aitken in the Art Institute’s collection—monsoon, thaw, and the moment—vary in their formal qualities and subject matter, but they all pursue similar themes. Additionally, they provide a sense of how Aitken has used the spatial configurations of his multichannel installations in increasingly ambitious ways to extend his films’ narratives beyond the edges of the screen.
One of the artist’s most understated and formally restrained works is monsoon, an early single-channel video. In 1995, Aitken traveled to Jonestown, Guyana, where almost twenty years earlier nearly one thousand members of the People’s Temple joined their leader, the Reverend Jim Jones, in a mass suicide. The artist had no other goal than to wait for a looming monsoon to break, and in the video the camera stands in as a patient witness, panning slowly across the ominously still landscape. Vibrantly colored views of the jungle, verging toward abstraction, are juxtaposed with vestiges of human presence, such as a barren road and an abandoned truck. The only sounds are a low drone and the occasional chirping of birds and crickets. The wind starts to blow heavily as night falls, but the rain never arrives. This potential moment of catharsis is deferred, and the viewer is left to contend with a sense of anticipation and absence, searching the landscape for telling traces of its past as the camera carries out its impassive surveillance.
Currently Off View
- Contemporary Art
- Doug Aitken
- United States
- Made 1995
- Color film, sound, transferred to digital video (monitor or projection); 6:43 min. loop Edition number one of five
- Gift of Donna and Howard Stone