January 16-February 12, 2007. A Joint Project of Creative Time and The Museum of Modern Art. Pictured: Donald Sutherland © 2007 Doug Aitken
There are a few loose ends I wanted to address vis-a-vis Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers, most of which were brought up by Tom Moody last Friday. My original write up can be read here for a bit of background, and the Q & A begins below!
TM: If the piece is supposed to be about a day in the life of ordinary New Yorkers, isn’t that ruined by using celebrities such as Cat Power, Tilda Swindon, and Donald Sutherland, in the roles? If Aitken wants to flout the conventions of cinema, why use movie stars? Is Sutherland’s “dancing on top of a cab” something ordinary people do, or only Michael Jackson?
Sleepwalkers is more about the symbiotic relationship that the body has with the city (both being nervous systems of a sort) than it is a day in the life of an average New Yorker, though ordinary characters represent “the body”. I’m not going to take issue with the fact that he’s used celebrities to play these roles, as I can suspend my disbelief, but I am rather skeptical of his practice of employing stars in light of his professed interest in thwarting the conventions of cinema. He talks about distrusting the “safety of the screen”, but I remain unconvinced that his choices are risky. The work reminds me of the suburban raver phenomenon, or “alternative music” in the 90’s, in the sense that he flouts conventions conventionally.
TM: Isn’t a “non-linear narrative” the ultimate art world cliche at this point? What does this piece do to surmount that?
TM: How do the moving images on sides of buildings differ from the corporate displays a few blocks over in Times Square?
Sleepwalkers is put together better than the average ad, but it never surmounts the connotations associated with being a projection on the side of a building. Were it projected on the apple istore, the piece would be indistinguishable from a mac ad. As it stands now the video is a promotional piece for Douglas Aitken’s thoughts on what video art should be, and while his thoughts on the subject may be more complicated than the piece, he really presents a limited vision at best of what video art can be.