Art Fag City at The Reeler: The Trouble With Sleepwalkers

by Art Fag City on February 2, 2007 Events

Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers.
January 16-February 12, 2007. A Joint Project of Creative Time and The Museum of Modern Art. Pictured: Donald Sutherland © 2007 Doug Aitken

Like most of the art world, generally speaking I am a fan of Doug Aitken. I am not however, a fan of everything he does, and Sleepwalkers is one such example. The multichannel projection has it’s ups and downs, but to read about all of them you’ll have to visit The Reeler. The teaser below.

I defy anyone to travel in this city for more than a few miles without seeing or hearing some mention of Doug Aitken: Sleepwalkers, the immense video installation projected on the MoMA façade through Feb. 12. Admittedly, the presentation is stunning: Spanning virtually every flat exterior surface the museum has to offer, viewers have the opportunity to watch anywhere from one to four channels at a time, typically from locations such as West 53rd or 54th Streets, in an adjacent lot often used to corral visitors on busy days, within the MoMA Sculpture Garden and, for those who don't mind exchanging a good film experience for a small amount of warmth, through a very glare-friendly window inside the MoMA Design Store across 53rd. Ryan Donowho, Seu Jorge, Chan Marshall (the musician Cat Power), Donald Sutherland and Tilda Swinton respectively play the roles of a bicycle messenger, electrician, postal worker, businessman and an office employee, and the film traces their rise in the morning and journeys to various locations around Manhattan. The soundtrack for the piece comes from the city itself, and the narrative construct, like most art videos, remains mostly non-linear.

Those are the sounds of a blockbuster hit if I ever heard one: Virtually no dialogue; no plot; no action; and it's about 30 degrees outside — surely droves of people will flock to see this movie. Indeed, I met about eight outside the museum, each of whom asked the same question I had: Why does sleepwalkers have to screen in the middle of winter?

One MoMA employee told me the choice was a deliberate attempt by the city to recapture the economic success of Christo and Jean-Claude’s self-funded The Gates, which generated an estimated $254 million in economic activity during typically dead tourism months in New York. While the city did not directly commission Aitken, it did fund Creative Time (an arts organization that commissions artists to create public works), which then partnered with MoMA. The organization acknowledged they were encouraged to present a piece in January as opposed to the already tourist-rich month of December, though they claim the project was always intended to be launched in the winter.

To read the full review click here.

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