Doug Aitken

Doug Aitken

The Nomadic Studio

In this interview featuring extracts from Doug Aitken’s visually stunning videos, the American multimedia artist offers insight into his captivating work and how he learns from “watching things become a car crash in slow motion.”

“In some kind of freaky, activist way I wanted to do something that was artist driven.” On the subject of his project ‘Station to Station’ (2015), Aitken states that it was made out of necessity, as he felt frustrated by how different art forms were needlessly disconnected: “All these dialogues were kind of isolated and ghettoized in a way.” He wanted to create something in constant motion and in complete ignorance of the separation between the different mediums. This resulted in a 4000 miles train journey from New York to San Francisco with stops at every station along the way, each with a different happening: “The ambition was to use each of these locations like a one-day ‘kunsthalle’.” Moreover, by creating this “nomadic studio,” Aitken felt that he was giving back the power to the artists and minimizing the distance between the audience and what they encountered: “As the project gained momentum, it became owned by everyone who was part of it … it was this kind of explosion of creativity.”

Aitken is interested in breaking separation and opening up a dialogue: “The idea of dialogue is incredibly attractive. I’ve never really seen art as being only a singular thing.” As an artist, he keeps coming back for more out of a sense of “trying to discover where you’re positioned” and bringing about unforeseen revelations. He furthermore compares the creative process to a tree – always moving and developing into several directions at once, but also presenting the possibility of going very far out one particular branch. In continuation of this, Aitken feels that if you’re lucky, you reach a point where the artwork takes over, allowing you to move on: “You don’t really complete a work. The work completes itself.”

Doug Aitken (b. 1968) is an American artist and filmmaker, who explores every medium from film and installations to architectural inventions. Aitken’s work has been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world, such as at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art and MoMA in New York, Serpentine Gallery in London and Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris. He is the recipient of prestigious awards such as the International Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1999 for the installation ‘Electric Earth’ and the 2013 Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award: Visual Arts. For more about Aitken and his work see: http://www.dougaitkenworkshop.com/

Doug Aitken was interviewed by Christian Lund at Peder Lund Gallery in Oslo, Norway in January 2016 in connection to his exhibition ‘Twilight’. Extracts from a selection of Doug Aitken’s video projects are shown during the interview, including the feature film trailer ‘Station to Station’ (2015). For more about this project see: http://stationtostation.com/

Camera: Simon Weyhe
Produced by: Christian Lund
Edited by: Klaus Elmer
Cover photo: From Doug Aitken’s ‘Altered Earth’ – Performance with Terry Riley, 2012
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2016

  • Clemens Setz

    When and Where I Write

    Austrian writer Clemens Setz says he is “very vulnerable” in the early hours of the morning and cuts off all incoming noise from the outside world. Those are “the perfect working hours” for him. Find out why in this short video.

  • Claudio Magris

    Europe and the Open Sea

    “The Mediterranean Sea is becoming a frontier and not a liquid bridge,” says Claudio Magris, leading cultural philosopher of our time. But the sea is many things: bearer of history, great discoveries and the love for his late wife.

  • William Kentridge

    on 'The Refusal of Time'

    How can we get a hold of time with our body and mind? This question is the crux of South African artist William Kentridge’s immersive installation ’The Refusal of Time.’ Join the artist for a detailed tour of his pulsing, breathtaking work.

  • Chigozie Obioma

    Everything We Do is Preordained

    Award-winning Nigerian author Chigozie Obioma calls his debut novel ‘The Fishermen’ “an Igbo version of a tragedy.” Meet the author and hear about his modern day metaphor of “the paradox that is Nigeria.”

  • Mette Winckelmann

    Woman to Woman

    ”You must evaluate whether the system you’re part of could be effectuated differently.” Meet artist Mette Winckelmann, who believes that abstract painting communicates deeper than language, and explore her visual take on gender politics.

  • Wang Shu

    Architecture is a Job for God

    The Chinese architect Wang Shu’s buildings – a crossover between traditional Chinese culture and large-scale modern architecture – have earned him prestigious awards. “Democracy means a really diverse society,” says the architect in this inspiring interview.

  • Jonas Hassen Khemiri

    On Facing the Blank Page

    For Swedish author and playwright Jonas Hassen Khemiri facing the blank page is always “a kind of revenge.” Hear why the acclaimed author – who has been praised by Joyce Carol Oates – considers starting anew as a chance to do even better.

  • Marina Abramović

    On Giacometti

    Marina Abramović has always felt a connection to the work of artist Alberto Giacometti: “It’s like a meteorite coming out of another galaxy where all the matter inside is condensed.” Watch her engage with Giacometti’s iconic sculptures.

  • Margrethe Odgaard

    Colour Diary of New York

    Becoming more aware of your surroundings can “open a new dimension inside as well as outside yourself.” Meet award-winning Danish designer Margrethe Odgaard who has trained herself to register the world through colours.

  • Adam Caruso

    Novelty is nonsense

    "The European city is one of the great human inventions!” Adam Caruso advocates building with a deep sense of history and tradition. Meet the architect behind the award-winning Tate Britain conversion and numerous Gagosian galleries.

  • Thomas Hirschhorn

    A World of Collage

    Swiss artist Thomas Hirschhorn juxtaposes pixelated images from the media. His works are not about technology, says the artist: “I try to give form to what I can’t accept: that someone else can decide for me what I should do, see or think.”

  • Jonathan Safran Foer

    On Donald Trump

    Jonathan Safran Foer, star of American literature, offers interesting views on America’s new president and the consequences Trump will have on American culture. "The place for literature may be even more important than before," he says.