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

  • Nick Cave

    The World is my Skin

    Have you ever wished that you could put on a suit which would open up the imagination and take you to the world of your dreams? In this video artist Nick Cave presents his wearable sculptures, the 'Soundsuits', made from discarded everyday materials.

  • Joan Jonas

    Advice to the Young

    “Love what you do. Because it’s not easy. It’s not easy to make art.” Watch as the iconic video and performance artist Joan Jonas advises her younger colleagues to enjoy what they’re doing as you never know how people will respond to your work.

  • Gerhard Richter

    In Art We Find Beauty and Comfort

    “I don’t really believe art has power. But it does have value. Those who take an interest in it find solace in art. It gives them huge comfort.” Gerhard Richter, one of the greatest painters of our time, discusses beauty in the era of the internet.

  • Daniel Libeskind

    Tribute to New York

    “If you took the whole world and collapsed it into one little ball, you’d find it here, in this city.” Daniel Libeskind, world-renowned architect behind the new World Trade Center site, gives tribute to his city in this short and colourful video.

  • Siri Hustvedt

    A Person Apart

    According to bestselling author Siri Hustvedt, the election of Donald Trump marks a new split in the population of the US. Hear Hustvedt on her political awakening, the biases in contemporary society and writing in challenging times.

  • Dan Graham

    Advice to the Young

    “Don’t make art as a career,” says award-winning American artist Dan Graham. “Because that means you’re just doing the same boring things that you reacted against in the beginning.”

  • Catherine Opie

    A World Beyond Selfies

    “I was never an optimist in thinking that my images would change laws. But I certainly thought that I would be able to create a history.” Catherine Opie, photographer of minority groups and subcultures, can be both political and very internal.

  • Katinka

    No Glitter Added

    “I’m just a girl with a ukulele,” says up-and-coming Danish singer-songwriter Katinka, who tries hard not to become too self-conscious. “It’s not an image or a persona. It’s just me.”

  • Ed Ruscha

    Tribute to L.A.

    “New York was the absolute centre of the art world. We were like Australia.” Ed Ruscha, the quintessential Los Angeles artist, remembers L.A. in the 1950s: a dusty outback of the establishment. Hear about the city that continues to fascinate him.

  • Karin Mamma Andersson

    Paintings as Weapons

    “It is the psyche of the artist that is the product, it sprung from your own well, it’s your own water,” says Sweden’s great painter Karin Mamma Andersson in this portrait. “The moment you dig into something, it becomes a sort of self-image.”

  • Daniel Richter

    On Vienna vs. Berlin

    “As ‘a working tourist’ in Vienna you see all these smells of the past and not all of them are disgusting.” Hear why German painter Daniel Richter prefers Vienna – where he works as professor at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste Wien – over Berlin.

  • Sjón

    Advice to the Young

    Remember what excited you when you were a child, and carry that enthusiasm onwards. Award-winning writer Sjón here advises young writers not to be embarrassed by what initially inspired them: “All of us come to culture through trash.”