September 15, 2020 - Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma - Doug Aitken: I Only Have Eyes for You
September 15, 2020

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma

Doug Aitken, SONG 1 (film still), 2012/2015. Courtesy of the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; and Regen Projects, Los Angeles. © Doug Aitken.

Doug Aitken
I Only Have Eyes for You
September 18, 2020–January 10, 2021

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
Mannerheiminaukio 2
FI-00100 Helsinki

American artist Doug Aitken explores the impacts of technology on individuals and society. I Only Have Eyes for You is the acclaimed artist’s first solo exhibition in Finland. Opening in September 17 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Helsinki, the exhibition presents several works, including the iconic installation Song 1.

”What does it mean to be an individual now? And where are we going? I’m very interested in those kinds of core issues,” says artist Doug Aitken. He says "We are living in a new era, one of complete connectivity, where screen space has become seemingly equal to the physical landscape. This surreal shift in evolution brings us into uncharted waters, a new frontier, one for which we are not fully prepared. These artworks question how we navigate a world of increasing speed and transition, the direction of where we can go and how we can confront the future."

The exhibition I Only Have Eyes For You presents a selection of Aitken’s artworks, highlighting Doug Aitken’s recurring interest in transitory actions, emotions, locations and states, which together translate a human experience grounded in tensions such as motion and stillness or connectivity and isolation. With a strong immersive dimension, the exhibition underlines overlooked psychological processes at play in one’s relationship with social environments, where personal memories are employed to decode implicit contents and narratives. Kiasma’s 5th floor is transformed into a dream-like cinematic stage which documents the provisional state of images and our fragile understanding of a world in flux.

A central artwork in the exhibition is Song 1 (2012-15), the iconic video installation originally commissioned for the facade of the Hirschhorn Museum. In its reconfigured version for an indoor setting, the eight-channel video invites the audience to be fully surrounded by its aural and visual landscape. The installation is based on the popular song I Only Have Eyes for You, written in the 1930s and re-recorded numerous times since. For the artwork, Aitken invited musicians to make their own interpretation of the classic. Dozens of versions were recorded, and in the piece, these merge into a seamless soundscape.  

Song 1 shows scenes from nocturnal car parks and highways, a factory and a cafe. The performers include many familiar musicians together with ordinary individuals. Among the performers is also the actress Tilda Swinton, who has appeared in several of Aitken’s works. The events are unconnected and the people often alone, but the song, repeated over and over again, binds together the characters and scenes.  

The exhibition also includes a selection of recent light boxes, Later than you think (2019), Shock and Awe (2019) and This boat has docked (2019). Described by Aitken as "landscape paintings for the 21st century", these works address the unique era in which we live. The artist observes our experience of the world is, to a considerable degree, transmitted via screens. In the interactive sculpture Twilight (2014) an old pay phone pulsates with white light. The artwork is alive day and night, and its flickering activity responds to the flow of visitors within the space. Aitken’s work combines elements from a number of actual telephones with all colours and details removed. All that remains is the pulsing of information. Solitude, connection and dialogue are topics Aitken often addresses in his artworks. 

Doug Aitken’s practice moves freely between different media: his works are films, video and sound pieces, installations or sculptures, books and happenings. His projects have been presented in museums, beneath the surface of the sea, on a moving train, and as a hot air balloon in the sky. He is also known for his monumental video works projected on the facades of buildings.

Doug Aitken (1968 California, USA) lives and works in Los Angeles. Defying definitions of genre, he explores every medium, from film and installations to architectural interventions. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world. He participated in the Whitney Biennial and earned the International Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1999 for the installation Electric Earth. Aitken has received numerous awards ranging from the 2012 Nam June Paik Art Center Prize, the 2013 Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award: Visual Arts and most recently in 2019, the ArtCenter College of Design Lifetime Achievement Award. His works have been shown in Kiasma once before: he was part of the ARS01 exhibition nearly twenty years ago.

The exhibition is curated by Kiasma’s director Leevi Haapala and chief curator, exhibitions João Laia.

Museum of Contemporary Art Kiasma
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