by Sukanya GargMay 12, 2020
American artist Doug Aitken’s first solo exhibition in mainland China was presented by the Faurschou Foundation, Beijing.
Aitken has developed a multimedia oeuvre that spans a wide array of mediums, integrating film, sound, photography, sculpture, performance, happenings, and site-specific installations. He is widely known for his innovative fine art installations that lead the viewer into a world where time, space, and memory are fluid concepts. This exhibition featured three installations including the video work, New Era.
Aitken’s body of artwork took the viewer into a different world, which explored ideas and took you places that language cannot fully articulate. Through image, forms and sound, the artworks conceptualised the idea of a current world that is completely kinetic and synchronised, yet at other times a landscape that is vastly isolating.
Entering the first room of the gallery, New Era created a hexagonal space of alternating mirrors and projections, which took the 1973 invention of the very first cellular telephone by Martin Cooper as a starting idea. The narrative within this work disintegrated and abstracted, mirroring how the diametrically opposed notions of connectivity and freedom have been underlined in this paradigm-shifting moment in history.
In the second room, the viewer stepped directly into 3 Modern Figures (don’t forget to breathe), an installation of three human figures resting on a raw wooden floor. These were not heroic figures but a candid snapshot of modern individuals frozen as if time had stopped. In the empty core of the sculptures light emanated and pulsed.
In the third darkened room stood a 12-foot rock and concrete sculpture with visual parallels to a brutalist monument, titled Crossing the Border. The slab of stone and concrete was cut in the shape of a silhouetted image of (Mahatma) Gandhi. Echoing in the large room we heard patterns of dripping water, the water appearing out of openings in the rock figure.
Connecting three works in the sequence of three rooms, this exhibition started with the invention of the cellular phone, reflected the way humans are both in and out of sync in this age of technology and ended with Crossing the Border. The exhibition created a fragmented narrative of today’s digital contemporary landscape. In this landscape, Aitken's works were signposts, making the viewer pause, stop and evaluate their surroundings.
The exhibition that opened in connection with Beijing Gallery Weekend 2019, was on view till August 4, 2019.