Song\1 By Doug Aitken
Hirsh horn Museum and Sculpture Garden
Washington, DC

I escape a faceless building full of PowerPoint slides and mission statements and head out on a cool spring evening to find some environmental art on the National Mall in Washington. Lacking map or GPS I navigate by memory and a baleful Jupiter and find parking across from the Smithsonian Castle. The Castle is under renovation and next to it sits what might charitably called a “Mid Century Brutalist” art museum. Ring shaped and squatting on precast concrete legs, the Hirshhorn looks like an evil mother ship from the planets Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill. On the ground it marshals abstract sculptures by Calder, Lichtenstein and Snelson and prepares to invade the Capitol Building. I half expect a metallic voice to demand: “Take Me To Your Leader.”

But the attraction tonight is not the pompous self-important architecture of another generation, but a genuinely moving application of the building’s exterior by an artist of our generation. Doug Aitken has deployed his own myrmidons, an armada of refrigerator-sized projectors rings the building and constantly serenades it with multiple version of “I Only Have Eyes For You.” Way up on the wall factory workers lips sync, someone who looks like a cross between Neil Young and Alice Cooper croons, lights flow and tape machines rewind. Sometimes the music drifts toward break beats, then crosses back to Indie pop and eventually slides into Vegas pop, then easy listening. Around the building people sit in awe. On the north side a couple shares a pizza on a cheap date as brigade of Segways rolls past. Elderly people are bundled up and sit next to tourists snapping flash photos. Across the street to the south a bevy of six year olds sit on the Department of Transportation sign and groove along to the song as a guard walks his slow beat. On the west side trees intercept the images, obscuring them and interfering with their own light show while I flee across the street to the Air and Space Museum. Ahead of me the projections look like vintage drive in movie, behind me hang full sized drones armed with high tech missiles. If this is a hostile invasion, I think we earthlings have it under control.

Information on Song \ 1 and the Hirshhorn may be found at</a>

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Recently on Ink 19...

From the Archives