“The weary traveller sees / In desert or prairie vast, / Blue lakes, overhung with trees that a pleasant shadow cast.” With Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s words ringing in Doug Aitken’s ear, the artist will attempt to recreate the image in Palm Springs at Desert X, which runs from February 25-April 30.
For the site-specific exhibition, Aitken constructed a ranch-style house made of mirrors. The building fades into the surrounding environment it reflects, appearing familiar from a distance due to its resemblance to the mass-produced suburban architecture of postwar America, yet alien up close because of its unusual materials.
“I was interested in taking the sculptural form of a house that you would never even notice, the kind that you’ve perhaps driven by a thousand times without even registering,” Aitken told artnet News on the telephone. “I wanted to take that form of house and drain it of all its narrative, all its story, everything personal or considered about it and let it become pure form.”
The project is a continuation of Aitken’s career-long investigation into the themes of human perception, collective memory, and the built environment. By virtue of the building’s constantly changing outside environment, every visitor will have a unique experience.
On the inside the structure’s mirrored surfaces absorb and disperse the outside environment to create a stunning life-sized kaleidoscope, capturing and distorting the world outside.
“Everything is made of mirror in a way where they are angled, and the angles are designed to work in this location,” Aitken said. “I think there’s a very interesting tension between the idea of controlling the landscape, conforming it, bringing it into a Cartesian grid. And this idea of the landscape itself as something that is restless and always in flux.”
He added, “it’s almost as if this work is meant to be invisible. It’s created to appear and disappear and to become a vortex of the landscape around it.”
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