Visiting artist residency at USC School of Cinematic Arts, LA (Part 9) / by Anna Madeleine

Doug Aitken, Hot Mess: Aperture series, 2016

Doug Aitken, Hot Mess: Aperture series, 2016

On Thursday I got to go to a talk I’d been looking forward to for ages - The Idea of Time, with LA artists Aaron Koblin and Liz Glynn at Doug Aitken’s new exhibition Electric Earth at MOCA. I’d been interested in Aitken’s Station to Station work - where he got together a bunch of artists to travel across America in a train, making art on the way. Both Liz Glynn and Aaron Koblin were part of this work and it was awesome to hear them speak about it. Glynn’s talk was kind of performed in a really energetic way as she walked around the stage and grappled with generally mind-bending questions about time, space and relativity. Eg. Is time just our perception? Imagining the future and remembering the past happen in the same space, so how do we know the past came before the future? Does the individual amount of time we carry get adjusted every time we get on a plane? If so, do our GPS devices only create a false sense of universal time? Does time equal money? (No - even with no money, time still exists equally.)

Doug Aitken, Black Mirror, 2011, installation view at MOCA

Doug Aitken, Black Mirror, 2011, installation view at MOCA

Aitken's exhibition was incredibly diverse, with seven large scale installations (not just 'large scale' - huge!). His work spans video, experimental music, sculpture, and photography, and I found across all of these was a sense of cinematic epic-ness - highly produced, glossy, and made just right. The works that stood out to me were ‘Black Mirror’, where three video screens were playing in a room made of black mirrored walls. The mirrors reflected the screens endlessly into space, and with each each screen playing a slightly different channel, wherever you were watching from you’d get glimpses of the other screens in the reflections. It was completely fractured yet seamless.

The other was Sonic Fountain II where Aitken cut/dug a huge hole in the gallery floor to make an eery sort of blue pool surrounded by rocks and rubble. Above, a structure of piping was set up to drip water according to the rhythm of a digital code. It was an unusual collision of digital and physical, with such an organic sensation (water dripping) falling from seemingly random sequences into synchronised patterns. The sound of the drops amplified around the space and the smell of the pool and the cool temperature all added to the immersion of the work. 

Doug Aitken, Sonic Fountain II, 2016, installation view at MOCA

Doug Aitken, Sonic Fountain II, 2016, installation view at MOCA

The Griffith Observatory was worth the hour long Uber ride through typical LA traffic. We had a look through telescopes set up on the lawn to see Saturn, which looks exactly like.. a sticker of saturn! It appeared strangely flat, like a graphic or emoji. The inside of the Observatory was also worth the visit - the entrance hall has an amazing and mesmerising Foucault Pendulum (which swings continuously, showing the rotation of the earth) underneath the Hugo Ballin Murals. I also loved the Ahmanson Hall of the Sky which was all about seasons and cycles - sunrise, sunset, tides, and phases of the moon. 

The view was pretty good too I guess

The view was pretty good too I guess

The Museum of Jurassic Technology was.. strange, but very cool! In an inconspicuous terrace building in Culver City, the museum is much bigger than it looks, and feels like it goes on forever, like Alice in Wonderland or Mary Poppins’ magic bag. Annoyingly hard to describe, the museum is a museum about collecting - housing old fashioned natural history museum items, and millions of odds and ends that don’t really fit into any classification. 

It has an exhibition 'Tell the Bees' - an exhibition of pre-scientific cures and remedies, which I’m interested into making into short animations. There were several micro miniature works, like sculptures made in the eye of a needle, or microscopic mosaics; an exhibition with the fantastic title 'The World is Bound by Secret Knots' (about a museum founder Athanasius Kircher); The Lives of Perfect Creatures: The Dogs of the Soviet Space Program - oil paintings of space dog portraits; along with some other really nice drawings done by an astronaut about his time in space; and a room all about Cat's Cradle. Throughout, I really enjoyed the use of Pepper’s ghost technique of projection, as it allowed line work could be layered on top of video really nicely, and has that element of tricking the viewer by physical optical illusion (rather than digital simulation). One of the most fun things about this museum was that it transported you to another time - everything was ancient, some stuff didn’t work, it was mostly dark, and you were left to wander through the maze and discover the different sounds and images by pressing buttons and discovering what happens next, all while curious, perplexed and slightly confused.