Doug Aitken: Microcosmos

    Victoria Miro Venice
    15 July–30 October 2021
    Tuesday–Saturday: 10am-1pm & 2-6pm
    Monday by appointment
    No booking is required when visiting the exhibition We welcome a maximum number of 5 people at a time to our Venice gallery

    Victoria Miro is delighted to present an exhibition in Venice by the celebrated American artist Doug Aitken.

    Microcosmos features a new series of handmade fabric wall hangings that, engaging with the physical act of making, visually articulate a world that is driven by information and continuously in flux. The exhibition coincides with a major new site-specific installation, Green Lens, by the artist in Venice, and the European premiere of his 2021 video work Flags and Debris, which will feature as part of Biennale Danza, 15th International Festival of Contemporary Dance, directed by Wayne McGregor.


    Microcosmos

    Mixed fabrics
    157.5 x 157.5 cm
    62 x 62 in

    Doug Aitken, Entry Point, 2021

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    ‘Initially I was inspired by Béla Bartók’s 1926–36 stunning piano works, which are made as 153 progressively complex piano lessons from the very easy beginner études to very difficult technical displays.’ — Doug Aitken

    Doug Aitken’s works, at their core, invite us to consider the nature of our present and signal possibilities for the future. His latest textiles are a continuation of a body of work generated over the past year and take as their starting point clothing and other everyday found materials that the artist was able to access within his home. Cutting fragments and reassembling them into abstract visual fields, Aitken has created elaborate wall hangings, patterns emerging and disappearing within their collaged layers.

    Discussing the work the artist says, ‘For the last few months I’ve been working a new body of art, Microcosmos. Initially I was inspired by Béla Bartók’s 1926–36 stunning piano works, which are made as 153 progressively complex piano lessons from the very easy beginner études to very difficult technical displays. In total, according to Bartók, the piece “appears as a synthesis of all the musical and technical problems.”

    However, as I listened I started to imagine the similarity between these piano works and their simple to complex structures and how we’re experiencing life in the information era. ⁠⁠How we absorb images and information almost as “notes” and transform them into a larger and complex compositions.⁠⁠ Creating these works allowed me to slow down and to reflect on the structure and complexity of how we move forward. ⁠⁠


    Microcosmos 2

    Mixed fabrics
    157.5 x 157.5 cm
    62 x 62 in

    Doug Aitken, Vanishing Point, 2021

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    Mixed fabrics
    157.5 x 157.5 cm
    62 x 62 in

    Doug Aitken, Changing Point, 2021

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    ‘As I listened I started to imagine the similarity between these piano works and their simple to complex structures and how we’re experiencing life in the information era. ⁠⁠How we absorb images and information almost as “notes” and transform them into a larger and complex compositions.’ — Doug Aitken

    Foregrounded throughout these works are poetic tensions between the digital and the handmade, fast and slow media. Repeating elements within the works appear like handcrafted digital glitches, while the physical process of their creation suggests the slow-paced craft of quilting. Resembling flags and banners, mandalas and targets, they also bear connotations of protection, comfort or shelter – the very nature of cloth being at the same time intimate, personal and universal. These shifting symbolic qualities resonate with the dynamic abstractions of each composition: these are signs, devoid of text, that allow for open-ended investigations into our collective experience.

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    Microcosmos 2a

    Mixed fabrics
    157.5 x 157.5 cm
    62 x 62 in

    Doug Aitken, Turning Point, 2021

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    Mixed fabrics
    157.5 x 157.5 cm
    62 x 62 in

    Doug Aitken, End Point, 2021

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    Microcosmos 2b

    Mixed fabrics
    157.5 x 157.5 cm
    62 x 62 in

    Doug Aitken, Disintegration Point, 2021

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    ‘Creating these works allowed me to slow down and to reflect on the structure and complexity of how we move forward.’ — Doug Aitken


    Microcosmos 3

    Fabric Ottoman
    76.2 x 76.2 x 48.3 cm
    30 x 30 x 19 in

    Doug Aitken, Untitled, 2021

    More info

    Fabric Ottoman
    76.2 x 76.2 x 48.3 cm
    30 x 30 x 19 in

    Doug Aitken, Untitled, 2021

    More info

    Fabric Ottoman
    76.2 x 76.2 x 48.3 cm
    30 x 30 x 19 in

    Doug Aitken, Untitled, 2021

    More info

    Accompanying the wall hangings is a sequence of floor-based works created using a similar method to Aitken’s fabric collages. These operate between the elevated artistic genre of soft-sculpture and as functional furnishings that invite visitors to pause, enabling physical activation of the works and an embodied experience of the show.


    Microcosmos 4

    Watercolour on paper
    50.8 x 76.2 cm
    20 x 30 in

    Doug Aitken, Untitled (action 1), 2021

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    The final work on view, positioned at the entrance of the exhibition, is a single watercolour depicting a Muybridge-like motion-study image of a female figure rising up from a seated to a standing position. Echoing Aitken’s recent illuminated figurative sculptures that pulse with light, this work surges with a force suggestive of a personal and cultural awakening.


    Green Lens

    Green Lens is a living artwork. It is simultaneously an artwork, installation and stage. It’s like a lighthouse that one can journey to and have a very personal experience, while it also transmits light, ideas and questions. A focal point that allows all of us to share our ideas and visions for the future post Covid… a celebration and inquiry into the future.’ – Doug Aitken

    Green Lens is a living art installation and cultural stage. It is set in Venice, Italy, a sinking city strongly impacted by the rise of the oceans. The surrounding city creates a strong ecological narrative within the artwork that speaks to the idea of the future in the post-Covid world. Located on the island of Isola della Certosa, Green Lens is a living experiential artwork and destination.

    Green Lens evokes the future through its crystalline reflective surfaces and reveals a kaleidoscopic view through its dense botanic environment. It is a freestanding artwork. From the exterior it creates a choreography of changing reflections of clouds, mist and wild green vegetation. The reflective sculpture transforms the landscape which was once a military munition factory and from 1960 onward was neglected and abandoned. The installation becomes a living abstraction with the viewer at the centre of the narrative. As day turns to night Green Lens glows and becomes a kinetic light sculpture and sound composition.

    Green Lens sparks a dialogue linking the natural landscape with our future. In the twenty-first century, we explore the complexities of how to create a balance and harmony with the natural environment. An environment where nature is empowered again and the weight of the past lifts to become fluid and inspiring.  

    The artwork will create a starting point of reforesting the island. Trees – plants living in Green Lens – will be donated to Isola della Certosa as part of the reforestation programme and the restructuring project to make the cloister ruins accessible again to Venice’s citizens and its international public.

    Green Lens rests on this small island, like liquid architecture, it creates an immersive environment where the natural landscape and human history and innovation merge. The installation evokes a mysterious planet, a New World, one that feels as if it has just been discovered.

    The installation creates a contemporary lens allowing us to reflect the living world around us in a unique and powerful way. It is both a celebration and conversation of the future.

    Green Lens will be activated with a sequence of performances and conversations that are thought-provoking and provocative, focusing on the future as interpreted by musicians, speakers and dancers. ‘What is the Future?’ is the narrative threaded throughout the project. These activations will be filmed by Aitken and released for the public to have access to this living artwork and stage for voices and culture.

    All Greenhouse Gases (GhGs) emissions related to the event are offset through reforestation programmes particularly dedicated to Isola della Certosa garden, respecting its natural and original ecosystem through a consulting local environmental specialist.

     


    Flags and Debris

    In Aitken’s video Flags and Debris, pulses of electricity merge with the human heartbeat and move through a landscape that is expansive and anonymous. Set against the backdrop of an unrecognisably empty Los Angeles, filmed during periods of lockdown in 2020, unseen members of the Los Angeles Dance Project move, ghost-like underneath Aitken’s textile works.

    Receiving its European premiere as part of Biennale Danza, 15th International Festival of Contemporary Dance, directed by Wayne McGregor, Flags and Debris is featured during a weekend of dance film screenings and will be shown in a programme that also features works by Merce Cunningham and others, held at Teatro Piccolo Arsenale at 2pm on Sunday 25 July 2021.

     


    About the artist

    Photo by Ami Sioux

    Born in 1968, Doug Aitken currently lives and works in Los Angeles. Major exhibitions for 2021 include a solo exhibition at Museum of Contemporary Art Australia, Sydney. Previous major solo presentations of the artist’s work have been staged at institutional venues including Faurschou Foundation, Beijing (2019); Copenhagen Contemporary (2018); Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (2017); The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA, Los Angeles (2016); Schirn Kunsthalle, Frankfurt (2015); Nam June Paik Art Center, South Korea (2013); Seattle Art Museum (2013); Tate Liverpool (2012); LUMA Foundation, Arles, France (2012); Deste Foundation, Hydra, Greece (2011); Cincinnati Art Museum (2010); Museo d’Art Contemporanea Roma, Rome (2009); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007); Aspen Art Museum (2006); Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2005); The Fabric Museum and Workshop, Philadelphia (2002) and Serpentine Gallery, London (2001).

    The artist was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 1999; he has been the recipient of the 2012 Nam June Paik Art Center Prize, the 2013 Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award: Visual Arts, and the 2016 Americans for the Arts National Arts Award: Outstanding Contributions to the Arts. Aitken is the inaugural recipient of the Frontier Art Prize, a new contemporary art award that supports an artist of international stature pursuing bold projects that challenge the boundaries of knowledge and experience to reimagine the future of humanity.

     

    Images: all works © Doug Aitken. Courtesy of the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zürich; Victoria Miro, London/Venice; and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

    Green Lens, 2021, commissioned by Anthony Vaccarello in partnership with Saint Laurent. Courtesy of the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

    Still from Flags and Debris, 2021. Single channel video (colour, sound),13 minutes 20 seconds. © Doug Aitken. Courtesy the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Victoria Miro, London/Venice; Regen Projects, Los Angeles


    Exhibition views

    Installation view, Doug Aitken: Microcosmos, Victoria Miro Venice, 15 July–30 October 2021

    Installation view, Doug Aitken: Microcosmos, Victoria Miro Venice, 15 July–30 October 2021

    Installation view, Doug Aitken: Microcosmos, Victoria Miro Venice, 15 July–30 October 2021

    Installation view, Doug Aitken: Microcosmos, Victoria Miro Venice, 15 July–30 October 2021

    Installation view, Doug Aitken: Microcosmos, Victoria Miro Venice, 15 July–30 October 2021

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