In what could be the most-seen show in MoMA's history, Doug Aitken's "Sleepwalkers" opened last night on the coldest night of the year in NYC so far this season. Sleepwalkers is a nighttime installation comprised of continuous sequences of film scenes projected onto facades that transform West 53rd and 54th streets into a vast outdoor multiplex. Turning MoMA inside-out by bringing public art to the exterior walls of the new iconic building for the first time, the project is a joint effort between MoMA and non-profit Creative Time, famous for enlivening the city with public art. It was challenging to be outside to watch the premiere, but it was well worth it.
Filmed in New York, five interweaving vignettes follow each characterâ€”a bicycle messenger (played by Ryan Donowho, a drummer that Aitkin found in the subway, who's now appeared on "The O.C."), an electrician who fixes neon signs in Times Square (Seu Jorge of Life Aquatic and City of God fame), a postal worker (Chan Marshall aka Cat Power), a businessman (Donald Sutherland), and an office worker (Tilda Swinton)â€”through a night in New York. As they move from the solitude of their personal lives (waking up, drinking coffee or juice, leaving their apartments) to their workplace and unexpected encounters, the interconnected narratives emerge.
The eight gigantic projections, averaging 30â€™ x 60â€™, engage with the architecture in a way that I have never experienced before. You can see two of the projections from an adjoining street and walking toward the museum gives you a little clue of what's in store. In the sculpture garden (open to the public for free during the project) you see five projections at the same timeâ€”three characters and two ambient projections featuring landscapes including clouds and sunrises. Much of the imagery is in sync, i.e. when Ryan Donowho gets on his bike, Donald Sutherland climbs into his always waiting town car and Tilda Swinton hails a cab. A surprising treat is how other buildings and the museum itself reflect multiply the projections, immersing viewers in the cinematic experience.
Winner of the International Prize at the Venice Biennale and director of music videos for Interpol and Fatboy Slim, the artist's first large-scale public artwork in the United States challenges viewers perceptions of public space. Aitken calls the show a â€œsilent film for the 21st century.â€ It will be projected every evening from 5-10 pm for 28 consecutive days, from 16 January-12 February 2007. To see more images, get more info and watch a trailer go here.
A few blocks away, Aitken created a one minute film, New Day, which will run once every hour in the middle of Times Square on the Astrovision Screen. New Day also depicts the constant flow of life that is New York. You can hear commentaries on your cell phone, by calling +01 408 794 0886
With contributions from Evan Orensten and Tim Yu.