Station to Station, Doug Aitken's nomadic cultural happening, stops in nine U.S. cities throughout September.
Photo: Ye Rin Mok
There's something romantic about train travel. Unfortunately, there's also something cost-prohibitive—at least when utilized for over-the-top multi-city fests featuring music, film, sculpture, food and yurts, aka Station to Station by Doug Aitken. But with this "art train," rolling into Chicago's Union Station on Tuesday, September 10, the well-known multimedia artist is doing things differently. Whereas other notable cross-country train tours have been derailed due to a lack of funds—1970's Festival Express, for instance, featuring the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and the Band; and 2012's Railroad Revival Tour starring Willie Nelson, John C. Reilly and Band of Horses—Station to Station is paid for by jeans. Levi's came onboard as the corporate sponsor.
The other thing keeping this ambitious, site-specific project on track? (More train puns to come; just roll with it.) The fact that Aitken is an experienced conductor of ambitious, site-specific projects. His high-profile works include sleepwalkers (2007), a multi-channel video installation projected on the exterior of MoMA, and more recently, SONG 1 (2012), projected on the cylindrical Hirshhorn Museum in Washington, D.C.
Station to Station is Aitken's most involved effort yet. To enact his vision, he invited a rotating group of artists and performers to travel to different cities aboard a train designed as a moving, kinetic light sculpture. (It's equipped with LED lights.) At each stop, the artists collaborate with other creatives in that city, staging a series of cultural interventions and site-specific happenings.
The Chicago extravaganza, which starts at 6:30pm, features performances by Mavis Staples, Theaster Gates’ Black Monks of Mississippi, Thurston Moore, No Age, White Mystery and others; plus art by Urs Fischer, Kenneth Anger, Ernesto Neto, Carsten Höller and Liz Glynn; as well as food from local slow food producers. Tickets are $25, and along with donations, help fund nontraditional programming at nine partner museums, including the MCA. We're eager to see what happens at the jeans-sponsored happening. (Not to be confused with this jeans happening.)