Sleepwalking from New York to Miami
Butler, A. (2011) Sleepwalking from New York to Miami. In: Penz, F. and Lu, A. (eds.) Urban Cinematics: Understanding Urban Phenomena Through the Moving Image. Intellect, Bristol, pp. 183-195. ISBN 9781841504285
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In the winter of 2007, Doug Aitken’s moving image installation, sleepwalkers, was projected onto the exterior walls of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The project was a collaboration between Aitken, the museum and Creative Time, a New York-based organisation that commissions public art projects. A site-specific version of the installation has been commissioned by the Miami Art Museum for the opening of its new facility, designed by Swiss architects Herzog and de Meuron, in 2013: “sleepwalkers (Miami) will expand the work’s landscape and characters in a manner that reflects the diverse social fabric of Miami.” This essay examines sleepwalkers as an example of the emerging form of film as public art. There are three strands to my argument: first, an examination of the role of film in the redefinition of public art, shifting away from spatial practices concerned with fixed and permanent notions of space, community and art and towards transient and experimental spatial and artistic practices; second,a discussion of the relationship between projection and the built environment and the ways that the qualities of luminescence, transparency, movement and connectivity are transferred from projected images to the surfaces on which they are projected and the spaces around them; and third, an examination of the ways that sleepwalkers uses only certain aspects of narrativity, those concerned with movement and change, and avoids hermeneutic absorption in order to keep the spectators moving (transposing the idea of sleepwalking from characters to spectators). Transience and transparency are key ideas in the conceptualisation of the work, and these are deployed with significant differences in relation to the distinctive characteristics of each city and each museum.
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