Posts tagged Doug Aitken


Growing up, my older brother and I spent most of our summers nearby or in the ocean. One place we frequently snorkeled and skin dived was around Catalina Island. On these trips my brother would bring home loads of large abalone for my mother to fry up for dinner. Fast forward a few decades to today, and my own ocean-swimming children will not be bringing back abalone from their trips to Catalina Island. This is not for a lack of trying. The once abundant marine gastropod is now functionally extinct; in the last decade alone white abalone populations in Southern California have decrease nearly 80% percent.

Artist Doug Aitken placed his recent work Underwater Pavilions into the waters off Catalina Island last month in the same location that my brother and I used to swim. The large geometric sculptures act as portals into the underwater environment, detailed with alternating rough rock-like and mirrored surfaces from which light reflects and refracts. The exhibit obliquely draws attention to the effect humans are having on the oceans by raising awareness of its presence.

Last weekend at MOCA, I watched a video installation documenting the Underwater Pavilions projected onto a large screen in a viewing room, part of a larger Doug Aitken retrospective. The video is visually and audibly stunning, and I was reminded of those earlier times exploring underwater worlds. One scene in the video showed a sea lion inspecting the sculpture. I know I am anthropomorphizing, but the sea lion looked simultaneously curious and concerned.

In addition to polluting ocean waters and over-fishing, human activities pump about 40 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every year. According to NOAA, the ocean absorbs about a quarter of all that carbon. The result is a change in the very chemistry of the ocean waters. Because of all this extra absorbed carbon dioxide, the oceans are currently 30% more acidic today in comparison to the pre-industrial revolution era.

It is no wonder the sea lion inspecting Aitken’s bauble seemed both curious and concerned. Not only have humans radically altered the chemistry of the ocean, we have severely reduced one of its favorite foods, the abalone. The sea lion in Aiken’s video appears to recognize that human activities significantly impacts the coastal food web and their species survival. What seems less apparent to our own species  – some whom mistakenly believe America will be made great again with the appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the EPA – is the survival of all species is interconnected.

Stanford ecologist Paul Ehrlich, puts it this way: “In pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.”

Photo by Gregory Han

Photo by Gregory Han


Origami by Robert J. Lang: Join origami master Robert Lang for a gallery talk about the beautifully complex folded art he created for his current installation at The Huntington. (The exhibit ends Jan. 29.) A book signing follows the informal talk. Free; no reservations required. Brody Botanical Center.
When: January 28, 2017, 2 p.m.
Where: The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108

Doug Aitken: Electric Earth: For more than 20 years, Doug Aitken has shifted the perception and location of images and narratives. His multichannel video installations, sculptures, photographs, publications, happenings, and architectural works demonstrate the nature and structure of our ever-mobile, ever-changing, image-based contemporary condition. With a profound knowledge and understanding of the history of 20th-century avant-gardes, experimental music, and cinema, and an intimate kinship with the protest movements of the late 1960s, Aitken has invented a unique immersive aesthetic. Rooted in interdisciplinary collaborations, and the broad availability of images and the vulnerability of individuals, his work accounts for the cool but relentless human, industrial, urban, and environmental entropy that defines 21st-century existence.
When: Through January 15, 2017
Where: The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA Grand Avenue), 250 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90012

Patricia Fernandez’s Point of Departure: Five Walks: “Over the past three years, artist Patricia Fernandez, who lives in L.A. but was born in Spain, took five walks through the Pyrenees mountains that separate Spain from France. She was retracing routes her own relatives took at the end of the 1930s, after the Spanish Civil War, when they, like so many other defeated Republicans, trekked off. Along the way, Fernandez collected souvenirs, documents and photographs that she then recreated as paintings, drawings or objects.”
When: 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. every Wed., Thu., Fri., Sat.
Where: Commonwealth & Council
3006 W. Seventh St., #220
Los Angeles, CA 90005

Enchanted: Forest of Light at Descanso Gardens: Enchanted: Forest of Light is an interactive, nighttime experience unlike anything else in Los Angeles, featuring a one-mile walk through 8 distinct lighting displays in some of the most beloved areas of Descanso Gardens. Tickets are timed and must be purchased in advance. Enchanted: Forest of Light is a rain or shine event.
When: 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m. daily until January 8
Where: 1418 Descanso Dr.
La Canada Flintridge, CA  91011

LA Union Station Cocoa Concert Series: “This Christmas season, Union Station’s majestic south patio will be transformed into a hub of holiday entertainment with three distinctive and diverse “Cocoa Concerts”. From 6:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m. on Fridays December 16th and 23rd, Angelenos can enjoy a festive, family-friendly holiday celebration featuring free concerts, a “Cocoa Bar” with Elftenders, an “Ugly Christmas Sweater” contest, holiday crafts and cookie decorating, a Naughty & Nice photo booth and selfies with the most popular guy in Tinsel Town.”
When: Friday December 23 2016
Where: Union Station
800 N Alameda St
Los Angeles