“For a brief moment, the most interesting place in the country will be a moving target.”

2013-06-20-StationtoStationmapCDougAitken

Doug Aitken’s public art project, Station to Station is a Nomadic Happening that launched in New York last Friday.  Over the course of the next three weeks, a train will continue traveling across the US (New York to San Francisco), making nine stops along the way. The mission of Station to Station is to connect leading figures and underground creators from the worlds of art, music, food, literature, and film for a series of cultural interventions and site-specific happenings. The train, designed as a moving, kinetic light sculpture, will broadcast unique content and experiences to a global audience. The project was made possible by the Levi’s® brand, and aims to raise funds through ticket sales and donations in order to support non-traditional programming at nine partner museums around the country.

The New York Station was held at Riverfront Studios in Williamsburg. Below is a list of artists who contributed their creative work:

Artworks: Kenneth AngerOlaf BreuningUrs FischerLiz GlynnCarsten HöllerErnesto Neto and Rirkrit Tiravanija

PerformersSuicideAriel Pink’s Haunted GraffitiNo AgeYOSHIMIO + Hisham Akira Bharoocha + Ryan Sawyer TRIO, Kansas City Marching Cobras, AIRLOCKS and others

Nomadic Sculptures: Kenneth Anger, Urs Fischer, Liz Glynn, Carsten Höller, Ernesto Neto

Moving Images: Doug Aitken, Francis Alӱs, Allora & Calzadilla, Kenneth Anger, Dara Birnbaum, Kate Casanova, Bruce Conner, Cheryl Donegan, Fischli & Weiss, William Forsythe, Yayoi Kusama, Nam June Paik, Raymond Pettibon, Nicolas Provost, Kelly Sears, Stephen Shore, Roman Signer, Ryan Trecartin, John Whitney and others

For an inaugural event, Station to Station ran quite smoothly.  I attended the happening with an artist and a collector, which made for great conversation and observation all night long. We arrived a little late as we were coming from the Lower East Side where artist Cary Leibowitz (aka CandyAss) was showing his new body of work at the new location of Invisible Exports. Known for his “Abject Loser Art/Pathetic Aesthetic”–an indie genre that had its moment of apathy in the ’90s–Leibowitz presented a bubblegum pink series of paintings that matched the Pepto Bismol-hued walls of the gallery.

Cary Leibowitz (aka CandyAss) at his Invisible Exports Opening

Cary Leibowitz (aka CandyAss) at his Invisible Exports Opening

But back to Station to Station!  As we entered the the open lot outside of Riverside Studios, the Kansas City Marching Cobras–a youth “performing unit”–were drumming, stepping, dancing and tumbling.  Art enthusiasts had formed a large circle around the troupe and were grooving to the to percussive beats. For the finale, the Cobras snaked their way through the crowd and marched into the venue, leaving an intoxicating wake of rhythm and base.  After the performance, we crossed the lot and began to explore a series of colorful Nomadic Sculptures installed by the waterfront. My two favorite installations were by Belgian artist Carsten Holler and Swiss Artist Urs Fischer.

Carsten Holler nomadic sculpture

Carsten Holler nomadic sculpture

view from inside Carsten Holler's nomadic sculpture

view from inside Carsten Holler’s nomadic sculpture

Holler’s soft yellow sculpture–which resembled a giant squash made out of swiss cheese–playfully engaged the viewer with its port holes and wobbly structure. I enjoyed weaving in and out of the work and watching the shadow play of leaves and human silhouettes. Urs Fischer’s all-white disco yurt was undeniably cheeky. A heady concoction of smoke, lights, “surround sound” mirrors, a giant disco ball, and a bed made for curious encounters among strangers.

looking into the Urs Fischer Disco Yurt

looking into the Urs Fischer Disco Yurt

detail of mirrored walls in Urs Fischer's disco yurt

detail of mirrored walls in Urs Fischer’s disco yurt

Once inside of Riverfront Studios i took a quick scan of the venue and enjoyed the airiness of the space.  People had plenty of room to spread out between the main performance stage, two bars and more scaffolded yurts that were selling crafts and various wares.  What I initially thought to be a rather melodious sound check of “1, 2, 3,” turned out to be a performance of whip-wielding singing auctioneers. Their chanting quickly escalated into a rapid-fire auction of numbers, underscored by the staccato of cracking whips. The musical performances that followed this opening act were equally artful and engaging.  The main stage was set with a backdrop of a three-channel screen so that viewers could enjoy watching various imagery, animation and film sequences that were airing both in-between and during sets. The Yoshimio Trio captivated the audience with Hisham Akira Bharroocha and Ryan Sawyer’s expert drumming and Yoshimio’s captivating, ambient howling. The trio played to the speed of projected trains moving behind them on the screens as well as cars zooming down highways, and then slowed down to syncopate with cameras slithering up and down skyscrapers like an invisible elevator. Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti delivered a charged rock performance replete with psychedelic polychromatic abstracted visuals on the three-channel screens. As someone who regularly attends music concerts in NYC, it was a treat to see the crowd enjoying a great band with room to spread out and dance.

Yoshimio Trio performing with a 3-channel projection of the Bay Bridge

Yoshimio Trio performing with a 3-channel projection of the Bay Bridge

Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti on stage at S2S NYC

Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti on stage at S2S NYC

In-between sets we enjoyed viewing a range of video pieces. Highlights include Swiss duo Peter Fischli and David Weiss’1987 film The Way Things Go, a riff on Rube Goldberg’s machine; Nicholas Provost’s compelling 2007 film Gravity, which seamlessly re-sculpts the cinematic kiss by layering love scenes from classic American and European films; and a titillatingly humorous 2003 film by Kelly Sears who animated explicit illustrations from the 1972 sex manual The Joy of Sex, scored to a Casio version of Foreigner’s soapy ballad “I Want to Know What Love Is”.

AIRLOCKS dance trio, choreography by Jonah Bokaer

AIRLOCKS dance trio, choreography by Jonah Bokaer

AIRLOCKS performance at S2S

AIRLOCKS performance at S2S

Undoubtedly, my favorite performance of the evening was by the contemporary dance trio AIRLOCKS. Choreographed by Jonah Bokaer, the piece was created to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Robert Rauschenberg’s experimental performance Pelican. The work featured one ballerina en pointe and two men on rollerskates. The dancers performed the entire piece–twists, turns, and tucks–in a deliberately languid pace, as if they were moving in slow motion. Set to a seductive ambient score, the trio captivated the audience and had everyone on their toes by its finale.

I look forward to tracking this train as Station to Station makes its way across the country.

This review has also been published on Monarch Daily 🙂