Doug Aitken's Mirror at the Seattle Art Museum
American multimedia and light artist Doug Aitken’s new installation Mirror strives to be a living museum, a dynamic representation of the constantly changing urban core of Seattle. Installed permanently on the north-west corner of the Seattle Art Museum, Mirror was unveiled this past Sunday and has since been received very warmly by the online community.
Described as a “living kaleidoscope,” the installation responds to changes in weather conditions, pedestrian movement, and lighting conditions. Referring to its reservoir of hundreds of hours of video footage, the installation uses data from its sensors to compose these moving images, choreographing them in unexpected ways. Most interestingly, the installation has been programmed in such a way that the same sequence never occurs twice — it is constantly generating new sequences, all the while doing so in a way that responds to the unique changes in the city’s environmental conditions. The effect is a perpetually moving light show, an incessant video montage that is constantly reinventing itself.
The footage used was shot all around the region of Seattle, including but not limited to neighbouring mountain ranges and the city of Seattle itself. In this sense, Mirror is not merely a reflection of Seattle’s urban core — instead, it is a totalizing representation of the environment surrounding and affecting the very hustle and bustle of the city itself. Its constant visual manifestation of every minute of Seattle life calls into question philosophical notions of space and time, and its juxtaposition of rural and urban imagery provides a valuable reminder of the larger environment of which cities are a part. If Mirror is anything like Aitken’s past installations, it is sure to spark interesting dialogues, and hopefully some that delve deeper than the phrase “very cool,” the general consensus on the Internet thus far.
Although it may be a permanent fixture of the SAM, the installation is experimental at its core, so its very essence is its ability to grow and evolve over time. We will be watching the evolution of Mirror closely. If any of you happen upon this installation in real life, drop us a line — we’d love to hear about it!
- Gabrielle Doiron