Installation shot, Copenhagen Contemporary 2018. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Doug Aitken



– 30.12.18

SONG 1 is a 35-minute-long sound and video installation created by artist Doug Aitken, which was presented at CC when the art center opened at Refshaleøen in 2018. Within the framework of a pop song, the classic “I Only Have Eyes for You,” Aitken has created a compelling and spatial video work reflecting present day urban landscapes that reference the cultural history of modernity.

Different versions of the well known song form the underlying structure in the monumental sound and video collage SONG 1. The artwork is a rhythmic flow of video clips that are projected onto a large circular screen. This is an immersive artwork for the viewer, one that the audience can both walk around as well as step into. The song is a classic jazz standard from 1934, known across the world for its melancholy tune and romantic lyrics. Deeply embedded in the musical DNA of American cultural life, it has appeared in countless versions – the best known being The Flamingo’s version from 1959 characterized by its slow ‘doowop’ R&B sound.

For SONG 1, Doug Aitken invited different musicians to record their versions of the song, echoing the song’s own history and its multiple interpretations through the decades – including Beck, Lucky Dragons, and No Age. Also interpreting the song visually are actress Tilda Swinton, street dancers and gospel singers who appear in the artwork.

SONG 1’s visual side oscillates between past and present, from stylized black and white clips that reference the influence of the stage and television screen to present-day hypermodernised metropolitan cities with crowds of people and pulsing light. Here men and women are seen in varied environments – the workplace, in cafés, in studios, and in traffic – singing the familiar tune.

The song’s minimalistic beat speeds up to echo the abstracted dynamic visual clips of a metropolis, where the search for love and belonging repeats itself across time and place and reminds the viewer of a universality of human experience. The simplicity of the song, the soulful backing choir, and the repetitive chorus emphasize a common ground, humanity linked through human emotions and experience. In the coupling of the visual representations of men versus women, the city versus the individual, the present versus the past, the work is an exploration of modernity and the conditions that influence our lives today.

The exhibition was supported by

C.A.C. Fonden, ege, Amorim Cork Composites, Statens Kunstfond, Tæppeland samt Anonym fond.

About Doug Aitken

Doug Aitken was born in 1968 in California, USA, and lives and works in Los Angeles. He works across multiple medias and is known for his monumental video works that integrate both the urban as well as natural landscapes. With Sleepwalkers (2007) and SONG 1 (2012) he covered entire buildings with video projections, with Underwater Pavilions (2016), he created works for the seabed, and with Mirage (2017), he erected a mirror-clad house in the desert. Aitken often uses the mixing of art genres, facilitating dialogue between them, like when he filled a train with musicians, artists, writers, etc. and created Station to Station (2013), a work unfolded across time and place while moving across the USA. Doug Aitken has exhibited at museums worldwide, including the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, the Whitney Museum of American Art New York, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), the Vienna Secession, the Serpentine Gallery, and the Centre Georges Pompidou.

Doug Aitken, SONG 1. Installation shot, Copenhagen Contemporary 2018. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Doug Aitken, SONG 1. Installation shot, Copenhagen Contemporary 2018. Photo: Anders Sune Berg

Doug Aitken, SONG 1. Installation shot, Copenhagen Contemporary 2018. Photo: Anders Sune Berg