For nearly two months the Hirshhorn museum, with its circular shape and unique design, has served as the canvas for an experiential artistic exhibition. California born and based artist Doug Aitken has transformed the iconic building into a living, 360-degree film reel, projecting his original short film SONG 1 on the entirety of the building every night until May 20th. The short is set to the tune of the hypnotic “I Only Have Eyes for You” which bellows on repeat from speakers surrounding the museum out onto the National Mall and through the busy streets.
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Beginning at sunset and concluding at midnight, the artist’s vision of “liquid architecture” blurs the lines between reality and fantasy. He fashions a multimedia outdoor experience that makes the audience feel like they are both watching and a part of the exhibition.
The song which provides the soundtrack for the exhibition, originally written in 1934 but best remembered for the 1959 recording by The Flamingos, opens with a proclamation of blind love. The kind of jaw-dropping, heart-wrenching tunnel vision that leaves you dangerously enamored and unaware of everything else. The kind of love blindness that would get you run over by a car if you weren’t careful.
The characters in the film, who each seem alone in the midst of the same intensely personal journey, traverse the rounded exterior walls of the Hirshhorn in varying ways so that the film cannot be viewed entirely from one vantage point. The singers helplessly pose questions into the night, unsure about their own surroundings, unable to make the simplest conclusions about reality. In the fog of passion. Sitting in the sculpture garden, staring up into the projection–or walking around the building for a new perspective, the singers beg us to answer, “Are the stars out tonight?” We can’t help but look up into the real darkened sky hovering above our heads. They are. And Venus is low. We go off into a tangent conversation about her as we gaze upward, still humming the song to ourselves.
In that song I’ve heard a million times but will never hear the same way again, a dizzily delirious lover laments that he’s unsure if he’s in a garden or a crowded avenue. And as the characters in the film swirl in and out of different urban scenes, the audience too feels the confusion. At times they are standing in parking lots upon which the actual trees around the Hirshhorn cast perfect shadows, seamlessly bending reality into art. At other times, blaring sirens screech down Independence Avenue disrupting the focus and yet, somehow mimicking the disorienting effects of this blind love by breaking down and building up the substance and content of the piece, itself.
Like real blind love, the exhibition swirls around its viewer in vibrant colors and perfect harmonies, familiar images cloaked in compellingly provocative newness. Even loneliness. Its unsteady and surreal. Sounds from the city seamlessly harmonize with the sobering but sweet vocals. Crowds may go by, but the art carries on. The images are evolving, twisting, turning, pulling at your heart in a landscape, cinematic spell.
The installation is entering its final week so be sure to swing by the Hisrhhorn so you don’t miss this amazing experience. With its music, imagery and incredibly powerful moments, its never the same thing twice. A visual and emotional spectacle as delirious, exciting and confusing as love. A kind of blind love.
But who doesn’t appreciate a well-timed “shoo-bop-shoo-bop.”
That’s all for now cats and kittens.