Liquefying The Hirshhorn

February 27, 2012 | by —kara manos
PHOTOGRAPHY COURTESY DOUG AITKEN WORKSHOP
| Pursuits

The Hirshhorn’s new “liquid architecture,” by Doug Aitken

It was little more than two years ago when Doug Aitken, an innovative artist with experience in film and video, sculpture, photography, and installation, arrived at the Hirshhorn Museum to discuss a potential project. “We actually had talked about doing a different process with him,” says deputy director and chief curator Kerry Brougher. “When Doug stepped out of the taxi, he said, ‘I have to do a film for this building.’” Shortly thereafter, they scratched the original idea and started brainstorming something bigger—much bigger.

Using 11 high-definition projectors mounted around the exterior of the building, Aitken will transform the Hirshhorn into the star of Independence Avenue with the debut of Song 1, a one-of-a-kind 360° projection that the artist defines as “liquid architecture.”

“The idea is to basically use the building itself, making it vanish, disappear into cinematic space, and for the film to work with the architecture of the building,” Brougher says. Constantly evolving and rotating, the exhibit cannot be viewed from just one stationary point, forcing visitors to circumnavigate the building. “Architecture is thought of as frozen music,” says Brougher. “The building acting as a cinema screen is releasing, in a way, a kind of musical element that will come out of this. Doug is really inventing a whole new kind of vocabulary for the film.”

Coinciding with the 100th anniversary of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, the timing is wonderfully convenient: The festival regularly attracts hundreds of thousands of people to the National Mall each year, a boon to the very nature of the exhibit, which will join the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection. “People on the street can experience contemporary art without even having to enter the building,” says Brougher. Song 1 runs from March 22 to May 13. Aitken will be giving a lecture on opening night at the Hirshhorn; admission is free and first come, first served. Independence Avenue at Seventh Street Southwest, 202-633-1000.

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