A Digital Urban Earthwork in Seattle: Doug Aitken's MIRROR Opens At The Seattle Art Museum

This past Sunday evening, Seattle officials closed First Avenue. It wasn’t for road repairs, but to celebrate the unveiling of the Seattle Art Museum’s facade refresh by multimedia artist Doug Aitken. Two giant LCD screens projecting kaleidoscopic images of the Seattle region now wrap the north and west facade of the museum, with emanating vertical bands of lights.

Images from Doug Aitken's MIRROR (Seattle Art Museum)

Images from Doug Aitken’s MIRROR. (Courtesy Seattle Art Museum)

For the MIRROR installation, Aitken built up a database of hundreds of hours of digital footage in and around Seattle, from sunsets, to Puget Sound, to the urban grid to old growth forests. Captured over five years, the scenes feed into the glass video displays and synchronized light bands, which are triggered by computer driven sensors pulling in local weather, traffic, and pedestrian data.

Due to the spontaneous nature of the information used, there is no looping. Despite Aitken’s global oeuvre, MIRROR is his first permanent installation at a museum, and was commissioned by the late philanthropist Bagley Wright, one of the developers of the Space Needle. The unveiling was choreographed to music by minimalist composers Steve Reich and Terry Riley, performed by the Seattle Symphony Orchestra.

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