On Friday night at Riverfront Studios, motion-picture soundstages on 3 acres of East River waterfront between the Williamsburg Bridge and the Navy Yard, the newest art project by Doug Aitken called Station to Station was launched. Aitken did the “destruction” of Gallery 303 last year, Creative Time’s Broken Screen Happening at the Essex Street Market and Sleepwalkers projected on the wall of MoMA’s Sculpture Garden. On the site of the former Schaefer Brewery, spotted in the crowd was Agnes Gund, Klaus Biesenbach, Chrissie Iles, Roxana Marcoci, Linda Yablonsky, Lisa Phillips and other art world luminaries. This event marked the inaugural nomadic “Happening” that moves in an Aitken-designed train from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Coast stopping at nine different locations each time for a one-night-only live event in September. The scene was set for live performances that included a colorful site-specific smoke bomb installation by Olaf Breuning; food happening created by artist Rirkrit Tiravanija; and an original performance choreographed by Jonah Bokaer inspired by Robert Rauschenberg's Pelican (1963) on the occasion of work’s 50th anniversary and more. Being a nomadic endeavor, five artists were commissioned to create yurts, portable tent-like dwelling traditionally used by nomads in Central Asia. So bright they could be seen from the Manhattan side, all the yurts are 17 feet in diameter and made of canvas by Canadian firm Yurta, I was magnetically drawn to Ernesto Neto’s bright yellow bubble with circles punched out, and the discards scattered on the grass like pebbles. Inspired by his home city Rio de Janero’s beaches, the floor of this yurt was soft like walking on the sand. I then floated into Urs Fischer’s white yurt through a foggy mist, and landed on a king-size bed with spinning disco ball above and mirrors all around -- a hedonistic yurt that was hard to leave. This is contrasted with Liz Glynn’s black felt maze, a dark interior that reminded me of getting lost in a Richard Serra sculpture. Over the course of the train’s journey she will create a different model of the universe, moving from the Big Bang theory to Hubble's expanding universe and beyond. 86-year old underground experimental filmmaker Kenneth Anger has created a bright red glowing tent with three screens featuring his films Demon Brother (1969), Lucifer Rising (1981), and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954). A pentagonal seating cushion centers the space. If you saw Carsten Höller’s Experience at the New Museum last year that featured a slide between two floors, his iridescent orange Ball- and Frisbee-House wouldn’t be a surprise. Entering through a hole and landing on the squishy floor that supports pliable columns, you can play with projectiles. Inside Riverside Studios, additional yurts were settings for local artists and artisans from Folk Fibers, Cobra Boots, Chimayo, and Junkyard Jeans crafting products in real time. But because this is the only venue that is on the water but not on a railway, we didn’t get to see Aitken’s train car. To do so, visit Station to Station as is winds its way across the country.
Chicago. September 10. Union Station
Minneapolis/St. Paul. Setpember 12. St. Paul Union Depot
Santa Fe, Setpemer 18. Santa Fe Railyard
Winslow, AZ. September 21. La Posada
Barstow, CA. September 24. Skyline Drive-in Theater
Los Angeles, CA. September 26. Union Station
Oakland/San Francisco. 16th St. Station