'Doug Aitken: Flags and Debris' opens at the The Israel Museum, Jerusalem

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'Doug Aitken: Flags and Debris' opens at the The Israel Museum, Jerusalem
Doug Aitken, Flags and Debris, 2021. Still from three-channel video installation (color, sound), 13:20 min. loop. Joint acquisition with the Brooklyn Museum and the Dallas Museum of Art; Purchased for the Israel Museum by American Friends of the Israel Museum © Doug Aitken, Courtesy of 303 Gallery, New York; Victoria Miro, London; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich and Regen Projects, Los Angeles.

JERUSALEM.- Flags and Debris weaves together sights and feelings that the Covid-19 pandemic produced as it left its mark on urban activity, on the body, and on the human spirit.

In 2020, during the first lockdown of the Covid-19 pandemic, the multidisciplinary artist Doug Aitken sought sources of inspiration in his own house and turned clothes and other fabrics he found into works of collage. The research, meticulous labor, and stillness of his work process – planning the composition, dying the cloth, cutting, sewing – were a result of being secluded and looking inward. These textile works recall flags or banners conveying verbal messages, but they also resemble patchwork quilts with associations of warmth, comfort, and security. Each one has a fragmented text (“I Lost Track,” “Nowhere/Somewhere,” “Digital Detox”) scattered against the background like splinters of light or some flickering programming code. The diffuse arrangement, the puzzling poetic phrases are themselves a reflection of a time that was filled with instability and uncertainty.

As this artistic enterprise evolved, Aitken stepped outside his home and into the empty streets of Los Angeles. In collaboration with LA Dance Project, he created a series of spectator-less performances in the city’s deserted industrial areas. His textile collages now covered the dancers like flowing extensions of their bodies, or hung from city overpasses, blowing in the wind. The filmed performances were turned into a three-channel video installation that captures enigmatic encounters between the desolate city and figures who move through the space like twisting, struggling ghosts. Drawing attention to what usually remains unnoticed, the installation infuses static sites with surreal life and compelling energy.

Aitken’s art unfolds open-ended narratives, set in an architectural landscape which takes on new meaning in his works. Flags and Debris weaves together sights and feelings that the pandemic produced as it left its mark on urban activity, on the body, and on the human spirit.

Doug Aitken is widely known for his innovative, genre-bending installations. Utilizing a wide array of artistic approaches, he explores every medium, from film and installations to sculpture and architectural interventions. His artwork has been featured in numerous exhibitions around the world, in such institutions as the Whitney Museum of American Art, The Museum of Modern Art, the Vienna Secession, the Serpentine Gallery, and the Centre Georges Pompidou. He earned the International Prize at the Venice Biennale in 1999 for the installation electric earth. Aitken's awards include the 2012 Nam June Paik Art Center Prize, the 2013 Smithsonian Magazine American Ingenuity Award and the 2019 ArtCenter College of Design Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2021-22, The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia featured a retrospective of Aitken’s work.

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