Victoria Miro presents Return to the Real, an exhibition of new works by Doug Aitken. Conceived as a unified composition of sound, light, form and movement, the exhibition explores our rapidly changing relationships to one another and the world around us in an age dominated by technology.
‘We are living in a new era, one of complete connectivity, where screen space has become seemingly equal to the physical landscape. This surreal shift in evolution brings us into uncharted waters, a new frontier, one for which we are not fully prepared. These artworks question how we navigate a world of increasing speed and transition, the direction of where we can go and how we can confront the future.’ – Doug Aitken
A starting point for this exhibition is the idea of the contemporary individual and the ways in which humans are continuously both in and out of sync. Diametrically opposed notions of connectivity and freedom, collectivity and isolation are highlighted, reminding us how this new frontier is being shaped and is transforming our lives in real time and, in many ways, defining our generation. The exhibition creates a fragmented narrative of today’s unprecedented digital landscape, in which artworks function like signposts, inviting the viewer to pause, stop and evaluate their surroundings.
Traditional sculptural forms are transformed. In the ground floor gallery, a figure, crystallised in translucent acrylic, appears resting at a wooden table, shopping bags discarded on the floor, a phone just out of reach. Caught in the midst of a silent moment, this is not a heroic figure but a candid snapshot of an individual frozen as if time had stopped. From the hollowed core of the sculpture, light emanates and pulses in shifting colours, choreographed together with an original audio composition of layered vocals which spreads throughout the space. Surrounding the figure are several large lightboxes that reveal new and synthetic landscapes, in which repetition renders unfamiliar commonplace domestic imagery, such as beds and swimming pools. In another work, the wing of a plane extends towards the horizon in a manner that is both seductive and disorienting. This is a portrait of a modern landscape in transition, suspended between the physical world and the world of the screen.
In the first-floor gallery we see a young woman paused in an introspective moment, her form carved from Zebrino marble. Upon closer inspection we notice that the figure is split in half, its interior revealing a chamber of faceted mirror that causes reflected light to flow through and beyond the body. This luminous kaleidoscopic effect responds to the interplay of a dynamic light wall situated behind the sculpture. Flickering with the speed of the external world, yet held in a moment of quiet contemplation, the figure fluctuates between motion and stillness.
This is a restless exhibition where diverse mediums merge together seamlessly. Minimal in design, several sonic sculptures hang from the ceiling. Composed of reflective steel chimes, they slowly rotate, playing music when activated. Within these works is housed a finely tuned musical scale allowing each sculpture to create continuously changing arrangements, while its mirrored surface abstracts its surrounding environment.
On the terrace of the waterside garden is a freestanding sculpture which also features a number of mirrored chimes, each representing a different note on the musical scale, that gradually ascend and descend in a sequence of musical patterns. A living artwork, the sculpture creates hypnotic sounds as the wind moves through it and, at other times, falls into silence. It embodies the fluidity of time by creating an evolving experience, a soundscape in which harmonies are composed and recomposed anew, unique for each visitor.