The Source: Doug Aitken – art installation

Doug Aitken

The Source ”“ Doug Aitken, (Co-commissioned by Tate Liverpool and Sky Arts)
Tate, Liverpool.
Liverpool Biennial 2012.
Admission Free

Dave Jennings has been checking out Doug Aitken’s art installation at Tate Liverpool, part of the biennial, an installation that poses some questions & provokes even more.

The Source is Doug Aitken’s first public installation in the UK and a prominent aspect of the Liverpool Biennial. LA Based Aitken is a well established and innovative artist who has an impressive record of art installations most recently ”˜Song 1′, which is a 360 degree projection on the exterior of the Hishhorn Museum in Washington DC.

The Source is housed in a temporary pavilion outside Tate Liverpool which was designed by Aitken alongside British Architect David Adjaye OBE and asks 2 simple questions: where does the creative process start and how is it realised? Simple questions they may be, but take a moment to consider and they are actually at the heart of everything we all love in music, art or any other creative process. How often have you asked yourself ”˜how did they think of that?’ (possibly on virtually every line during most Fall tracks), or ”˜why did they do it that way?’. Having been born lacking the vital creative chromosone, I spend much of my time marvelling at the ideas of others and pondering on such things as messages, melodies and influences. However Aitken has presented a fascinating study of filmed conversations with a range of participants from different spheres of creativity such as music, art, photography, acting and architecture. These are projected inside the pavilion simultaneously during the day and then outwards from the building after dark.

On the theme of musical creativity, Jack White reminds us that for much of the last 100 years there has been the same frame of up to 12 bars and a few different time sequences to build a song on. What we have is a set of notes and chords that are constantly re-assembled and preferably within a three and a half minute structure. All that modern artists can do is try to give a hint of something new within that formula.

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Beck explains the almost accidental nature of discovery with between 50-100 ideas on any song, his most interesting sounds are often not the ones he was searching for. Music is just shaking up vibrations and shaping chaos. Photographer William Eggleston backs up Beck’s views on the importance of spontaneity by saying it would not be possible for him to plan a shot, he’s just taken by what appears.

Maybe some of the wisest words are spoken by artist Jack Pierson who is adamant there is no need to worry about whether what you create is necessary, just do what you really want. Fellow artist Richard Phillips believes that painting is now an outmoded media in this age of instant media and that’s what makes it so valuable ”“ choose an image in a micro-second and take hold of it. The alternative is to passively accept what media throws at us and who wants to do that? This expands on another of Jack White’s points on the danger of social media ”“ if Michaelangelo was around now, would we really want him to have a blog, do we want to know what he was thinking as he created?

The influence of environment is crucial according to White. This is a point that is constantly pondered in music analysis with examples being the impact of the industrial West Midlands on the development of Heavy Metal and mid-70’s social and urban decay on Punk. Take a walk around Fortis Green and it’s almost possible to feel the influences of ”˜The Kinks are the Village Green Preservation Society’.

Lucky Dragons are continuously searching for what seems the right rhythm for any particular moment and then once they’ve found it, to amplify it. They feel that music doesn’t always have to be a statement, it can be a form of research too and that they are involved as listeners as well as performers. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem also feels the influence of environment is crucial and remembers growing up near train tracks and a small airport and the importance of the repetitive sounds associated with them. In Murphy’s case he says he can fall desperately in love with very small sounds, maybe from the landscape like the impact of wind on how we hear it, or even the specific sound of a US refrigerator. Like Jack Pierson he is adamant that you have to go with your instinct and not worry about what others think. The process of repetition of simple ideas is what gives them power. Devendra Banhart believes there is something uniquely pure about a pop song and after every song he’s written, he feels sure he will never write another.

Aitken’s conversations are projected simultaneously inside the pavilion so you can either wander round and take in different parts or stand in the centre and make a snap judgement which area to head to. You certainly leave the building with your faith in creativity reaffirmed ”“ let people create what they want, when they want to and how they want to do it. Those like me, who only listen and view, can then enjoy the ”˜amplification of a moment’ or the result of an instant idea and still be thinking and talking about it years after.

In addition to The Source, the Liverpool Biennial offers a range of other exhibitions such as ”˜The Unexpected Guest’ which explores aspects of hospitality, ”˜City States’ which explore how artists are inspired by the ”˜freedom of the city’, ”˜Bloomberg New Contemporaries’ which provides a critical platform for new and recent art graduates and the John Moores Painting Prize at the Walker Art Gallery. Plenty then, to fill a day in this, one of our greatest musical and artistic cities.

Liverpool Biennial runs from 15th September -25th November 2012 at various locations throughout the city.

For more info about the biennial visit the website here.

All pictures are courtesy of Doug Aitken Workshop and 303 Gallery NY

All words by Dave Jennings. You can read more from Dave on LTW here.

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