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Doug Aitken

electric earth

1999

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Artist

Doug Aitken (1968-)

Title

electric earth

Date

1999

Medium

Eight-channel video installation and architectural environment

Dimensions

Dimensions variable

Edition information

4/4

Credit line

Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Purchase, with funds from the Painting and Sculpture Committee and the Film and Video Committee

Accession number

2000.145

Object Label

Doug Aitken’s Electric Earth is a multi-room, multi-screen video installation that immerses the viewer in a loosely structured narrative about a young man in a big city. Walking along the deserted outskirts of Los Angeles at night, the protagonist seems overwhelmed, emotionally and physically, by the everyday sights he encounters—a blinking streetlight, a wheel spinning on a shopping cart, the motions of a bill stuck in the slot of a soda machine, a car window, flickering fluorescent lights, and airplanes flying overhead. His own body mimics the motions and rhythms of these events—“I absorb that energy,” he remarks, “I eat it.” The feeling of being subsumed by this “electric earth” is reinforced by the enveloping, near-hypnotic nature of the installation itself, which surrounds the viewer with synchronized, large-scale video images. Electric Earth is characterized by the high production values and tight editing of Hollywood features, but it is also extremely poetic, drawing on the tools of the commercial film and video industry to create a haunting picture of preoccupation and alienation in contemporary society.

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