Doug Aitken: Altered Earth

The Media Artist’s Latest Project Unfurls the Latent Narratives of the Arles Landscape

The surreal, cratered salt mines and desolate marshlands of the Camargue region of Southern France are hauntingly navigated in this exclusive excerpt from ALTERED EARTH: Arles, City of Moving Images, a new multimedia production from artist Doug Aitken. The culmination of three years’ work, ALTERED EARTH explores the ever-evolving geography and ecosystem of the Camargue, a boundless wilderness between the tributaries of the Rhone south of Arles. “It’s so remote, a natural place that does not seem to change. But then you start to notice that everything is in flux,” explains Aitken. Commissioned by the LUMA Foundation, the site-specific work, to be exhibited in Arles’ Parc des Ateliers next spring by way of massive projections and improvised musical performances, has been developed into an application for the iPad by Meri Media. Incorporating moving image, literature, data visualizations and sound design from musicians White Rainbow, CFCF and Lichens, the application invites the user to piece together fragments of the landscape to create their own fictional narrative of the Camargue. “I was thinking about the way we process information,” says Aitken, “and was fascinated by the idea that you could empower the viewer to mine these meanings in a way that is not directed as a film is.”

Doug Aitken reveals the dining table origins of Altered Earth:

“The project came out of a casual dinner amongst friends who had connections with the Camargue. They were speaking about this place that has an incredible resonance. It’s very surreal, very stark. There is a rawness and sense of survival that captured my imagination. I had a glass of wine that was on a paper napkin and I noticed drips from the red wine starting to bleed into the pulp of the napkin, just as they were talking about the Rhone River and how it cuts through the wetlands.

I felt like I was holding the geography in my hand almost, this perfect square with a river running through it. I began to fold the napkin as they were speaking into an origami-like shape and realized that what I was actually doing was taking the landscape and dividing it. When you divide something and multiply it, it creates shapes, forms and structure, which eventually creates architecture.

The idea came to me really quickly that it would be interesting to take the geography of Camargue itself and divide it—in so doing creating this set of restrictions, that this region, this space, will be the only space we film in. We will look at the different symptoms of this place and move from there; let the landscape, and what you find when you are exploring and discovering it, create the texture of the narrative.”

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Conversations (1)

  • iheartthebarn
    love this!
    • Posted By iheartthebarn
    • October 24, 2011 at 11:09PM
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