, multimedia artist Doug Aitken projects his story of unrelated urban dwellers onto the circumference of MoMA, directly reflecting city life onto the city itself. As a nighttime, outdoor installation, Sleepwalkers
follows five, ordinary characters over the span of five hours as they complete their nocturnal jobs.
In order to get the full effect of the exhibit, audience members must circumnavigate the museum’s exteriors, using the facade as an eight part movie screen. For an added bonus, film afficionados are encouraged to call a California hotline for artist commentary.
The film stars, among others, Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, as a postal worker, Donald Sutherland, as a businessman, and Tilda Swinton, as a corporate paper-pusher. It’s not so much the occupations of the characters
that audience members will relate to, but rather their bustling, somewhat isolated, journeys throughout the city.
Anyone who lives in New York thrives on the energy and drive that this city provides on a daily, and nightly, basis. It’s the travel time on the trains, the human interactions on the streets, and the endless narrative of lively appetite that provide the true pulse of this city, which is captured perfectly in Aitken’s exhibit.
To watch Sleepwalkers
at night, alongside your fellow citizens
, lends to the experience an eery sense of solidarity. Likewise, while it would be pretty awesome to provide your own music montage, via an iPod, it is strongly suggested to watch the film with only the soundtrack of the city in the background.
In real time, passing taxi cabs, tourists, police sirens, and even homeless people, provide an ultimate feel of realism to the film, giving it the tone of a documentary. Aitken’s stunning cinematography, however, coupled with the task of forcing your imagination to believe that Chan Marshall could ever be a postal worker, make this film a feature.
At such a grandiose scale, the pixels of the film blend into the buildings on which it is projected, entering into a dialogue with the architecture. Unlike in a regular movie theater – which seems so provincial after watching Sleepwalkers
– the audience is not forced to remain static. As one commentator notes, on the six minute phone message, “we become the coeditors of the film by choosing what we see.”
Upon leaving the exhibition, it’s difficult to discern which parts of the journey home are actually yours
and which scenes
belong to Sleepwalkers
. It’s precisely this cinematic daze that the unfinished scenes embody in large scale form. Every interaction of life in a metropolis is part of a broken narrative. As you circle around MoMA, the characters above you are also walking around the city; it is the story of ourselves, and our city, being told to us.