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Doug Aitken: New Era opens at MCA

Still of an owl on a bed in a darkened room surrounded by fluttering feathers
Image by Doug Aitken

American artist Doug Aitken’s first major solo exhibition in the southern hemisphere, Doug Aitken: New Era, opens tomorrow 20 October at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA), as part of the 2021-22 Sydney International Art Series. Exclusive to Sydney, this comprehensive survey exhibition brings together key works from the late 1990s to recent multi-screen video installations.

American artist Doug Aitken is internationally recognised for his ambitious practice that encompasses installations, sculptures, photographs and vast, multi-screen environments that envelop viewers within a kaleidoscope of moving imagery and sound. Based in Los Angeles, he has realised numerous museum projects around the world, as well as live events in collaboration with musicians and performers, and site-specific works within the natural landscape and below the ocean’s surface.

MCA Director, Elizabeth Ann Macgregor OBE, said: “The Museum of Contemporary Art Australia is delighted to be presenting the first solo exhibition of Doug Aitken’s work in Australia, as part of the 2021- 2021 Sydney International Art Series. Doug Aitken is one of the world’s most influential and engaging contemporary artists. I have no doubt that the experience of becoming immersed in his world of spectacular videos, sculptures and installations is just what people are looking for as we emerge from the difficulties of life in lockdown. I can think of no better way to signal that the MCA, and Sydney, are well and truly open for a New Era!”

Doug Aitken: New Era is a comprehensive survey exhibition spanning more than two decades of the renowned artist’s practice. The Sydney-exclusive exhibition brings together key works from the late-1990s through to the present, including multi-screen video installations, large-scale sculptures, a

major sound environment, photographic installation, and a display of significant site-specific and performative projects. Curated by Rachel Kent, former MCA Chief Curator and now Chief Executive Officer, Bundanon Trust NSW, the exhibition transforms the MCA’s Level 3 galleries into an immersive and multi-sensory environment.

Rachel Kent, who has worked in close collaboration with the artist on all aspects of the exhibition, said: “Doug Aitken is an artist of international renown whose work immerses audiences within a constantly shifting world of light, sound, colour, and reflection. Encompassing vast, multi-screen environments as well as sculpture and photography, his museum works are complemented by site-specific projects and live events that open up multiple ways to experience and engage with art. 

Aitken’s works expand the definition of what art can be, positioning viewers as active participants in an environment that is fluid and dynamic. Landscape – real, virtual, nomadic, geological, psychological – is a recurring motif, while sound and musicality form a structural, temporal device for works on display.”

Speaking about the exhibition, Doug Aitken commented: “New Era is an exhibition that spans many different mediums, places, locations and ideas. We spent three years designing this exhibition for the MCA, Sydney and I wanted to activate the architecture in a different way, to turn the museum inside-out for the viewer. I see the experience of the exhibition as being authored by the viewer – what they see, how they see it, and how they piece together their own story and their own narrative within the space is up to them.

The exhibition New Era at the MCA speaks to our future, it is a landscape of ideas, a place where the viewer can step into, explore and hopefully leave transformed with a new perspective.”

Doug Aitken: New Era is on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia from 20 October 2021 – 6 February 2022.

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