My wife and I took the train from Westchester to see the opening of Doug Aitken’s videodrome at the Museum of Modern Art. Ad posters for the show greeted us at Grand Central Station, featuring pictures of Donald Sutherland and Tilda Swinton.
In the bitter cold, we taxied to 53rd Street. Interns in knit caps lettered with "Creative Time" (a co-sponsor) and "MoMA" guided us towards a line snaking around the block, with Doug Aitken’s actors pouting overhead in glorious technicolor. The singer Chan Marshall, aka Cat Power, looking far more composed and sexy than at any of her concerts, loomed large above us, on MoMA’s wall, miming a postal worker.
The interns refused a tip, and we followed the anonymous, black-clad youthquakers into what used to be the Museum of Modern Art. Someone had replaced the Miro in the lobby with a Stella protractor piece, as youngsters lined up for drinks. The other "middle-aged" folks said "Hello": Linda Yablonsky, Thelma Golden, Eugenie Tsai.
Otherwise, supermodel manqués swirled around us swilling scotch. It was American Idol, thankfully without the music. Doug Aitken’s video, the product of half a dozen corporate sponsors, from Eastman Kodak upwards, glistened on the walls of the sculpture garden, Donald Sutherland glowering with snowy-haired angst. For all the hype surrounding these outdoor projections, Sleepwalkers is a snooze, lifeless and completely derivative of others’ creative efforts.
Shall we count the ways? The multiple overhead projections are a direct steal from the cityscape in Blade Runner, the colors, rich and autumnal, are lifted from Jeremy Blake. We looked into a side gallery and spotted Philip-Lorca diCorcia’s lost New York kin in a Yankees cap. Aitken has merely taken diCorcia’s photographs of disoriented New Yorkers, done after 9/11, and animated them. Not exactly original, eh, Doug?
A man came onstage downstairs performing Desafinado, a number one hit in 1962 (our parents bought the record). The crowdful of idiots went wild. We tried to walk downstairs, past Rodin’s brave but gradually diminishing Balzac to leave, but the guards blocked our way, diverting us to an elevator. MoMA creates a fire hazard and abjures crowd control so some hack can entertain us with a hit from 45 years ago!
Stupidland has arrived in the temple of art, where context is beyond a joke. Obliteration is too good for such a dump. Enjoy!
CHARLIE FINCH is co-author of Most Art Sucks: Five Years of Coagula (Smart Art Press).