Doug Aitken on His MOCA Exhibit: "To Have Everything in L.A. is Incredibly Moving"

The acclaimed contemporary artist's new multi-dimensional show, 'Electric Earth,' is on view at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in downtown Los Angeles through Jan. 15, 2017.
Courtesy of The Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles

The date: Two years ago. The people: Philippe Vergne, director of Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, and mixed media artist Doug Aitken. The location: the rooftop of Aitken's Venice home. The conversation: How do you do an art exhibition and "use the space of a museum a little bit differently?" The accessories: Undisclosed cocktails.

Vergne recounted these details inside Vibiana during a private Christie's-sponsored dinner on Sept. 9, 2016, just a couple of downtown L.A. city blocks from where Doug Aitken: Electric Earth has just been unveiled at MOCA's Geffen Contemporary space for the museum's leadership circle and members. 

"And here we are today, about two and a half years later and we have an exhibition that has totally rethought our museum from the inside," Vergne explained. "What really surprised me during these two years of conversations is that every time I was talking to Doug, when I heard Doug talking about his work — either to me, to my colleagues at MOCA, to journalists, to musicians — he never said 'I.' He never said 'me.' He would always say 'we.'"

Vergne continued that it's an important detail because it acknowledges a way of work that is "extremely different" in the world, because Aitken works as a collective, "a beehive of incredible minds working together." Thus, the night was dedicated to everyone in the room as, "all of you have been in Doug Aitken's life or work in one way or another," said Vergen, who co-curated the show.

The theme of a collective group effort then dominated Aitken's remarks later in the night — after guests dined on a farro salad, a main entree of prime hangar steak with anson mills polenta and pavlova with marscaporne mousse with balsamic jam for dessert — when he grabbed the microphone for just a few moments. 

"To have everything here in Los Angeles for me is incredibly moving. What happens for many artists is that you make a work and its shown someplace else — in Berlin, London, Greece, Asia or some place. The work is shown and you move on and make something else," he said. "Tonight, I really have to thank Philippe and the museum for the opportunity to bring these works together like a constellation and the opportunity to look at the dialogue between them and share them with all of you."

Sharing with the people, some of whom, he has collaborated with and others that Aitken admits that he "probably passed on the freeway — on the 10 or the 405."


Director of Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles Philippe Vergne, left, and Curatorial Fellow Anna Katz attend MOCA's Leadership Circle and Members' Opening for "Doug Aitken: Electric Earth" at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in L.A. on Sept. 9, 2016. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for MOCA)


Doug Aitken and artist Mark Bradford hug at MOCA's Leadership Circle and Members' Opening for "Doug Aitken: Electric Earth" at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in L.A. on Sept. 9, 2016. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for MOCA)


Guests attend MOCA's Leadership Circle and Members' Opening for "Doug Aitken: Electric Earth" at the Geffen Contemporary at MOCA in L.A. on Sept. 9, 2016. (Photo by Donato Sardella/Getty Images for MOCA)
 

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