Locked away for months during the pandemic, artist Doug Aitken grabbed a pair of scissors, cut up some of his clothing and created quilt-like flags.
“I found myself locked in my house and I thought about creativity,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “You make art with whatever you have that’s in your environment. You adapt.”
The large-scale works make up his new show, Flags & Debris, at Regen Projects in Hollywood (by appointment, Jan. 16 through March 13). Included are the renowned multimedia artist‘s first forays into textiles, some bearing slogans: “Resist Algorithms,” “Digital Detox,” and “Reality Fracking.” Says Aitken, “I love that phrase ’cause every day is like a reality frack. What is the description? What is real?”
The works also come to life in a short film featuring members of L.A. Dance Project, filmed around the city during the pandemic. In it, dancers wrapped in fabric artworks appear as organic blobs on the city’s eerily deserted sidewalks. “It was such an astounding experience to film these impromptu pieces in Los Angeles in all these different areas, whether it’s East L.A. or under the 405 or some derelict part of downtown at night. The city is empty. The city is pretty much transformed right now.”
Accompanying the show is a campaign to reach out to the public on a grassroots level. Wheat-paste posters with QR codes will soon start appearing in incidental sites around the city. Scan it with a phone, then watch the 10-minute film. Aitken sees it as a way of democratizing the work. “You can go to the gallery, but you can also see it on the side of a wall in front of a construction site. I love that,” he laughs.
Adds Aitken, “When we talk about lessons learned from 2020, you learn that less is more. This is a year that really brings out that do-it-yourself aesthetic. Maybe this is the moment to look at the obstacles in front of you and be more creative and work around them, come up with new languages to try to harness this negativity and transform it into an inspiration.”
A version of this story first appeared in the Jan. 20 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.