Don’t expect to lie in a chair in the dark with a bag of popcorn and passively watch the Aspen Art Museum’s ambitious new video art exhibit. It will be an immersive and active experience, according to curator Chrissie Iles.
“People may think, ‘Oh, a video show – it’s a bunch of projections on a white wall,'” said Iles, curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, who curated the exhibit with the curator at Aspen. Art Museum to the great Anisa Jackson and assistant curator Simone Krug. “Absolutely not. Every piece in this show is different.
Titled “Mountain/Time,” the 12-artist exhibit opens Friday and includes site-specific pieces made for Aspen as well as works on loan from the Whitney Funds and the famed Rosenkranz Collection. It fills all gallery spaces across three floors of the museum, with galleries subdivided into smaller rooms so that each of the artists has their own distinct gallery environment.
“When Nicola (Lees, the director of the museum) invited me to organize the exhibition, the first thing I did was think about the site,” Iles told the museum on Wednesday during a break from the exhibition. late stage of installation. “Because large exhibitions of moving image installations like this don’t happen very often, period. And when they do, you always see them in cities. They are always seen in an urban context.
She couldn’t ignore the mountains surrounding the museum.
“As a curator, I think the environment in which we see an exhibit really matters,” Iles said. “Seeing an exhibit at the Aspen Art Museum is very special because you’re never looking at the mountains – when you walk out of one gallery and into the other, the mountains are there.”
Thinking about an exhibition of video works, also known as “time-based media”, got her thinking about the concept of mountain time – not the Greenwich-based time zone, but millions of years in the lifespan of a mountain, the local trembling aspen the root systems of the trees that have been here since the ice age, the way the Rockies force you to think in larger geologic timeframes.
Preparing Islands for this show took her to the Aspen Center for Environmental Studies to learn more about local geology and forestry, to the Aspen Historical Society to study records and maps, inside the Smuggler mine and in the ghost towns here and in the historically black ghost town. Dearfield on the Front Range.
You won’t see this research on the walls anywhere in the museum in “Mountain/Time,” but it has informed Iles’ curatorial decisions.
“Even the root system of trees told us something about how artists actually worked,” Iles said. “And so it started to really unravel the works and what their relationship to each other might be.”
The artworks explore identity, geography and culture and, as the museum’s description states, “ideas of re-mapping, migration, black and indigenous geographies, storytelling and time, in themes inspired by the interwoven histories and geographies of mountains and their ecological systems.
Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai, for example, has created a screening room where the floor is made of earth and explores, in part, the cinematographic and screening traditions of a region in northeast Thailand where screenings of outdoor movies are part of a spiritual practice.
“When you walk in there, you can smell the earth,” Iles explained. “And then the walls are made of some sort of fabric that he made with the staff here at the museum. … The projection itself appears as one element in a larger environment.
Mohawk artist Alan Michelson has created surfaces resembling Aspen movie screens from blankets and fabric – one horizontal and one vertical – onto which he projects a manipulated, dreamlike version of the 1941 western “They Died With Their boots”, featuring Errol Flynn as the heroic version of General George Custer at the Battle of the Little Big Horn alongside a second film using documentary footage of Indigenous leaders visiting the battle site in 1926.
“He really takes archival film footage and then Hollywood film footage and remaps history from an Indigenous perspective,” Iles explained.
Other artists in the exhibition include Maia Ruth Lee, who was born in South Korea, grew up in Nepal and settled in New York but moved to Salida when the pandemic hit in 2020. The corridor of the second floor of the museum houses the artificial intelligence “BOB”. (Bag of Beliefs)”, created by Ian Cheng. “Mountain/Time” also includes works by Doug Aitken – who had a solo exhibition at the museum in 2006 – along with Kahlil Joseph, Kandis Williams, Arthur Jafa Tourmaline, Anicka Yi and Mark Leckey.
Clarissa Tossin, from Brazil, split her bedroom in two and included a sculpture and video of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Hollyhock House in Los Angeles, illustrating its so-called “Mayan renaissance” design elements, as well as images of real Mayan dance and music.
“The relationship between sculpture and projection and dance and sound and music – it’s very holistically intertwined,” Iles said.
The highly anticipated exhibition, which was due to run until September 11, was due to open alongside Gaetano Pesce’s “My Dear Mountains” – an inflated sheath-like work that would wrap around the museum’s facade. The installation of Pescé has been delayedalthough a collection of his ceramic works will still be on display at the museum this week.
Iles suggests that there is not just one way to experience “Mountain/Time”, that viewers can have fulfilling experiences exploring a floor or a gallery or enjoying every moment of every work.
“I think you should give yourself plenty of time,” she said. “People stand in front of paintings for, what, 10 seconds? 30 seconds? It takes more time but it’s very immersive. … It’s not like a movie where you walk in, it starts at 7 and you leave at 8:30.
Some of the works are more narrative than others, and one (the AI-based “BOB”) is infinite in length. But spend time in any part of the show, Iles predicted, and you’ll start to find connections on your own.
“Each work tells a story, and then the exhibit itself tells a story,” she said. “So you have a lot of stories within stories.”