SONG 1 Opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

SONG 1 Opens at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia

Doug Aitken SONG 1 (2012/2015), is now open at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA). The 360-degree installation is presented as part of the comprehensive survey Doug Aitken: New Era, the MCA’s major summer exhibition for the 2021-22 Sydney International Art Series.

One of Doug Aitken’s largest moving image installations to date, SONG 1 (2012/2015), forms a spectacular highlight of the American artist’s major survey exhibition New Era on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia (MCA).

Presented in the MCA’s Level 1 North gallery, SONG 1 is a 360-degree video installation that takes the form of a circular suspended structure with imagery wrapping around its circumference, both inside and out. The work features varied renditions of the popular song ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’, interspersed with urban and digital imagery. SONG 1 depicts scenes from a nocturnal city, including restaurants, car parks, factories and highways.

The performers include many familiar actors and musicians together with everyday individuals. The events are unconnected and the people often alone, but the song, repeated over and over again, binds together the characters and scenes. For this project, Aitken has recorded contributions from a broad cross-section of performers, from well-known celebrities such as actress Tilda Swinton, musicians Beck and Devendra Banhart, to gospel singers, street performers and everyday people.

SONG 1 was originally created to wrap around the circular exterior of the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington DC where it played from sunset to sunrise over eight weeks. For the artist Doug Aitken, SONG 1 centered around the exploration of the perfect pop song, and the way in which music could connect a diverse group of people and places together.

“I was very interested in the perfect pop song as one of the seminal contributions of the 20th century. I wanted to exercise it to its extreme; to make 50–60 or more new versions of the same song. It would become something that was ever present, moving from person to person. It was mapping a modern topography,” said Aitken.

Curator Rachel Kent, who has worked in close collaboration with the artist on all aspects of the exhibition said, “SONG 1 brings together Doug Aitken’s longstanding interest in sound, repetition and musicality. Well known for his immersive, multi-screen video environments, the artist here envelops viewers within a vast, circular screen of projected imagery inspired by a 1930s show tune, ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’. Short, catchy and melodic, the tune is interpreted fifty or more times by singers, actors and performers, both professional and non-professional, against an ever-changing backdrop of urban imagery.”

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 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.

Born in 1968, Doug Aitken lives and works in Los Angeles, USA. His work has featured in exhibitions at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington DC; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Museum of Modern Art, New York; Vienna Secession; and more. In 1999, Aitken received the International Prize at the Venice Biennale for the installation Electric Earth.

SONG 1 is ticketed as part of the Doug Aitken: New Era exhibition. Tickets are available to purchase from or at the MCA ticket desk on Level 1 of the Museum. Visitors to the exhibition will be able to listen to a free audio guide, hear directly from the artist and view behind-the-scenes videos on the mobile Museum guide SONG 1 is on display until 6 February 2022.