Broken Screen by Doug Aitken

July 3, 2008

Still from Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers project

Doug Aitken’s Sleepwalkers floated a soporific city symphony on the walls of MoMA, balancing long takes with short bursts of rhymed images. The multiplane video was silent, but Aitken talks 26 ears off in Broken Screen, his book of interviews.

The thin thread connecting the interviews is put best in the subtitle: “expanding the image, breaking the narrative.” It’s really just an excuse for him to interview a bunch of mostly gallery artists and filmmakers (and an architect) he likes.

Even though many artists are close to overexposed– would that Werner Herzog had bitten Matthew Barney– it is refreshing to have them out of their respective ghettos. Broken Screen reads like a great magazine that only lasted for two issues because it tried to do too much.

Some of the artists are new, like the fascinating Olafur Eliasson. Others, like Manny Farber and Alejandro Jodorowsky, seem curiously old-fashioned. Better are the lesser-known, like Pablo Ferro, the titles designer of Vertigo, Dr. Strangelove, and many others. And especially welcome is Eija-Liisa Ahtila, whose interview glimpses the nuts and bolts of an artist working with a seasoned film crew.

The book’s real value is in its lavish production. Like a little coffee table book, it teems with full-color reproductions of art, film stills, and even a clutch of photos from Robert Wilson stage shows. I doubt I’ll reread the interviews, but I leaf through the book every time I see it.

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