Doug Aitken’s Station to Station project travels across the US

Station to Station is a travelling kinetic sculpture
Station to Station is a travelling kinetic sculpture, cultural studio and public art project conceived by the artist Doug Aitken and supported by Levi's.
(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Doug Aitken has always had big ideas (opens in new tab), but none have been bigger than his current undertaking: a mobile art and culture showcase (opens in new tab) that will journey from America's east to west coasts. Named 'Station to Station', the mobile art experiment takes the shape of a train that will serve as an incubator for artists, musicians and cultural icons to create new, site-specific material while making nine city stops across the country over the course of three weeks this September.

Comprising nine carriages dating from the 1940s and 50s, the public art project will stop at each venue, ranging from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to St. Paul, Minnesota and Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a one-night only cultural festival, where the public can experience the inspiring intersection of art and music.  

While the roster of big name music acts, such as Giorgio Moroder, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, Thurston Moore & John Moloney, and Twin Shadow, may vary with location, visitors at each station can expect to see a series of five travelling yurt sculptures created by Carsten Höller, Urs Fischer, Kenneth Anger, Liz Glynn and Ernesto Neto. Video art by Nicolas Provost, Dara Birnbaum and Yayoi Kusama (opens in new tab) among others, will be projected in between performances. Supported by Levi's, the entire public project allows the public to experience the arts in unconventional forms.

'I've known Doug for 27 years, since he shot a cover for Iggy Pop for me,' reminisced Len Peltier, Levi's Global Vice-President of Creative Direction about the collaboration. 'When this project came to me three years ago it was a smaller idea, but Aitken had always had Levi's in mind. He figured we were the kind of brand that would connect with the whole railway station concept, with all the historical parallels and heritage, and he also liked our connections with artists, musicians and culture. When the time was finally right, we wanted to do the project in a more global way and turn it into more of a cultural festival.'

On board, the cultural studio will feature artist installations, including a drawing machine by Olafur Eliasson, and other creative pursuits. Chef Leif Hendendal will also execute culinary interventions on board and at each stop, which have been curated by culinary icon, Alice Waters. The train has been equipped with a recording studio and other workspaces, where artists and cultural figures can jump on to see where their collaborative efforts take them. Each of these interactions will be filmed, edited and shared on the Station to Station site, so that everyone can share in the experience.

All funds from ticket sales will go to support non-traditional programming at the projects partner institutions, ranging from MoMA PS1, Carnegie Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center, among many others.

The train into a light sculpture.

Aitken has turned much of the exterior of the train into a light sculpture. As it makes its way across the US, the colours and rhythm of the lights will react to its motion and the surrounding environment

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Orange train

The nine, privately-owned cars of the train date from the 1940s and 50s. They were used on the streamliners of the 1950s and sold off in the 80s

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

The Hiawatha carriage

The Hiawatha carriage, where Doug Aitken will be conducting and filming interviews with his fellow travelers

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

The recording car

The recording car

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

A 1901 Underwood typewriter

A 1901 Underwood typewriter has been tuned up to connect its users directly to the web. Any messages typed up will be released to the world via Twitter

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Beaux-Arts rotunda at the Pittsburgh station

The train is making nine stops across the country over the course of three weeks. At each stop, it will bring with it a series of travelling yurt sculptures - pictured here in a Beaux-Arts rotunda at the Pittsburgh station - by Carsten Höller, Urs Fischer, Kenneth Anger, Liz Glynn and Ernesto Neto, which will be part of a one-night-only cultural festival that also includes musical performances and video art

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

'Ball and Frisbee House

Carsten Höller's characteristically playful take on a yurt. Named the 'Ball and Frisbee House', it invites visitors to move around and within it, while throwing foam balls and Frisbees through each of its openings

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Red yurt for screening

Kenneth Anger's red yurt consists of a screening area where visitors can sit and watch three of his experimental films: Invocation of my Demon Brother (1969), Lucifer Rising (1970-81) and Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome (1954)

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Smoke and mirrors in Urs Fischer's yurt,

Smoke and mirrors in Urs Fischer's yurt, where a white bed takes pride of place

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Station to Station supporter Levi's has also devised a travelling series of yurts aboard the train

Station to Station supporter Levi's has also devised a travelling series of yurts aboard the train. The gallery-like spaces will play host to local artists who will be creating new products in real time

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Contributing artists include Folk Fibers, Cobra Boots, Chimayo, and Junkyard Jeans

Contributing artists include Folk Fibers, Cobra Boots, Chimayo, and Junkyard Jeans

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Olaf Breuning's smoke bomb installation

Olaf Breuning's smoke bomb installation was staged as part of the New York City event. The wall of exploding and smoking colours lasts only a few minutes

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Music and dance performances

Music and dance performances are also integral to the one-night festivals. Psychedelic rock band, Ariel's Pink Haunted Graffiti performed at the New York City and Pittsburgh events

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Jonah Bokaer choreographed an original dance trio called Airlocks

Jonah Bokaer choreographed an original dance trio called Airlocks, in honour of the 50th Anniversary of Robert Rauschenberg's performance Pelicans (1963)

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Japanese musician Yoshimio in action on stage

Japanese musician Yoshimio in action on stage

(Image credit: © Station to Station, Doug Aitken, 2013)

Pei-Ru Keh is the US Editor at Wallpaper*. Born and raised in Singapore, she has been a New Yorker since 2013. Pei-Ru has held various titles at Wallpaper* since she joined in 2007. She currently reports on design, art, architecture, fashion, beauty and lifestyle happenings in the United States, both in print and digitally. Pei-Ru has taken a key role in championing diversity and representation within Wallpaper's content pillars and actively seeks out stories that reflect a wide range of perspectives. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children, and is currently learning how to drive.