Rolling thunder: Doug Aitken’s ’Station to Station’ arrives at the Barbican

Rolling thunder: Doug Aitken’s ’Station to Station’ arrives at the Barbican

Taking residence throughout the Barbican’s brutalist warren for the next month, the American artist and film-maker Doug Aitken’s ’Station to Station: a 30 day happening’ is a multifaceted arts event best described as a ’living exhibition’ and an ’experiment in spontaneous artistic creation’. 

Sounds nebulous? It is – but in a good way. Until 26 July, the centre will host 50 performances, 20 residencies, rehearsals, workshops and talks involving more than 100 international and UK-based artists from the world of contemporary art, music, dance, graphic design and film. 

The range of participating artists working in and responding to the complex’s galleries, concert halls, cinemas and terraces is almost laughable in breadth and scope: from immersive yurts by Kenneth Anger and Urs Fischer, to a smoke installation by Olaf Breuning and a new interactive laser commission by the digital artists Aaron Koblin and Ben Tricklebank; through residencies and performances by Martin Creed, Jeremy Deller and Anri Sala; cinema installations and screenings featuring work by Raymond Pettibon, Jane Pollard and Iain Forsyth, Simon Armitage and Aitken’s own Station to Station feature film; and a plethora of performances from London-based community bands and choirs, talks, workshops and design interventions. 

Perhaps most intriguing of all is the event’s musical offering, which features a Boredoms-led 88-cymbal-players performance and the presentation of six new modular synth pieces by Mica Levi (as well as performances and happenings by Carnet de Voyage (Rosey Chan and Mimi Xu), Charlemagne Palestine, Demdike Stare, J Spaceman and The Vinyl Factory). 

To say this only scratches the surface of the programme is something of an understatement – pulling off such an unwieldy and sprawling event will be an achievement in itself. 

Despite this, the Barbican’s staging of Aitken’s festival-cum-happening is just the latest iteration of a project that has already travelled the breadth of North America, taking in both major cities and off-grid locations in a 24 day, 4,000 mile Atlantic-to-Pacific jaunt in 2013. 

’’Station to Station’ is a platform for progressive culture and new artistic experimentation,’ explains Aitken. ’It will be amazing to see [it] come to life in London in such a unique, multi-arts environment as the Barbican. This is a living exhibition with artists of all mediums, creating unique works and unpredictable encounters every day.’

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