August 30, 2013 Repository 86: Levi Strauss | Magical Art Rumpus | Doug Aitken Posted In: community, contemporary art, travel

Digital Rendering of Station to Station, image courtesy of artist Doug Aitken

Digital Rendering of Station to Station, image courtesy of artist Doug Aitken

Levi’s sponsors Doug Aitken’s magical art rumpus

Once again proving that art and fashion are never strange bed fellows, Levi’s has sponsored Doug Aitken’s ambitious, nomadic happening Station to Station. Very sexy fashion like ad for the art project here.

I first came across the project by accident researching some 1960’s Tom Brokaw footage of Joan Didion, which landed me on their site. They’ve compiled an impressive web site with videos past and present of artists, musicians, curators and general curios.

After realizing that this was an actual train, 8 cars total, making 9 stops from Chicago to Santa Fe and landing in Oakland (Levis headquarters are in San Francisco), and almost 80 artists are participating, whether contributing “printed matter” or impromptu concerts. Nothing is exactly set in stone or entirely clear, but I noticed you can purchase tickets to the final performance in Oakland for $27.37.

Aitken has a history of working outside of the proverbial art box, and this is no exception. A roving target of art, a very poetic answer to artists’ desire to reach audiences outside of the art world, art for art sake, which has its history starting in Fluxus for better or for worse. The line up of artists is not really a reflection of the everyday artist – heavy hitters were invited and that’s it. But watch you may! The web site promises to stream live art performances and updates of the cross country trip.

Courtesy of Station to Station web site, and artist Doug Aitken

Courtesy of Station to Station web site, and artist Doug Aitken

On the surface these events seem so inclusive, so community oriented and so off the cuff. Like other engagement trends such as Portland, Oregon’s Open Engagement the idea seems like anyone can participate. The reality is a little different, only the invited and accepted may perform, audiences one and all may come and participate. I applied to Open Engagement a couple of years ago – my application was to interview other invited participants about the lineage of their performance piece and how it related to the general history of art. I was going to publish my findings. I was rejected.

Aitkins star-studded train is very much a show piece. Patti Smith! Olifur Eliasson! Alice Waters! Fischli & Weiss! Beck! My project management head is dizzy with the number of participants, the food, sleep and performance cars of the train and the hope that it all works out great! I wish however the stops were less flashy destinations in order to throw a true wrench in the expectations of the art world’s audience. Next time Charlotte, North Carolina to St. Louis, Missouri, to Bozeman, Montana to Bellingham, Washington.

Like Hugo Boss, Max Mara and Benetton, Levi’s has jumped on the high art band wagon, and I think it’s a wonderful move. They have a history of supporting the arts collaborating with other businesses and non-profits that encourage self-expression through creativity. In 2005 I chaired an auction with Levi’s in San Francisco, the whole event was to raise funds for arts in schools – and the only thing for sale was children’s art work. Amazing!! They certainly have their heart in the right place, very exciting.

I’m counting the days, and look forward to watching the updates and dissecting the coverage of Levi’s and Aitken’s Station to Station. Hopefully people will learn about this less accidentally than I, and the project will be well attended and attended to. Bravo Mr. Aitken, go train go!

By the way, there is a very well written article by Clive Thompson in “Wired Magazine” that reviews more of about this project, his other major art pieces and a beautiful interactive map of the train cars by Katie Palmer.

PS. I can’t figure out why the Aitken’s project web site does not refer to the eponymous album “Station to Station” from 1976 by David Bowie. Alas – bon voyage art train!!

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  1. Sarah • October 22, 2013

    Hi Catherine,

    I work with a nonprofit arts organization so this collaboration is very intriguing to us. I was wondering if you could let me know your sources regarding Levi's partnering with other arts organizations. Do you have an email address?


    Sarah Reply

  2. mindmarrow • October 22, 2013

    Hi Sarah! Great to hear from you and thanks so much for stopping by, I'm happy to help you out if I can - my email address is catherine@mindmarrow.com. Take care! Reply

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