A brown owl sits on a bed in a motel room, which is covered in feathers that float in the air around it

Doug Aitken, migration (empire) (detail), 2008, single-channel video (color, sound), 24:28 minutes, production still; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, A.W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2009.11. Courtesy of the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Doug Aitken: migration (empire)

Online

Doug Aitken, migration (empire), 2008. Single-channel video (color, sound), 24:28 minutes; Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh, A.W. Mellon Acquisition Endowment Fund, 2009.11. Courtesy of the artist; 303 Gallery, New York; Galerie Eva Presenhuber, Zurich; Victoria Miro Gallery, London; and Regen Projects, Los Angeles

This next iteration of the exhibition series features migration (empire), a twenty-four-minute video work by multidisciplinary artist Doug Aitken (American, b. 1968). The film was exhibited on the museum’s façade during Life on Mars: 55th Carnegie International in 2008.

In a series of vignettes, wild North American migratory animals have been relocated from their natural habitats to inhabit vacant motel rooms. Whether it is a beaver swimming in a bathtub or a deer scavenging for food in a mini fridge, the animals engage with the constructed environments according to their wild instincts. These interactions, accompanied by footage of the built-up landscape, further exacerbate the palpable tension between the natural environment and the mythologized idea of America.

The work was filmed in roadside motel rooms across the United States, including those in and around Pittsburgh, symbolizing human mobility, progress, and westward expansion. The transitory spaces are interchangeable and do not provide a clear sense of place. The viewer, transported into alien but recognizable surroundings, is subtly asked to reflect upon our own species’ infringement of the natural environment.

Carnegie Museum of Art’s online exhibition series is dedicated to the museum’s film and video collection, which began in May 2020 with Rachel Rose: Lake Valley. This extension of the museum’s curatorial program into the digital sphere offers a new channel for local and global audiences to experience time-based media works previously only accessible in person.

Doug Aitken: migration (empire) is organized by curatorial assistant Ashley McNelis.

About the Artist

Doug Aitken is an artist whose practice defies definitions of genre through its exploration of every medium, from film and installations to architectural interventions. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (2016), Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC (2012), The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007), Serpentine Gallery, London (2001), and Vienna Secession (2000), among others. He earned the International Prize at the 48th Venice Biennale in 1999. He is the recipient of the Nam June Paik Art Center Prize (2012), the Smithsonian American Ingenuity Award: Visual Arts (2013), the inaugural Frontier Art Prize (2017), and the ArtCenter College of Design Lifetime Achievement Award (2019).


Exhibition Images

A brown owl sits on a bed in a motel room, which is covered in feathers that float in the air around it
Two white peacocks stand on a hotel bed, a lit table lamp is visible behind them
A horse stands in the middle of a motel room with the foot of the motel bed in the foreground, a TV mounted on the wall is playing footage of a horse running through a field 
A large bufflo stands in a motel room in front of two chairs, curtains are drawn over the large window next to the animal and a lit floor lamp is visible behind them
A deer rummages through a motel mini fridge
A dimly lit row of motel rooms
A view of rails on a railroad converging towards the distance
A mountain cat with its mouth open looks on

About the Online Exhibition Series

A first in the museum’s history, this series is dedicated to the museum’s film and video collection. This extension of the museum’s curatorial program into the digital sphere offers a new channel for local and global audiences to experience time-based works previously only accessible in-person. With this initiative, CMOA is revolutionizing how visitors can engage with its significant holdings at a time when most cultural institutions are closed due to the coronavirus pandemic.

About Film and Video at Carnegie Museum of Art

The Department of Film and Video was among the first of its kind when it opened in 1970 as a three-year venture led by Sally Dixon, eventually growing into a full-fledged department that garnered national and international attention. In its first twenty years, the department worked with more than 150 artists including Stan Brakhage, Robert Breer, Joan Jonas, Carolee Schneemann, Hollis Frampton, Roger Jacoby, Bruce Conner, and Yvonne Rainer. The department was incorporated into the museum’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2003, including its significant collection of nearly 1,000 film and video works.


Support

General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.