This summer, Yale alum Rachel Rose ’09 presented her video work “Lake Valley,” which launched the Carnegie Museum of Art’s first-ever online exhibition series.
The museum’s digital exhibition series highlights its film and video collection. With this exhibition, the Carnegie joins a number of artistic institutions increasing the online accessibility of their video works. Currently on view is a piece from Doug Aitken, titled “migration (empire).”
“The moving image is one of the things that’s really relevant right now — we can all indulge in something that’s filmic from our houses,” Aitken said. “With a more traditional art structure a museum would have to wait for an exhibition, but now we can just share these pieces, like they’re fluid.”
Brooke Eastman ’16, a communications representative for the Carnegie Museum of Art, said that the Whitney Museum of American Art and Baltimore Museum of Art have begun similar initiatives. She noted that increased accessibility allows museums around the world to connect with audiences in their homes during the current pandemic-initiated closures.
The pandemic initiated shifts in artistic consumption, and online exhibition series like the Carnegie’s seek to honor and participate in this shift, keeping art accessible to those who wish to view it. Both Rose and Aitken noted art’s transition to virtual space — Rose said that during her quarantine, she found herself looking at live concerts on YouTube, such as iPhone recordings of Drake and Robyn performing in stadiums and Celine Dion singalongs in subways.
“I was shocked by how relic-like these videos now felt. What I felt when I saw these concerts was ecstasy, sadness, loneliness, togetherness all at once,” Rose said. “Sound and images cut in time can provide shape to a feeling, a state of being — one that can be complex to articulate any other way.”
“Lake Valley” is an eight-minute video work that received great acclaim when it premiered at the 2017 Venice Biennale. It was created by layering film, collage, video footage and hand-drawn animation. Featuring a chimeric animal’s search for a connection, the piece highlights themes of loneliness, dreaminess and longing for personal connection.
Rose began “Lake Valley” when she was 28. Interested in exploring ever-evolving notions of childhood and adulthood, Rose researched 19th-century children’s stories and the structure of nuclear families. She noticed that loneliness was a prominent theme in early children’s stories; a child’s ascent into adulthood was usually marked by a sense of isolation.
Aitken’s work, “migration (empire),” was first exhibited in 2008. It played on the museum’s façade during “Life on Mars: 55th Carnegie International” — a contemporary art survey exhibition that explored what it means to be human in the world today. In a series of vignettes, the video features wild North American migratory animals inhabiting roadside motel rooms across the United States. Though the work is not new, Atiken sees contemporary valances in the animals’ relationships to location.
“It’s a surprisingly timely piece, and very pertinent to the idea that we find ourselves contained within our houses, working from home,” Aitken said. “We find ourselves anchored to place in a way we have never been before.”
Aitken said that humans have created a nomadic society with an abundance of hotels, airports and highways, yet we find ourselves unable to use these spaces. “We’re like the animals in the work, contained in these synthetic spaces,” Aitken said.
Aitken said that art doesn’t need to be physical or material. It can be an idea, a sound or something electronic, viewable from a home desktop.
“Perhaps one thing we can try to see out of this pandemic and this moment of societal shift is the way we see culture can be liberated,” Aitken said. “We should not only make art within the formats of the past, but we should make new formats now.”
Freya Savla | email@example.com
Correction, Sept. 11: A previous version of this article referred to Eastman as Rose’s representative. In fact, she is a communications representative for the Carnegie Museum.