Critics’ Picks

  • View of “Mirage Detroit,” 2018–19.

    Doug Aitken

    Library Street Collective
    1260 Library Street
    October 10–February 1

    There is no natural light in the State Savings Bank, where Doug Aitken has built Mirage Detroit, 2018—a stark contrast to the setting of the previous iteration of this project, Mirage, 2017, which was exposed to the blazing sun of Palm Springs, California. The through line between the projects is the form of the installation, a ranch-style home plated with mirrored acrylic panels. Mirage Detroit is distinct in its control of not only surface and shape but also light. Aitken worked with stage designer Andi Watson to create an algorithm for the internal illumination, which often imitates daylight. Watson’s design is spatial as well as temporal; at one point, while I was walking to the back of the house, the lights moved from right to left, like the headlights of cars passing down the street at night. This contradiction of time and space felt claustrophobic and collapsed my sense of interior versus exterior.

    Other elements of the installation also play with this displacement; river rocks native to the area surround the reflective residence, as if the house were on a shoreline, and amplify the sounds of viewers’ footsteps. Patterns of light create what seem to be giant ripples projected from the house to the ceiling of the bank, as if the house were underwater. While playing these hallucinatory games with light and sound, this installation is beholden to its dark immediate surroundings. Mirage Detroit can never fully transcend this oppressive context; like everything else, it ultimately belongs to the bank.