Doug Aitken

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The desert is home to everything from tumbleweed, prairie dogs, and cactus to missile-testing grounds, atomic detonations, nuclear-waste storage, even as some people would have you believe, freeze-dried space aliens. On the one hand it exists in collective mythology as a no-man’s-land, a deterritorialized region of harsh extremes where nature reigns in its rawest form; on the other, it’s a “forbidden zone,” harboring a myriad of secrets in its sandy soil. Doug Aitken’s latest video installation, Diamond Sea, 1997, captures this contradictory nature of the desert by focusing on the Namib, a maximum-security, corporate-owned mining area in southwestern Africa. Aitken has said that he first became interested in the region when he looked at a map of Africa and saw a big blank spot. After a year’s worth of paperwork, he was granted access to film in the Namib or “diamond area 1” and “diamond

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