Artist rendering by Doug Aitken
Since its grand opening last December, the Union Depot in St. Paul is turning out to be an interactive multidisciplinary art central, hosting Northern Spark festivities this summer and now Station to Station, artist Doug Aitken's grand touring arts extravaganza. Aitken's project centers on a train that is an art object itself, serving as a traveling studio and connector of artists and communities.
The train, illuminated with changing multicolored lights, is traveling from New York to Los Angeles, stopping at various cities along the way. Taking placemaking to a whole new level, Station to Station serves as a platform for artists of different genres to share work, creating cultural exchanges between communities in different cities.
"Station to Station came out of a necessity to make a different kind of cultural experience," Aitken says in a statement. "A place where different artists, musicians, and creators could make projects outside of the normal parameters. I saw Station to Station as a place where exposure could be given to amazing individuals whose work is less exposed, while at the same time allowing some of the cultural icons of our time to experiment in new ways."
The concept of the train was based on the idea of a nomadic happening. "When I was thinking about how this could be possible, the idea of the train seemed like such a fascinating way to realize this," he says. As much of our journeys have been replaced by interstates and highways, Aitken was interested in "using the train to become a nomadic broadcast tower, broadcasting new and experimental culture while tapping into unknown and amazing creators from the locations in which the train stops."
Station to Station Map by Doug Aitken
Music and art is happening on the train -- such as a drawing machine created by Olafur Eliasson, activated by the motion of the vehicle -- as well as off the train, where the musicians and artists on the tour meet up with artists from each of the cities to create a huge spectacle of artmaking. Of course, since not everyone can be inside the train, a huge part of the project includes an online component, where people can watch musician sessions, artists at work, listen to interviews, and more.
The "happening" at Union Depot, includes musical acts such as Patti Smith and White Mystery, along with visual artists Lawrence Weiner and Thomas Demand, and dance company BodyCartography Project presenting a performance incorporating the produce of Fritz Haeg's Walker-commissioned "Edible Estate" garden.
A large visual component for each stop includes artist-designed yurts that are not unlike Minnesota's own Art Shanties. The yurts offer an interactive experience, such as Kenneth Anger's Red Yurt, which includes a several videos shown on three screens. Ernesto Neto's Yellow Yurt reflects the artist's aesthetic, complete with a cushy floor you can sink into, and Liz Glynn's Model Universe is made of felt walls as has chalk drawings.
Local artist Kate Casanova says she's thrilled to be one of the participating artists. Vivarium Americana, her custom made mushroom car, will be on display at the Depot in addition to two films touring with the train. The piece was her thesis exhibition at the University of Minnesota, where she just completed her MFA last spring. Made from the shell of a 1976 AMC Pacer, the car functions as an enclosure for the mushrooms to grow on the interior. Some referred to the car as a terrarium due to its big, bulbous windows, so Casanova has nicknamed the project her "mushroom terrarium."
Casanova went to the premier of Station to Station in New York City. "For me, it's exciting to be at an event combining live music, performance, and sculpture," she says. The combination of different forms makes the contemporary nature of the work accessible because it "levels the playing field," she says. "It showcases contemporary art in a way that's really fresh."
Station to Station
7 to 10:30 p.m. Thursday, September 12
214 E. Fourth St., St. Paul