Migration

Doug Aitken
Migration (empire linear version), 2008
Video still
William H. Dunwoody Fund 2009.7
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Doug Aitken, Migration (empire linear version), 2008

In this prophetic video, artist Doug Aitken follows the movements of North American migratory animals in the unexpected setting of an ordinary roadside motel. These close studies of animals in an artificial habitat are spellbinding: a horse occupies a room, watching wild horses run free on television; a bison, tragic symbol of the American West, trashes a bedroom; a beaver makes a watering hole of a motel sink. Their displacement from their natural environment is at once humorous and sorrowful.

Interspersed with images of vast landscapes, urban sprawl, roadside businesses, and industrial cityscapes, these vignettes explore our complex relationship with the wilderness. As settlers migrated across its untamed expanses, they carved out new ways of life, yet much was lost to their ambition, including indigenous cultures, pristine environments, and countless species of plants and animals.