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Doug Aitken | Mirage Detroit

Opening: October 10, 8-11pm


Mirage Detroit is a site-specific installation by artist Doug Aitken, set within the over hundred year old former State Savings Bank in Downtown Detroit. This immersive, mirrored installation will reflect the entire space in which it is situated, activating this seminal historic building.


Detroit is an American city that captures the imagination with a history rooted in both industry and culture. Walking through the streets of downtown Detroit, the viewer arrives at the stone façade where a set of stairs leads to an entryway. Opening the door leads into a vast interior space that spans nearly an entire block and is lined with classical columns. The center of the space is anchored with a century old bank vault. The building’s architecture is intact, as if frozen in time and waiting to be re-awakened. Passing the vault, the visitor walks further into the darkened room where slowly choreographed lights illuminate Mirage Detroit. River rocks and earth crunch under foot as the lights reflect off the structure and beckon the viewer to enter the artwork.


Mirage Detroit is a sculpture in the form of an American suburban house. Its one-story, sprawling design creates a labyrinth of rooms and corridors. Every surface and detail of the sculpture is mirrored, creating a human-scale kaleidoscope. It is a space that draws in and reflects everything that surrounds it, including the architecture of this archaic bank building. The contrast is extreme, with reflections of the aged architectural details juxtaposed with the marble floor returned to a raw state covered in earth and stones. It is a constantly shifting landscape that incorporates the organic and inorganic, reflects the industrial past, and questions the future.


Mirage Detroit presents a continually changing encounter in which subject and object, inside and outside are in constant flux. As Mirage Detroit pulls its surrounding landscape in and reflects it back out, this classic one-story house becomes a framing device, a perceptual echo-chamber.


Mirage Detroit is reconfigured as an architectural idea: the seemingly generic suburban home now devoid of a narrative, its inhabitants, their possessions. This minimal structure now functions entirely in response to the landscape around it. The doors, windows, and openings have been removed to create a fluid relationship with the surrounding environment. Like a human-scale lens, Mirage Detroit works to frame and distort the evolving world outside of it. There is no fixed perspective or correct interpretation. Each experience of this living artwork is unique.


Lighting is a carefully considered element within the space. The building will be void of natural light, with its windows darkened, while carefully choreographed white light will slowly move through the interior. The lights will gradually shift sequentially along the architecture of the building, and their reflections on Mirage Detroit’s surface will change constantly. Mirage Detroit’s lighting is the result of the collaboration between Doug Aitken and renowned experimental lighting designer Andi Watson, who is known for his pioneering lightshows and for his long-term partnership with the band Radiohead.


The State Savings Bank, completed in 1900 and located in the heart of Downtown Detroit, has been unoccupied for decades. Mirage Detroit will mark some of the first public open access to the building. Mirage Detroit exists outside of the traditional museum and gallery system, an artwork that embraces the urban American landscape. Unlike frequently used contemporary images of Detroit showing decayed and abandoned spaces, the State Bank appears the opposite, as if preserved in time. Embedded within the city’s landscape, Mirage Detroit speaks to the history of its landscape while looking towards its future.


Mirage Detroit will also host a calendar of soon-to-be-announced cultural events throughout the duration of its stay, including educational programs, musical performances, and conversations open to the public in partnership with organizations like Cranbrook Academy of Art and Art Museum, Museum of Modern Art Detroit (MOCAD) and College for Creative Studies.