Station to Station
It would have been very easy to make a long sequence of short films a languid, jerky, uncomfortable watch. Yet this collection of 62 one-minute shorts is a spellbinding success.
Director Doug Aitken travels 4000 miles across America on a train blanketed in neon lights, a kinetic light sculpture designed by Aitken himself. On the way, he explores different artists’ approach to their creativity, venturing indiscriminately into every medium. Among the 62 artists featured are writers, architects, painters, photographers, sculptors that build biomorphic structures, folk bands, buskers, bands that play psychedelic blues, space rock, garage punk and a man that builds bottle trees. On paper, this eclectic mix seems like it would collide in a cacophony of discord, but Aitken fulfils his stated objective to take the viewer on “a journey through modern creativity”.
Inevitably, a film of this nature has some parts that are more interesting than others. The works of some of the artists explored are more suitable to a visual medium, some are better at connecting with the audience and a few don’t connect at all. Occasionally, there may be a few segments in a row that simply don’t grab the audience, but where the film is let down by its subjects is compensated for by its cinematography. Aitken’s talent as a visual artist permeates the whole film, which consistently retains its momentum through fast-paced stunning shots; accompanied by a complementary soundtrack, this film doesn’t drag.
The concepts explored are vague: motion, transience, the nature of art, where does an idea come from? Though at times too abstract to be substantial, in general the result is a fascinating insight into the disparate perspectives among a spectrum of artists, into the nature of creativity. Despite its gravity of thought the film stays light, never lingering, quickly returning to the speeding train that’s the glue keeping these different sequences together – a familiar grounding point for the audience.
The main success of Station to Station is that it stays true to its objective: an exploration into the various forms of modern art unhindered by ego. Aitken makes no attempt to stamp his views over the artists he features, investigating their beliefs with an open-minded sincerity. The film itself mirrors the modern art that it explores, a mosaic of beautiful imagery that harmonises hauntingly with its music.
Station to Station is released nationwide on 26th June 2015.
Watch the trailer for Station to Station here: