The 59th Minute


Inspired by the energy and rhythms of New York City, Doug Aitken has created a landscape of large-scale moving images in midtown Manhattan distinct from, but related to, that which we find in Times Square. On the exteriors of The Museum of Modern Art, only a few blocks from that essential mediascape, Aitken’s sleepwalkers (January 16—February 12) proposes a new relationship between moving pictures and the built environment that challenges how we think of ourselves and the city. Sleepwalkers comprises eight large-scale moving images that enliven the architecture of MoMA with the nocturnal journeys of five city inhabitants—a bicycle messenger (played by Ryan Donowho), an electrician who fixes the neon signs in Times Square (Seu Jorge), a postal worker Chan Marshall (Cat Power), a businessman (Donald Sutherland), and an office worker (Tilda Swinton)—as they awaken in the evening and make their way into the city. These characters provide a blueprint for the metropolis as a living, breathing organism fueled by the desires, energies, and ambitions of its inhabitants.

It is appropriate, then, that New Day is sited just a few blocks from MoMA in Times Square, one of the great confluences of human energy. A one-minute film made specifically for the Astrovision Screen, New Day was created during the making of sleepwalkers, shot in a wide range of locations throughout the city, including at One Times Square where the Astrovision screen is located. Both New Day and sleepwalkers engage the constant flow of life that is New York. Aitken’s characters explore the corporeal and psychological topography of New York, revealing the tempos of the urban landscape.

New Day materializes almost imperceptibly—people wake up, leave their apartments—but Aitken quickly builds a rhythm that captures our attention, punctuating the images with words that pose questions about the boundaries between our physical bodies and the urban landscape around us. The piece feels right at home amid Times Square’s pulsing electric landscape of messages fighting for our attention, yet is a momentary challenge to all that surrounds it. In contrast to sleepwalkers, which runs each evening for five hours continuously, New Day offers a momentary crescendo that interrupts the rush of commercial images for just one minute each hour.


Doug Aitken (b. 1968, Redondo Beach, CA) lives and works in Los Angeles. For over a decade, Aitken has been developing a diverse body of work that reflects the contradictions and shifting pace of our accelerating era. The artist’s work has been the subject of significant shows at a variety of galleries and institutions around the world. In 2001 he turned London’s Serpentine Gallery, from the basement to the roof, into a complex, multipart video installation. Among his best-known works is electric earth (1999), in which a nocturnal cityscape comes to life as a restless young man dances through it, and for which Aitken won that year’s International Prize at the Venice Bienniale.


Sleepwalkers, a joint commission of Creative Time and The Museum of Modern Art, is a large-scale, cinematic public art work conceived, produced, and realized for the outer walls of The Museum of Modern Art. It will be exhibited nightly from January 16 through February 12, 2007 from 5:00 until 10:00 p.m. Comprising a number of filmic narratives projected in varying combinations and juxtapositions onto seven facades on and around MoMA’s midtown building, it will be viewable from various vantage points around the Museum and in the Museum’s Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden. The sculpture garden will be open free of charge to the public throughout the month of nightly projections.

New Day, 2007
January 16 - February 21, 2006