End of the Line – Station to Station in Oakland
Attending Station to Station at 16th street in Oakland on Saturday night was like having a one night stand with an art movement. It quickly breezed into town on an LED art train, left you amazed, satisfied, disoriented, and passionate then left the next day as if nothing had happened. Now all that’s left are some epic Instagram pics, a weird smell in your hair from Olaf Breuning’s colored smoke, and a lust for something you know you’ll likely never experience again. I guess that’s what makes “nomadic happenings” so special, as artist and project visionary Doug Aitkens calls it.
After its 22 day journey across the Nation, starting in Brooklyn, September 6th, the Levi’s funded project Station to Station came to the end of the line in Oakland on Saturday, September 28th, and set up a cultural happenings at the historic 16th Street Station in Oakland (read more about it here). Station to Station attempted to connect artists, communities and cultures by a traveling “living organism”, Aitkens said. And, the artists on board were stimulated to engage in new works and creations on their journey with the project both on the train and at the locations.
So, what happened at Station to Station, Oakland? Once you entered the gates from a fast moving line of attractive art lovers (maybe I just thought that because I was standing next to Mark Ruffalo in the press line) you were invited to partake in a sensory overload. If you were lucky enough to be walking by Olaf Breuning’s colored smoke installation at the right time you may have had a surprise spray-in-the-face of blue, red, yellow and green smoke, as it spread across the Oakland neighborhood, everyone cheered, ooed and ahhed. An automatic draw was the magical wooden and light-bulbed Levi’s “makers” installation and booth, under which Levi’s textile artists were using vintage sewing machines and re-purposed jeans to make new hand-made clothes. But, the most thrilling part of the night was an igniting mix of music and installation art by Evan Holm. Surrounded by speakers disguised as tumbleweeds, the audience encircled Holm as he sat inside of a large organic natural tree covered in moss. Pulling records out of dish-racks, Holm would submerge the record into a pond of water, part of the piece, and play sounds with the music you had never heard in your life by cupping the water with corded instruments. Holm’s habitat installation mixed with these insane sounds started you on an art sensory roller coaster of happiness, excitement, adrenaline and a feeling of connection to that moment. These types of moments happened all night.
As you weaved through the crowds and explored artists’ tents – some installations, some interactive, some artists participation – you started to expect a surprise. Like Jonah Bokaer’s surprise pop-up performance once the sun set, and the lights on his small stage lit up, he combined choreography, theater, and drama along with a lot of odd flexibility. Or, the numerous bands that played throughout the night both on the large stage outside and on a smaller stage inside the 16th Street Station building. Inside the building interviews with the artists about their works looped on enormous drop down screens that hung from sublime dilapidated ceilings with exposed brick. Anything and everything captured your full attention. This was a night for the books.
Station to Station Oakland, end of the line, was a complete success. And, as for the project itself, an LED moving light installation carrying multiple artists who get off at various cities, engage in happenings, and keep moving to spread across a Nation? In a single word: Genius.