Oakland’s abandoned 16th Street Station, once a key transit hub and final stop on the Transcontinental Railroad, was again the end of the line – this time for coast-to-coast art project, “Station to Station.”
Los Angeles-based artist, Doug Aitken, designed the spontaneous pop-up experience billed as a “nomadic happening.” “Station to Station” departed Brooklyn on Sept. 6, rumbling and whistling through cities like Pittsburgh, Chicago, Saint Paul, Minn., Kansas City, Winslow, Ariz., Barstow, Calif., Los Angeles and finally Oakland on Sept. 28.
Aitken and his team syndicated the journey via press and social media. Images of the train rolling through the U.S. were posted to sites like Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram with the #TrackSTS hashtag.
Oakland-based artist Evan Holm, who builds installations that highlight the interplay of nature and technology, was also featured. Holm’s installation “Submerged Turntables,” previously shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, also appeared at the Oakland show. The piece plays underwater music, touching off ripples in the dark water.
“One of [the show’s] art directors was doing a survey of local Oakland artists and stumbled upon my work,” Holm said. “I mentioned that my studio is just four blocks from here and I’ve lived here for eight years, so they were really excited to have a local Oakland artist.”
Red, white, black and yellow tents that stood in front of the station’s entrance were artists Urs Fischer, Ernesto Neto, Liz Glynn and Kenneth Anger’s “Nomadic Art Structures.” Inside the red structure, video screens showed clips of Anger’s film shorts like “Invocation of My Demon Brother” and “Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome,” while viewers sat upon a pentagram-shaped seat in the center. Festivalgoers went shoeless inside Fischer’s white, mirrored structure, which centered on a plush bed, immersed in steamy air.
Baltimore-based electronic musician Dan Deacon invited the audience to join in the interactive multimedia experience when he told the crowd to pull out their cell phones. Those who downloaded his “Dan Deacon” app lit up the sky with syncopated music and on-screen lights.
The lineup and experience for each city continually changed at each stop. Bands like Los Angeles-based No Age, British post-punk band Savages and synth-pop singer Twin Shadow performed in Oakland. Soul legend Mavis Staples and alt-rockers Beck and Thurston Moore headlined in other towns.
Details leading up the “Oakland Grand Finale” were shrouded in mystery. The train was not viewable to the public and the spontaneous atmosphere during the event was confusing for some as well. “It’s hard to navigate,” said attendee Elizabeth Lim of San Francisco. She also said she hoped to find a map or explanation about each exhibit. “Other than that it’s innovative and it’s great to be here,” she added.
Primarily financed by Levi Strauss & Co. and other sponsors, the San Francisco-based apparel manufacturer weaved its presence throughout the event. One example was the “Makers” tent full of artisans knitting and sewing clothing on looms and machines inside.
“Station to Station” sold out at each of its 10 U.S. stops, however according to the New York Times, other than travel expenses, participating artists were not paid. Proceeds from the $25 tickets went to the Station to Station Cultural Fund, which organizers said supports nine museums including the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. So far, the fund has raised over $19,000, according to the site crowdrise.com/stationtostation.