The Hirshhorn Museum has scored a coup by commissioning artist Doug Aitken to install a large-scale video projection around the Smithsonian’s doughnut-shaped building. The result is “Song 1,” a 35-minute, 360-degree movie shown continuously from sunset to midnight. The soundtrack consists of nothing but variations on “I Only Have Eyes for You,” sung by a variety of performers. The effect is indeed hypnotic and enchanting.

The Hirshhorn has taken the lead in bringing life to the Mall at night. They had already brought art lovers and hipsters to gather at the museum for the Hirshhorn After Hours parties. After Hours happens only 3 times year (or so), but we have Song 1 for a full 8 weeks. It is a must-see.

Video is an immature art form with several pitfalls that sink less rigorous efforts. Song 1’s sheer scale (it uses 11 projectors to encircle the building) lets it escape my typical complaint, that I hate being trapped watching something stupid, unsure of when it begins, or ends, or if it’s worth waiting to see if it ever gets interesting. The Hirshhorn’s new piece is instantly captivating, and the never-ending curves of the screen’s edges invite you to explore not just the video, but all the sculptures silently joining you on the plaza. The video’s changing light illuminates works by Calder, Koons, Oldenburg, and Lichtenstein. And you’ll also be joined by others taking in the spectacle, some, no doubt, stumbling upon it unexpectedly, which is probably the best way to discover this piece.

Night Gallery

I Have Only One Eye for You

Please Behave

Sing a Song

Ghosts on the Wall


Blue Woods

Museum Aglow

More photos via the song1 tag.

Night at the Museum

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