these restless minds


Doug Aitken ( American, 1968 )

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General Description

As the title suggests, these restless minds mimics the frenzied activity of a typical American mind. Viewers are confronted with a complete environment installation incorporating manipulated light sources, subtly painted walls, and material alterations of the gallery's normal flooring. The benches and raised platform invite the viewer to sit and watch one monitor, but sounds and voices from the other monitors encourage the viewer to pace around the room, attempting to catch all the scenes. In essence, the viewer, moving from one monitor to the next, manifests a "restless mind" and becomes part of the work.

Three monitors alternately show footage of rural auctioneers, and of landscapes caught between the natural and the industrial. The auctioneers are seen out of their customary settings, isolated, and in stark and empty locations. In their distinctive cadences, the auctioneers deliver high speed numerical countdowns, interspersed with observations about their surroundings. Mirroring the auctioneers' words, the series of numbers and telegraphic descriptions become increasingly faster and less and less discernible, exceeding intelligibility, and eventually fusing with the environment.

The sounds are crucial to the poetic power of the work. Occasionally artist Doug Aitken loops a portion of an auctioneer's address so that the viewer hears the same clip over and over in a half-second interval. The auctioneer's address overlaps itself and echoes throughout the gallery. The result for the viewer is that voice detaches from its source and the words lose their meaning (like a word repeated until it becomes senseless). The viewer is left surrounded by sounds once connected to a face, now disembodied and authorless. The auctioneer's litany becomes a hum like a Tibetan monk's chant: the very song of thought.

Adapted from

DMA Label copy, 2000.

Web Resources

  • Vimeo
    Watch a clip from these restless minds.