Cinema–in–the–round: Doug Aitken’s SONG 1 (2012), the Hirshhorn Museum and the pleasures of cinematic projection | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 3, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2045-6298
  • E-ISSN: 2045-6301



In the spring of 2012, eleven projectors transformed Washington, DC’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden into a nocturnal cinematic spectacle: Doug Aitken’s SONG 1, a 360° cinematic homage to the great pop standard ‘I Only Have Eyes for You’. To experience SONG 1 was to be entranced and seduced by its high production values, rich soundscape and (most importantly) its monumental scale. This cinematic revelling in the image, I argue, is one that operates on registers between the work’s status as film, public art and major museum event to create an active viewer engagement. This article analyses SONG 1 in terms of its institutional setting, its imagery and mode of installation. Using Roland Barthes’s reflections on the in-between state of leaving a movie theatre, I argue that SONG 1 illustrates a mode of public art that uses the moving image’s visual attraction to create positive encounters with art in public spaces.


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  • Article Type: Article
Keyword(s): Doug Aitken; film theory; museums; projections; public art; sound
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