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17. Doug Aitken's Blow Debris (2000)
This follows in the vein of Autumn and Electric Earth in that it offers a series of compelling images I haven't quite seen before. It differs from those in its wider purview. Where Aitken's first two pieces on Ubuweb stuck to teen aimlessness and urban wandering, Blow Debris gets all the way from the desert to the creek to the palm tree fields to the suburbs, no sweat.
Also like its predecessors, the piece starts out measured and exploratory but turns urgent and nutso. We see a roving pack of nudes emerge from their encampment of bright red tents, amble down dirt roads, climb rocks, push old couches end over end, examine electronic junk and drive cars. As the setting moves from the sometimes strikingly Lawrence of Arabia-y sand-and-brush landscapes to a carved-out basin to a creek under a bridge and finally to a sprawl of tract houses, things get strange. Stranger than a welter of naked people walking through a series of disconnected environments, I mean.
Powerful gusts of wind blow papers around. Couches explode. Bookshelves disintegrate. Detritus scatters across all visible space. Humans turn to ash and blow away. Utter destruction! This is what I've come to consider the standard Aitken end-stage turn, though greatly amped up from the other examples I've seen. (Clearly, the other videos didn't have the luxury of a demolition budget.) But then there comes a surprise reversal, ˆ la Weird Science: via the miracle of reverse motion photography, all this decimated stuff assembles back into wholes and flies back into place.
Oh, and did I mention there's also a nude dude playing tennis? 'Cause there's a nude dude playing tennis.
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