Mirage Detroit - Doug Aitken

State Savings Bank
151 Fort St W. Detroit


Installation Images

Press Release

Mirage Detroit is a site-specific installation by artist Doug Aitken, set within the century old former State Savings Bank in downtown Detroit. This immersive, mirrored installation will reflect its environment from every angle, activating the seminal historic building.

Detroit is an American city that captures the imagination with a history rooted in both industry and culture. Walking through the streets of downtown, the venue for Mirage Detroit greets its viewer with a grand stone facade, where a set of stairs leads to an entryway. Inside, a vast interior space that spans nearly a full city block is lined with classical columns. Anchored in the center of the space is an antiquated bank vault, frozen in time along with the awe-inspiring architectural details waiting to be reawakened. Passing through the space and walking further into the darkened room, slowly choreographed light illuminates Mirage Detroit. River rocks and earth displace under foot as the lights reflect off the structure and beckon the viewer to enter the artwork.

A sculpture in the form of an American suburban house, Mirage Detroit is a one-story, sprawling labyrinth of rooms and corridors. Every surface and detail is mirrored, creating a human-scale kaleidoscope. It is a space that draws in and reflects everything that encompasses it, with reflections of the aged architectural details juxtaposing a marble floor that has returned to a state covered in earth and stones. It is a constantly shifting landscape that incorporates the organic and inorganic, reflects the industrial past, and questions the future.

Mirage Detroit presents a perpetually changing encounter in which subject and object, inside and outside are engaged in flux. Because the installation both absorbs and reflects its surroundings, this classic single-story house becomes a framing device - a perceptual echo-chamber.

Mirage Detroit is reconfigured as an architectural idea: the seemingly generic suburban home is devoid of a narrative, inhabitants, or possessions, and the minimal structure now functions entirely in response to the landscape around it. The doors, windows, and openings have been removed to create a seamless relationship with the surrounding environment. Like a human-scale lens, Mirage Detroit frames and distorts the evolving world around it. There is no fixed perspective or correct interpretation; as such, each experience of this living artwork is unique.

Lighting is a carefully considered element within the space. Void of natural light, the windows of the building are darkened and choreographed white light slowly moves through the interior. The lights shift gradually and sequentially along the architecture of the building, and their reflections on the sculpture's surface change constantly. The installation’s lighting is the result of a collaboration between Doug Aitken and renowned experimental lighting designer Andi Watson, well-known for his visionary light shows and for his long-term partnership with the band Radiohead.

The State Savings Bank has been unoccupied for decades, and Mirage Detroit will incite some of the first public open access to the building. Existing outside the traditional gallery and museum system, Mirage Detroit is an artwork that embraces the urban American landscape. Unlike frequently used images of Detroit showing decayed and abandoned spaces, the State Savings Bank and its restoration inspire the opposite, as if preserved in time and expectant of new life. Embedded within the city’s landscape, Mirage Detroitspeaks to the history of Detroit while looking towards its future. “In many ways, Mirage becomes its surroundings,” says Library Street Collective owner Anthony Curis, “It will reflect and intensify one of the city’s greatest historical and cultural contributions - its grand architecture.”