The version of Frontier acquired by the Kadist Collection consists of a single-channel video, adapted from the monumental installation and performance that Aitken presented in Rome, by the Tiber River, in 2009. In this film, Aiken’s allusion to “the frontier” and iconic imagery like the cowboy suggest that the American West Coast as a cultural construction. These notions are reinforced by two key elements in the film: its protagonist, the iconic West Coast artist Ed Ruscha, and its reference to the cinematic and the experience of the movie theater. The film is structured as a journey in time, from day to night. The completed film was shot in different places around the globe, including Los Angeles, Rome, South Africa, and Israel, which suggests the blurring boundaries of the unknown and emphasizes both fictive and real landscapes.
Doug Aitken’s work started to draw international attention when his installation Electric Earth earned the International Prize at the 1999 Venice Biennale, which was organized by renowned Swiss curator Harald Szeemann. Interested in breaking conventional narratives, Aitken emphasizes circularity and non-linearity in his monumental site-specific installations. This monumentality is usually expressed in Aitken’s tendency to combine apparently disconnected fragments in order to create epic films. Although this aspect of his work differs from the all-encompassing wholes sought by modernism, Aitken’s films play with the imaginary and surreal in a way that flirts with the notion of utopia. The artist uses pop culture and, especially, the film industry as sources for his compelling and immersive environments. Aesthetic elements such as coloration, light and space and a careful editing process give his films a contemplative mood.