All photos by Lance Gerber
Mirage Detroit was a site-specific installation by artist Doug Aitken, set within the century old former State Savings Bank in downtown Detroit. This immersive, mirrored installation reflected its environment from every angle, and reactivated this seminal historic building.
A sculpture in the form of an American suburban house, Mirage Detroit was a one-story, sprawling labyrinth of rooms and corridors. Every surface and detail was mirrored, creating a human-scale kaleidoscope. It was a space that drew in and reflected everything that encompassed it, with reflections of the aged architectural details juxtaposing a marble floor that was returned to a state covered in earth and stones. It was a constantly shifting landscape that incorporated the organic and inorganic, reflected the industrial past, and questioned the future.
Lighting was a carefully considered element within the space. Void of natural light, the windows of the building were darkened and choreographed white light slowly moved through the interior. The lights shifted gradually and sequentially along the architecture of the building, and their reflections on the sculpture’s surface changed constantly. The installation’s lighting was 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 was unoccupied for decades, and Mirage Detroit was some of the first public open access to the building. Existing outside the traditional gallery and museum system, Mirage Detroit was an artwork that embraced the urban American landscape. Unlike frequently used images of Detroit showing decayed and abandoned spaces, the State Savings Bank and its restoration inspired the opposite, as if preserved in time and expectant of new life. Embedded within the city’s landscape, Mirage Detroit spoke to the history of Detroit while looking towards its future.