Going forth: Levi’s & Doug Aitken’s Station to Station

Levi’s and Doug Aitken’s travelling arts project, Station to Station, is touring the US this month. We’ll be covering events in more detail in our November issue, but here’s a look at what’s been happening so far.

Levi’s and Doug Aitken’s travelling arts project, Station to Station, is touring the US this month. We’ll be covering events in more detail in our November issue, but here’s a look at what’s been happening so far.

From September 6 to 28, artists and musicians will be travelling across the US on a nine-car train, performing and sharing footage of their journey online. At 10 locations – New York, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Minneapolis & St Paul, Kansas City, Santa Fe, Winslow, Barstow, LA and Oakland – the train will stop for a night of music, dance, short films and art installations open to the public for $25 a ticket.

The project

It’s a not-for-profit project and proceeds from ticket sales at each event will fund non-traditional programming at nine partner museums in 2014: New York’s Museum of Modern Art, the Carnegie Museum of Art, Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art, Walker Art Center, SITE Santa Fe, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Sundance Institute, and Arcosanti Institute.

The festival aims to connect local communities with experimental art and highlight how today’s artists are using digital technology. The project was conceived and curated by Aitken, but has been sponsored by and developed in partnership with Levi’s: the brand has launched a digital campaign with AKQA, Make our Mark, that encourages social, musical and video interaction, and its Autumn ads reference a journey ‘to the modern frontier’.

Levi’s creative and design team, led by Len Peltier and Chad Hinson, has also designed an airstream trailer and yurts that appear at each destination. Station to Station follows the same route founder Levi Strauss did in 1873, when he travelled from New York to California to sell jeans to workers during the Gold Rush, and the project is described by the brand as “a physical manifestation” of its ‘Go Forth’ campaign, launched by Wieden + Kennedy in 2009.

Yurts at Station to Station’s Pittsburgh event by Ye Rin Monk.


Each event features a different line-up of artists and performers but the basic premise is the same: music is accompanied by short films, striking visuals and performance art. The launch event at New York ended with a multi-coloured smoke installation by Swiss artist Olaf Breuning, while Chicago’s performances included one from the Rich South Marching band (below).

Each venue also houses a range of artwork, official Station to Station prints and a handful of yurts, including an all-white structure filled with a bed, discoball, billowing smoke and mirrors. A wooden Levi’s yurt houses craftspeople customising iconic Levi’s products during each event while a dip-dye denim tent contains selected products and a video profiling different ‘makers’.

The train

In between shows, artists and production staff hop on a 1953 train that has been given a digital makeover: it still houses the original private booths, swivel chairs and dining room, but is also home to a recording space and editing suite where footage of train performances will be edited and broadcast online throughout the journey.

The Station to Station train, by by Alayna Van Dervort courtesy of LUMA Foundation

There’s also a typewriter you can send tweets from, a guitar that’s linked to Soundcloud and a 1939 Graflex Speed Graphic camera that uploads photos to Instagram. Outside, carriages have been fitted with LED lights that respond to internal and external soundwaves, creating a moving piece of art. The train isn’t open to the public, but footage on the Station to Station website allows internet users anywhere to take a glimpse inside.

The campaign

It’s an ambitious project and one that’s supported by an impressive digital campaign: the Station to Station site combines official footage with tweets and comments submitted by the public and is updated throughout the three-week journey, while Make our Mark encourages creative expression via social media in response to questions such as ‘Who are you?’, ‘What moves you?’ and ‘What’s your dream?’

Stunning visuals and unlikely artistic combinations – such as a performance from an LA punk band, a Kansas marching band and a headress procession designed by Beninese artist Meschac Gaba – make each night unpredictable and hugely entertaining.

The festival will arrive at Santa Fe on Wednesday, September 18 and Levi’s will also be bringing an ‘outpost’ event to London next month – to follow the project, visit stationtostation.com and makeourmark.levi.com

What's the story?

The Storytelling issue, Oct/Nov 2017, is out now.
We invited writers to respond to our cover image
this month: read their stories inside.
PLUS: Tom Gauld, Oliver Jeffers, Giphy & S-Town

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