Carnegie Museum of Art Announces Doug Aitken’s migration (empire) as Next Installment in Its Online Exhibition Series

Carnegie Museum of Art Announces Doug Aitken’s migration (empire) as Next Installment in Its Online Exhibition Series
On view on from August 19–November 15, 2020

On August 19, Carnegie Museum of Art (CMOA) will launch the second installment of its online exhibition series dedicated to the museum’s film and video collection, which began in May 2020 with Rachel Rose: Lake Valley. This extension of the museum’s curatorial program into the digital sphere offers a new channel for local and global audiences alike to experience time-based works previously only accessible in person.

This next iteration of the exhibition series will feature migration (empire) (2008), a twenty-four-minute video work by multidisciplinary artist Doug Aitken (American, b. 1968). The film was exhibited on the Museum of Art’s façade during Life on Mars: 55th Carnegie International in 2008.

“We were thrilled with audiences’ reactions to and enjoyment of Rachel Rose: Lake Valley, which inaugurated a new platform for our artistic program,” says Eric Crosby, the museum’s Henry J. Heinz II Director. “Our online exhibitions allow us to expand access to our moving image collection and engage audiences in new and meaningful ways, no matter where they reside.”

In a series of vignettes, Aitken’s migration (empire) documents wild North American migratory animals relocated from their natural habitats to vacant motel rooms. Whether it is a beaver swimming in a bathtub or a deer scavenging for food in a mini fridge, the animals engage with the constructed environments according to their feral instincts. These interactions, accompanied by footage of the built-up landscape, further exacerbate the palpable tension between the natural environment and the mythologized idea of America.

“The work was filmed in roadside motel rooms across the United States, including those in and around Pittsburgh, symbolizing human mobility, progress, and westward expansion,” explains exhibition curator Ashley McNelis. “The transitory spaces are interchangeable and do not provide a clear sense of place. The viewer, transported into alien but recognizable surroundings, is subtly asked to reflect upon our own species’ infringement of the natural environment.”

“With migration I wanted to create a window into the modern landscape. I traveled across the country
filming inside different hotel rooms documenting the landscape that we have created. A landscape of
repetition. This landscape is a vast system of arteries, and veins, but what was there before? I wanted to
look at a deeper history, an ecological history, integrating animal species that existed long before the
modern world,” says Douk Aiken

Doug Aitken: migration (empire) is accompanied by free online family-friendly educational activities that explore the themes of the work. On October 6, 7–8 p.m., families are invited to join a CMOA teaching artist for a live online conversation introduced by Ashley McNelis. The exhibition will also be accompanied by a photo essay by Leah Frances for the museum’s award-winning online journal Storyboard.

Doug Aitken: migration (empire) is organized by curatorial assistant Ashley McNelis.


General operating support for Carnegie Museum of Art is provided by The Heinz Endowments and Allegheny Regional Asset District. Carnegie Museum of Art receives state arts funding support through a grant from the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, a state agency funded by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.


Carnegie Museum of Art creates experiences that connect people to art, ideas, and one another. The museum is committed to global engagement and regional advancement. We champion creativity and its importance to society with experiences that welcome, inspire, challenge, and inform. Our core activities—collecting, conserving, presenting, and interpreting works of art—make those experiences possible. Our collection of over 30,000 works emphasizes art, architecture, photography, and design from the 19th century to the present. One of the four Carnegie Museums of Pittsburgh, Carnegie Museum of Art was founded by industrialist and philanthropist Andrew Carnegie in 1895. To learn more, please call 412.622.3131 or visit