Photograph by Darrow Montgomery
Doug Aitken wasn’t the first artist to see the cinematic potential of the Hirshhorn’s donut exterior. Others, like Krzysztof Wodiczko in 1988, have used the Gordon Bunshaft–designed building as a surface for projected works. But it was Aitken’s “SONG 1”— touted as the world’s first large-scale, 360-degree convex-screen projection—that treated the Hirshhorn grounds like the drive-in movie theater it could’ve always been. With its celeb cameos—Devendra Banhart! Giant Tilda Swinton head!—and indie-rock doo-wop covers, “SONG 1” may have been more spectacle than satisfying art, but as spectacular art, it was exactly the picnic and make-out spot Washington needed last spring. Now that the museum knows how to make 11 digital projectors (and inward- and outward-facing speakers) do their thing, it ought to extend its National Mall–only medium to other artists. Maybe ones who’ll make something a little less soothing than “SONG 1”: I bet a Matthew Barney horrorscape would pair well with a picnic blanket and brie.