‘Station to Station’: Riding the art train from Barstow to Los Angeles

For the last twenty days, a group of writers, singers, artists and photographers have been making their way across the country in an old Amtrak train — staging rock concerts and performance art in cities from New York to Barstow. “Station to Station,” as the project is called, was the brain child of Doug Aitken, a prominent installation and video artist based in Los Angeles. He embraced the rail line as a way to explore the country in a more meaningful and deliberate way, visiting communities which aren’t known for their art scenes.

Each city was different, but there was a mix of projections, videos, music, art installations  in yurts, including a physics-inspired installation by LA artist Liz Glynn. In Barstow, Cat Power and Beck played a show. And artist Peter Coffin did an art project, which consisted of a UFO flying over the audience. Here are some photos from the ride:

The Barstow train station.(Photo: Carolina Miranda)
The Barstow train station.(Photo: Carolina Miranda)
L.A. artist Liz Glynn works on a papier-mâché piece in her on-board studio. (Photo:Carolina Miranda)
L.A. artist Liz Glynn works on a papier-mâché piece in her on-board studio. (Photo:Carolina Miranda)
The Station to Station train at the platform in Barstow.(Photo: Carolina Miranda)
The Station to Station train at the platform in Barstow.(Photo: Carolina Miranda)
Parts of the track run along the old Route 66, fragments of which still survive amid concrete freeway infrastructure, like this vintage motel. (Photo: Carolina Miranda)
Parts of the track run along the old Route 66, fragments of which still survive amid concrete freeway infrastructure, like this vintage motel. (Photo: Carolina Miranda)
L.A.-based experimental band Lucky Dragons craft a new composition in the train’s recording car. (Photo: Carolina Miranda)
L.A.-based experimental band Lucky Dragons craft a new composition in the train’s recording car. (Photo: Carolina Miranda)
The train’s last car was called the “Cedar Rapids” and it dates to 1948. It offered spectacular views of the Mojave from its web of windows. (Photo: Carolina Miranda)
The train’s last car was called the “Cedar Rapids” and it dates to 1948. It offered spectacular views of the Mojave from its web of windows. (Photo: Carolina Miranda)
At the end of the five-hour ride, downtown Los Angeles pops into view as the train enters the industrial center of Vernon. (Photo: Carolina Miranda)
At the end of the five-hour ride, downtown Los Angeles pops into view as the train enters the industrial center of Vernon. (Photo: Carolina Miranda)

Here are some of the highlights from the project. 

All I Want to Do is Dream: Journalist Joe Hagan and photographer Tim Davis have been talking to Americans about their lives as “Station to Station” has made its way across the country, producing one of the
project’s most insightful and engaging works.

Reynher Banham Loves Los Angeles: The campiest architecture film of all time is about L.A.  It’s totally worth setting aside an hour for this 1972 doc, with its hokey 8 track navigation system, paean to vintage detective shows and references to Venice Beach as the sort of place that makes “staid businessmen nervous.”

Comic book artist Chris Ware gives a visual ode and an insightful Q&A on trains, art and travel from his home-base of Chicago. Of living there, he says, “As New York completes its transformation into the City of the 1%, I’m proud to be a continuing member of the City of the 99%.”

Joan Didion’s packing list: Because a good writer always packs bourbon.

Los Angeles Minute: Station to Station’s visual tribute to Los Angeles.

“Station to Station”  has now pulled into Union Station. Tonight, the artists will host one of their final happenings — which will include a performance by Beck at L.A.’s Union Station on Thursday Sept 26 at 6:30 pm.