Photo by Ben Gottesman
By the time you read this, I’ll be riding on a private train with artists and musicians like, Ariel Pink, and Charlotte Gainsbourg. For the month of September, we’ll be traveling from New York to San Francisco. The train will make stops in towns around America to throw multimedia parties that are equally indebted to the low-rent psychedelia of a Merry Prankster Acid Test and the avant-garde Fluxus Happenings. I’ll be there, in the middle of it all, getting drunk and taking pictures and meeting people.
I’m going to live and eat and among some of the most famous artists working right now.
Or I won’t. Maybe I won’t even be allowed inside the train. Maybe I’ll just be following behind it, trying to glimpse of something interesting through the window of a moving train car. I don’t know. But I will soon.
This whole three-week train trip is the brainchild of Doug Aitken. He hatched the lofty, idealistic plan, and brought it to Levi’s®. Together, they dubbed it Station to Station: A public art project made possible by Levi's®. Levi’s® took the idea and brought it to life.
Levi’s® is filling the train with iconic tools of artistic expression updated for our digital age. A 1939 Graflex camera will automatically upload pictures to Instagram, a 1959 Gibson guitar will be synced with SoundCloud, and you can tweet by typing on a typewriter from 1901. It is all very futuristic. Levi’s® is blowing the spirit of the train trip global with digital collaborations on the Make Our Mark site (levi.com/makeourmark). Even if you aren’t on the train itself, you can keep tabs on all the train hijinks, and participate by tagging post with #makeourmark on, Instagram, Twitter, Soundcloud and all the other social media sites. When the cross-country train trip is done, it will continue to fuel artistic collaboration through a series of Skillshare classes.
The whole idea sounds crazy, in the greatest possible way. Take a bunch of musicians and artists, shove them together inside a private train, wire it up with a bunch of digital bells and whistles, and barrel across America. Stop in Pittsburgh, the Twin Cities, Chicago, Missouri, New Mexico, Arizona—and then all around California, to put on concerts and performances and see what happens.
I will be somehow witness to this all and document it.
It’ll be impossible to capture it all, whatever It will be. But I’ll try, and hopefully I’ll fail in an interesting way. But I will be writing daily updates from the road, whether it’s in the dining car of the Station to Station train or from the Levi’s® Train car.
The kickoff party for all of this was September 6th in New York at Riverfront Studios, with performances from No Age, Boredoms, and Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti. Proto-punk legends Suicide made an appearance. There was technicolor smoke bombs, too.
I’ve heard talk about UFOs in Barstow, voodoo marching bands in Pittsburgh, and something big from Beck in Los Angeles. I read that Ariel Pink will be collaborating with the other artists on the train to record an album inspired by Station to Station. But I don’t know what’s true. Whatever happens, I’ll send out daily dispatches to keep you up-to-date.
The pieces will be first drafts and diary entries, written in passenger seats and on hotel beds and in quiet corners at a party. They’ll be flawed and hastily-finished, but they’ll be real-time updates from my journey, following a train full of the cool kids. Trying to budge my way in. Trying to learn what the whole trip is about. Trying to see something worth seeing. When I do, you’ll be hearing about it.
Over the course of three weeks in September 2013, a train will travel from New York City to San Francisco, making nine stops at train stations across the country. Organized by artist Doug Aitken, Station to Station will connect leading figures and underground creators from the worlds of art, music, food, literature, and film for a series of cultural interventions and site-specific happenings. The train, designed as a moving, kinetic light sculpture, will broadcast unique content and experiences to a global audience. A public art project made possible by the Levi’s® brand, Station to Station will raise funds through ticket sales and donations to support non-traditional programming at nine partner museums around the country. Join the project at Levi.com/makeourmark