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Yesterday afternoon, the midtown walls outside the Museum of Modern Art and surrounding buildings were bathed in a beautiful, expansive new video installation from artist Doug Aitken. The work, Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers, was commissioned by both the MoMA and Creative Time, and it turns the museum into public art space. A total of eight screens (outside the MoMA on West 53rd Street, in an empty lot onto Museum of Folk Art's exterior wall, and on the MoMA's walls on West 54th) show the stories of five different New Yorkers.

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We see each of the characters start their day: Donald Sutherland is an imposing businessman; Tilda Swinton is an office worker; Chan Marshall of Cat Power plays a postal worker; musician and actor Seu Jorge as an electrician; and street drummer Ryan Donowho is a bike messenger. The stories play simultaneously, united by gestures and actions (like walking up or washing) but in very different environments and moments. Each 13 minute film escalates from each person's routine day, like the postal worker in a Queens mail processing center, into dreamlike states.

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The videos are gorgeous and transporting, especially when you're able to see multiple screens at once. MoMA director Glenn Lowry said, "A project like this creates a very different dialogue with the public, who we hope will be inspired to think about art in relation to the city itself and to the larger urban experience," while Mayor Bloomberg said, "It's fun, fascinating and best of all free of charge." And filming took place in all five boroughs, from a Bronx sign company to a skating rink in Staten Island.

The MoMA is opening the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Sculpture Garden, where four of the screens are projected, to the public. The installation runs from today through February 12. You can even download an audio commentary from MoMA Audio and on iTunes.

At last night's opening reception, people braved the cold to see the installations - and a long line to get into the MoMA to warm up. Seu Jorge performed a few songs, but don't worry - there will be day of special performances for the public, including one from Cat Power, on February 2.

Doug Aitken: sleepwalkers
Through February 12, 2007
5:00PM-10PM, on the exterior of the Museum of Modern Art

For more information, go to the sleepwalkers website