Through his installation-based work, sculpture and photography, Olafur Eliasson suggests that perception must be studied and understood within the context of one’s environment and as a construction of culture. The artist has created numerous works, or situations, that present opportunities for visitors to engage with basic, familiar elements such as water, light, wind, temperature or vegetation and to observe them in an unfamiliar context. Often these situations provoke experiences and interactions to which the visitors themselves contribute, as much any element or environment provided by the artist. Indeed, it is the realignment and reconfiguration of the traditional subject / object relationship within the context of contemporary art that serves as the core of Eliasson’s artmaking practice. Eliasson is also interested in the effect of time upon the understanding of space, thus making art that can be considered `temporal’. Indeed it is widely understood that time, is perhaps the fourth dimension and we cannot understand the universe without acknowledging that space (and our surroundings in general) changes over time. Further, if we agree that every individual (indeed every fragment of energy or mass) has an effect upon every other fragment of energy and mass in the universe, then Eliasson suggests that this `effect’, must also be taken into consideration as we attempt to understand the world. Eliasson has even suggested a new metric, or term, for this `effect’: Your engagement sequence, or YES, for short.
`Your negotiable panorama’, installed in the main space of the ground floor exhibition galleries, is nothing if not a model of the individual’s effect upon and responsibility for her surroundings. First, the artist constructs a nearly 360 degree, or spiral, room for the visitor to enter, immediately negating a certain comfort zone of experience, particularly at a contemporary art gallery in Chelsea, which has become synonymous with the white cube. A light source, lens, and large table supporting a basin of water are configured at the center of this circular space. Quite simply, a wavelike pattern of projected light is generated by the individual visitor’s movements within the space and, more specifically, by her subtle gestures and movements upon the table basin. Spectacular in terms of visual stimulation, the model experiments with the relationship between cause and effect, individual experience and the construction of perception.
Upstairs, in the large gallery space on the second floor, Eliasson has installed a work entitled ‘The inverted mirror sphere.’ As illustrated in the artist’s 2003 exhibition at the gallery, titled Modelroom, Eliasson is fascinated with the influence of architecture upon experience in general, and particularly celebrates architecture that allows the individual to renegotiate her experience within its confines. In this sense, the artist takes much inspiration from Buckminster Fuller as perhaps the greatest anti-Modernist of architectural theory. Eliasson has referenced Fuller’s geodesic domes in numerous works and this process has led to a series of projects involving mathematical patterns and symmetries. ‘Inverted mirror sphere’ represents the height of Eliasson’s study in spatial construction, presenting a sphere composed of a torqued spiral of steel tubes and geometric patterns of steel and mirror. Set within the sphere, a source of bright light is set up. With the inclusion of the light source, another 360 degree projection is initiated, revealing the negative spaces on the sphere’s surface while simultaneously projecting the sphere’s pattern onto the surrounding gallery floor walls.
In the small gallery of the second floor, Eliasson has designed another room installation that takes the image of a neon compass as a point of departure. An arrow flashing briefly in each position on the compass, suggests that one’s orientation, or the sense of one’s place in the landscape, is similarly an issue of construction and one that requires study and appreciation in order to attain greater consciousness. In this work, we are left to ponder the direction where the arrow points and the fact that there is no single answer, or truth, to the arrow’s orientation.
Related blog post: James Wagner