Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Olafur Eliasson at the MCA

Yesterday my second day of vacation I went down to the MCA and saw the Olafur Eliasson exhibit Take Your Time. The works in the exhibit range from 1993 to the present. Eliasson describes his works as "devices for the experience of reality". Each work is emersive and experiential. Even his series of photographs of rivers, caves islands, etc. in taking up a wall are something I more experienced than observed. Some of it was subtle like the hall lit with only orange light, to stark, a black room lit only by a single light shining on mist of water near the back of the room. There was also the walls of moss or bricks of fired soil mounted on a wall. The moss was according to the exhibition brochure living and changing over the course of the exhibit, and you could certainly smell the moss, and one person while I was there had to leave the room immediately as his alergies almost immediately acted up.
Three works left a lasting impression on me, one a light shined upon a ring that turned hung in the middle of a room, you then saw both the shadow of the ring on the opposite wall of the light, but also a ring of light passed along the walls of the room. At some point of watching the ring, the shadow of the ring and the rings of light passing along the wall I had the sensation of having an insight. Eureaka! yet about nothing in particular. then there was the circle of light panels you entered into and the light cycled through the wavelengths of the light spectrum. As the light changed there was subtle changes in my mood. Well actually it felt more like the light was affecting me in ways that I could not articulate that I was shifting as the light changed through unnamed changes in myself. The third work was the black room with light and mist. I saw it immediately after being in the light ring and so at first I could not see at all as I entered the room and as you entered the room you could not initially see the light and mist. Once I entered and turned into the room and saw the light and mist, immediately I thought how beautiful. It was indeed quite beautiful. These three have stayed with me I think because they in differing ways isolated aspects of spiritual or religious experiences, whether of prayer or meditation, or worship. The play of light and darkness, and color often are components of worship and meditative spaces. Though rather than a full experience it was like aspects of these was isolated to be experienced on its own without association to anything but what was used in the work to produce the experience.

In some sense this seems to be what is going on in most of Eliasson's work, picking out a narrow range of experience of light, shape, color etc., and thus also isolating emotive or psychological states that may be induced or associated with the arrangements of the work. For something like the wall of moss for me it was more recall of being in forest and stepping upon moss. But other than that it was more a piece of novelty to find a wall of moss in a museum, other works hit me as mere novelty without much else to them. Overall thought it was fairly impacting exhibit that has stuck with me and has left me mulling over the various experiences of each work, for the past 24 hours or so.