Take your time, an exhibition of Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s works is presently on view at MoMA and P.S.1.
The works reminded me of the Spencer Finch show at MASS MoCA that I saw earlier this year. Both artists are interested in space, light, nature, and research as a means to artmaking. But, unlike Finch, who’s experiental studies are obsessive recreations of natural phenomena, Eliasson is interested not in replicating but in interfering with the way in which we experience space and light.
And, indeed, the artist does have an affection for special effects, for almost filmic illusions played out not on film, but right in front of the viewer. But, Eliasson’s most successful installations are magical. Your strange certainty kept still appears to have stopped time—a scrim of precipitation seems to be frozen in mid air. I walked into Room for one colour, a vacant room with an odd light, and then, I watched amazed as the person who walked by me looked as though he were in black and white. I looked down at my own arm and found that I too, had been transformed into a monochrome heroine, a character from Pleasantville.
And yet, the magic is not lost, even when we learn the trick. In each of his installations, Eliasson reveals the lights and motors and parts that make it function. Reversed Waterfall, on view at PS 1, is a mess of scaffolding and pipes and pumps that sends water streaming upward. Beauty is rainbow in a darkened room, created simply with mist and light. This exposure, like many of the effects themselves, is also reminiscent of early film. We can watch George Méliès, the “Cinemagician’s” works now, and know how the simple, yet innovative effects were done, and still feel charmed, even awed. Charming too, are Eliasson’s often low tech magic tricks. They are more mesmerizing than any summer blockbuster’s CGI. Take your time and enjoy.
Pictured are Olafur Eliasson’s Your strange certainty kept still and Beauty.