30 August 2011

Your Emotional Future

Olafur Eliasson
PinchukArtCentre, Kiev, Ukraine
Interactive installations

Fun and adventure for everyone, but also an art experience. But this is not substance-less entertainment. You become a part of the art.

The PinchukArtCentre is almost hidden inside a shopping mall, behind century-old facades of central Kiev. The interior is ultrachic, with three floors of temporary exhibition rooms, two floors for the collection, and a flashy white café on the top floor with view to the main boulevard of the city. There was a long line waiting to get into the gallery through the obligatory security check. The entrance was free, and this was the spot in the city I heard most foreign tongues.

All together 15 works are on display, some brand new and made specifically for this exhibition and these rooms. Others are earlier works.

- Your Felt Future
The room seems totally empty, but something is strange. It is the ceiling. It is a wavy mirror, reflecting everything that might be in the room into weird, amorphic patterns.

- Your Disappearing Garden
The floor of the room is covered by black lava rocks. Is this a rock garden, or is the garden underneath it, being covered by a vulcano eruption?

- Your Blind Movement
You enter the room and are lost. The room is covered with smoke. Your only way of orientation is the different light colors of different parts of the room.

- Model for a Timeless Garden
In the dark room the light flashes in short, frequent pulses. This makes the splashing water seem like standing still the moment the light is on. Flowing water is creating ever changing sculptures.

- Kepler Was Right Bike
A perfectly ordinary bike, except the wheels are made of mirrors. The reflection of the wheels are creating a second pair of wheels on the floor.

- Happiness
You need to peek through a narrow slit in the wall to see this work. In front of you is a vast landscape of water and soap bubbles. The bubbles are created and vanishing constantly, making a fragile, fluctating landscape.

- Room for One Colour
With only one color of light - yellow - you and everything else in the room turn yellow/black. Details that otherwise are camouflaged in colour become visual, and colorful details become invisible.

- Reflection Magnet
The mirror ball in the yellow room makes the experience even weirder. The monochrome you get reshaped in the concave mirror of the ball.

- Your Uncertain Shadow
Passing through the room you cast multiple shadows on the wall. This makes you want to dance and make strange movements, seeing how the shadow will react to it.

- Camera Obscura
In a dark room you see the reflection of the outside through a tiny hole. The outside is brought inside into this primitive camera, but it is turned upside down.

- Parabolic Planet
A lava stone is hanging in front of an enlarging mirror. From the dark side you see only the contours of the rock, but in the mirror you see all the fine details of the porous stone.

- Your Star House
Seeing into this triangle of mirrors, you see your multiple reflections like in a caleidoscope.

- Water Pendulum
Like in "Model for a Timeless Garden" time is frozen by the rapid flashing of the light. But here the water flows from a tube, swaying randomly from the ceiling. Thin curvous sculpture are created on your retina, until a different sculpture appears by the next flash of light.

- Beauty
Light is sent through a water mist, and you may find the rainbow in there.


Your experiences are a crucial part of the artwork. Some may exit from the exhibition saying: "that was fun", yet others may say "that was an experience that made me look at things differently". It would be impossible to stay totally untouched by this exhibition.

Forced to leave my camera at the entrance, I realised that most of the works could not be experiences through a camera lens. It had to be experienced with my senses, and not only by seeing. Some works you look at (water sculptures, rocks on the floor, mirror ceiling), some you need to participate with (peeking though the tiny slit to see the soap bubbles, navigating in the fog-filled room, creating a multiple shadow), some even may make you act in a way you never acted before (making the multiple shadow dance, navigating through the fog-filled room).

Not only the viewer and his emotions are part of the artwork, the location and the rooms are as well. Some works use the room as an important part of the installation (mirror ceiling, walls hidden in the fog, yellow light). Some works communicate with the location (camera obscura).

My strongest experiences at the exhibition:

I enjoyed how I was forced to use my senses in a new way. I have never before seen water this beautiful as in the "water sculptures". Well, maybe on photos, but never with my own eyes.

Losing my vision and sense of space in the smoke-filled rooms, I was using other senses to explore the area, careful not to bump into others lost in the fog. I managed to emerge from the fog, but it changed how I look at spaces, and it changed how I look at the sense of sight. I have hardly experienced artwork with this strong impact on my senses.

Pictures from the website, copyright information: Courtesy the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin, Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York © Olafur Eliasson 2011. Photo by Dmitry Baranov; courtesy PinchukArtCentre