Posted by zi xin wong at 6:39 PM
To me, personally, Take Your Time by Olafur Eliasson was ultimately a journey and experience of colour and perception. I read somewhere that the title of this exhibition came from the fact that one can actually spend hours and hours at the exhibition and even revisit the experience ... and I certainly found that to be true. There are some exhibitions and galleries that I would visit once and would be reluctant to return, even if there are much more to see. Too bad though, for me at least, that Take Your Time is held at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney! Eliasson held a talk in the morning of the opening (he was apparently only in town for 48 hours), but I had to give it a miss, unfortunately. A bit jealous as I overheard many talking about it as we were visiting!
Room for one colour (1997) (Image from Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary website)
I had reserved my last day of Sydney to attend the exhibition and intended to stay for most of the afternoon before I had to fly back to Melbourne. One of my favourites was no doubt Room for one colour (1997). The main reason is because it was an installation that worked perfectly. My friend Jess was standing in the doorway of the room and even before entering, and having no prior knowledge about the work) I said quite excitedly, "you're in black and white!". That one moment/second was surreal, and then fascination. I then read the exhibition guide and sure enough here is what it read:
"Monochromatic bulbs emit light at such a narrow frequency that they affect your normal colour perception, making the contents of the room appear in yellow or shades of black"
Maybe I just don't have sufficient knowledge on contemporary art, and however pleasing they are hanging on the gallery walls, I struggle to find meaning (sometimes purpose) unless I read the blurb sticker that accompanies the work. And that is why I very much enjoyed Room for one colour - the relationship between intention and reception exists without narration* (this is a whole other argument on contemporary art, isn't it?). It was the most immersive environment of the whole exhibition. Unexpectedly so though, because prior to the exhibition, I was most excited about physically being in 360° room for all colours.
360° room for all colours (2002) (Image from Lookintomyowl.com)
Having said that, however, 360° room for all colours was all sorts of incredible. We spent the most time in here. I think the reason why this was not as immersive was because of the room it was put in. It was in an ordinary square room with a high ceiling, so there were plenty of room for the light and rich colours to escape and leak to. I think, because of this, we found ourselves standing with our faces about 50mm or less away from the surface. We didn't realise how close we were standing, because the colours and light were so powerful. When viewing this, I was most interested in the phenomena that was taking place - afterimages. Afterimage is an aspect of colour perception, and is investigated by Eliasson in many of his works. I'll write a bit more about afterimages another time, it is really quite fascinating, and scientific. However, I really couldn't tell if the colour I saw was an afterimage or not (perhaps, that is the point?). There were moments and certain colours (we found to be, red ... or what we perceived to be red) that were so incredibly intense that it made the experience surreal and for whatever reason, made me smile. So, for lack of a better description, having staring at the changing colours on the installation surface, Jess and I were colour-fucked.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Model room (2003) - literally, a room full of models showing Eliasson and his studio's creative processes, experiential investigations. Being an architecture student, and the fact that building models is my preferred way of thinking, this was inspiring. And a parallel to Herzog and de Meuron's Archaeology of the Mind.
I suppose I was disappointed in Moss Wall (1994), but only because it is an installation that evolves and changes over time. Moss Wall is essentially a sizeable wall mounted with live, soft, imported reindeer moss from Norway. (Read here for more on the preparation for the installation, and please do! It took an incredible amount of planning and calculations, as galleries in the past have actually run out of moss.) It is aesthetically just beautiful and truly enhances the room it is in. Such a juxtaposition, as exhibited in the same room, was the sharply-angled, geometric and stainless steel Multiple Grotto (2004). It worked quite well, I think. Hopefully some pictures will surface throughout the exhibition on the progress of the moss (photography was not permitted in the entire exhibition ... but there were of course, people who still did anyway). How cool and funky it would be if the wall was put on surveillance through webcam, so nerds like me could track its growth and process over the internet?! Just a thought. Being the first day of the exhibition, the moss wall was fresh and had that gorgeous cream colour.
Moss Wall at MoMA (Image from akuban's Flickr)
There were, inevitably a few that I didn't quite 'get', but we are always learning, aren't we? There are many more that I would love to share my experience about, but I think I won't write any more - not only because it is difficult for me to express how I feel in words, but also because clearly Take Your Time cannot be justified by only words and pictures. Like I said, it is a journey that has to be experienced (like architecture, of course). Oh, and also, although Eliasson's photography did not produce as much fascination or stir up imagination and thought, it was emotive and evocative, and I enjoyed it very much. I am and will be endlessly fascinated by the work of Eliasson and his studio (and I apologise to those who constantly have to witness this love of mine!), sometimes and inevitably, not in the intended manner ... but much of the arts are indeed, subjective. How amazing and intellectually stimulating it would be to be working in his studio! Perhaps, maybe, one day ... if I am lucky and capable enough.
*I only recently had my first Rothko experience (yes, it truly is an experience, with Rothko) at the NGV (what have I been doing?!). Although only at a medium scale of 209.5 x 125.3cm, the emotion that the painting stirred up was quite amazing. What power a Rothko painting can exude! I have always read about how some would weep when they see a Rothko, and although I didn't cry, I did find myself needing a big fat cuddle. The longer I stood in front of it, the bigger the cuddle I needed. However much I feel like a cornball for saying that, it is no exaggeration at all.