Wednesday, 28 March 2012

MCA: Olafur Eliasson 2010


In honour of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney reopening this week, we thought we'd reminisce on one of our favourite exhibitions they've held.  For those of you who were lucky enough to see Olafur Eliasson's exhibition in 2010 at the MCA, here is what we thought of certain curatorial aspects:

One-way colour tunnel

Olafur Eliasson’s works are shaped and framed by the walls they inhabit. Their impact depends on the way they are displayed, which varies in accordance to the building’s existing structure. This affects the overall meaning and sensorial experience of the works as every time they are exhibited, an aspect of their capacity changes.

Whether entering the exhibition at the MCA from the stairs and eventually wandering through the One-way colour tunnel, or entering through the lift and being greeted by it, it has a compelling impact. This artwork is a thoroughfare between each side of the exhibition, making it impossible not to interact with. Its dominant position is unlike the inconspicuous position of Sunset Kaleidoscope.

Sunset Kaleidoscope

Sunset Kaleidoscope’s affect on the viewer relates to the exhibition’s title- “Take your time”. It is inserted in the facade that faces the harbour and catches the reflection of the sky in the mirrors that the outward box is lined with. There is a slowly spinning yellow disc in the box and, in certain positions, its reflection and the blue view both alternately repeat and merge into a green infinity. If positioned facing onto a different landscape, different colours would have resulted in the reflections, affecting the impact.

The limitations of the building’s existing structure, as well the artist’s intentions, influenced the work’s low placement. To ensure that a window sash does not disrupt the view, the box is placed below the lowest. This encourages the viewer to move around the work and slow down to explore it. The position of Sunset Kaleidoscope was carefully calculated as Olafur Eliasson, in collaboration with curators, negotiated the space allocated to this exhibition two years prior.

Moss Wall

The structure of the building similarly affects the tactile Soil quasi bricks, as this work is framed by the perimeter of the narrow space. Hexagonal tiles completely fill the hall. They lead the viewer from the space with Moss wall into the room that contains the water work Beauty. The organic potent smell of Moss wall dies down along with light, as the thoroughfare becomes cold and dark. This forces the viewer to feel their way along the tiles toward the damp smell and rhythmic sound of Beauty. The physical length of the hall lends time for this sensorial transition to occur.

Beauty

An exhibition guide is obtained upon purchasing the ticket. The exhibition begins with a panel of wall text, but the guide is the only reference for information on individual works. There are no captions or titles, making information optional. The audience can engage on a purely superficial level but there are small, seemingly unfinished elements to the installation that encourage questions. Beauty is in a totally black room. A white pipe that travels from the floor to the sprinkler system on the ceiling has not been concealed or painted black. By not making the mechanics behind this work seamless, curiosity and questioning are provoked.

“Take your time” is an exhibition that encourages the viewer to do exactly that. It utilises the existing structure of the MCA building to heighten the impact of the works. Whether the meanings gained are the intent of the artist or not, the way in which the works are installed and presented are major influences to interpretations.

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