OLAFUR ELIASSON “SOMETIMES THE RIVER IS THE BRIDGE”

HAPPENINGText: Sophia Sloan

Both a wonderfully curious and interactive experience, Olafur Eliasson’s solo exhibit “Sometimes the river is the bridge”, is his first visit exhibit in Japan in ten years. Held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT), the Danish-Icelandic artist is known for his artistic practices that span from photography to architecture, but this exhibit highlights many of his art installations over the past few years as well as one created specifically for this exhibit. With his interest in natural elements such as water, air and light, Eliasson’s work asks the audience to explore our relation with nature and our environment.


Olafur Eliasson, Beauty, 1993. Installation view: Moderna Museet, Stockholm 2015. Photo: Anders Sune Berg. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles © 1993 Olafur Eliasson

The dramatic transitions from room to room are some of the most notable aspects of the exhibit as a whole. When the audience encounters “The exploration of the centre of the sun” (2017), they are departing from the bright open entrance into a partially enclosed celestial room. In the center, a floating polyhedron illuminates the dark room with various colors as it slowly rotates. The twinkling movement of the colors makes the room feel like it is slowly spinning. While some of the visitors ventured up close to see the colorfully paneled object, many kept their distance, viewing from afar as they themselves became colored into the landscape. This introduction is a memorable psychological shift to start off the journey.


Olafur Eliasson, The exploration of the centre of the sun, 2017. Installation view: Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 2020. Photo: Kazuo Fukunaga. Courtesy of the artist and PKM Gallery, Seoul © 2017 Olafur Eliasson

Traveling throughout the exhibit, there is an alternating pattern of dark room, then light, then dark etc. that signals to the audience that they are entering a new environment. Each space holds different levels of interaction. On one end of the spectrum, audience members have no choice but to be involved in the installation.


Olafur Eliasson, Your happening, has happened, will happen, 2020. Installation view: Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, 2020. Photo: Kazuo Fukunaga. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles © 2020 Olafur Eliasson

Immediately as you enter the space for “Your happening, has happened, will happen” (2020), your shadow gets projected onto the opposite wall where your movements are both amplified and distorted. On the other end of the spectrum, “Sunlight graffiti” (2012) requires active involvement as the individual is asked to wield a solar-powered lamp as a brush to create ephemeral images in the dark.

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