Marciano Art Foundation
March 1 – August 22, 2018
With his Reality projector, the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson transforms the Theater Gallery at the Marciano Art Foundation into a constantly moving kaleidoscope of overlapping colors projected on the far wall of what used to be the Masonic Temple‘s theater. Eliasson’s installation is a high tech meets low tech intervention that engages the architecture of the space and consumes the viewer’s attention. The work is, in essence, an investigation of the properties of light.
To create this dazzling and seductive effect, white light is projected through cyan, magenta and yellow gels placed in triangular shaped openings in the ceiling’s rafters. Two high-intensity white lights situated on a moving track are programmed to traverse the length of the rafters. As they pass by the gels, color shapes are cast onto a large projection screen installed at the back of the space. When the lights overlap each other, the gels and the ceiling architecture, jagged triangles and trapezoids in bright colors— green, red, blue, yellow, magenta, cyan and white— cascade across the wall. The shapes are bisected by the black shadows of the building’s structural supports, creating an uncanny disconnect.
Visitors spend a minute in a waiting room until their eyes adjust before entering the darkened space where they encounter a bombardment of color as well as clanging and evocative sounds. This is Eliasson’s fist installation to incorporate a sound component. The ever-changing sonic landscape complements the flow of color and light. Created in collaboration with the Icelandic musician Jónsi (of the band Sigur Rós), the composition that accompanies the installation is simultaneously recognizable and indistinguishable. It is a collection of disparate piano sounds Eliasson recorded and gave to Jónsi to use as raw materials.
The resulting score is jarring, confrontational and vivid. It also corresponds succinctly to the undulating colors that flow across the room. While Reality projector draws from the history of cinema, experimental film and the works of California Light and Space artists, it is uniquely his. As in Eliasson’s previous immersive installation, The Weather Project at the Tate Modern Turbine Hall (2003), Reality projector takes time to fully comprehend.
One of the best ways to synthesize the beauty and complexity of the installation is to make a commitment: Sit on the floor and let the projection fill one’s field of vision. Look up, look across and look back. Walk around the space. Embrace the installation as a meditative experience. Take in the colors and the shapes and the motion without trying to reverse engineer how it works. Reality projector is an engaging visual and sonic landscape. The thrill is in not knowing the complexities of its construction and just being amazed by the experience.
Images Courtesy Marciano Art Foundation