Room for one colour is a space flooded with a warm, uneasy yellow light. Model room is a studio filled with crooked white shelves packed with geometric forms -- wire sculptures, cardboard maquettes, and mirrored illusions. 360° room for all colours is a large circular wall that envelops viewers as its color-changing mood light gradually fades through the color spectrum -- blue creeping into red, then fading to green with seemingly no pattern at all. At the end of a dark, ruddy tunnel, lined with Soil quasi bricks, is Notion motion, an illuminated screen projected with water ripples that shift with the movement in the room. Loud creaks are emitted from wooden floorboards, a few of which are spring-loaded and surprisingly loud juxtaposed with the strangled silence of Beauty -- another room near the tunnel. Blindingly dark, the room features a fine mist raining down from the center, lit only by a very dim lamp. Like a child running through a forbidden sprinkler, you are invited to walk through the misty curtain and watch as others walk under it and disappear into the darkness. This is Olafur Eliasson's new exhibit at SFMOMA, and this is only the beginning.
Attention reader: The continued perusal of this review could potentially spoil your viewing experience. If you need no convincing, stop reading now and come back later.
Upon entering the museum, you'll notice a black electric fan dangling from a cord, spinning like a wild pendulum around the lobby. Mere inches from a tall person's head and powered by its own wind, Ventilator was the first indication that Eliasson's work is unexpected. The fan was originally installed at shoulder-level, but I guess San Franciscans are too soft for such dangerous art.
SFMOMA's fifth floor turret bridge is transformed into One-way colour tunnel, which is made of rainbow colored prismatic mirrors. Various other alcoves in the building are transformed into mirrored boxes you can look in -- or in some cases -- enter to see a multiplicity of reflections of yourself. Eliasson's exhibit provides a unique experience for each viewer, while at the same time encouraging self-awareness and the consideration of the idea that uniqueness is debatable.
Here are some thoughts I had while viewing the reflective pieces:
This is what lots of me would look like.
Somewhere in the universe, someone is doing the exact same thing I'm doing.
I should never wear this sweater again.
Take your time is the title of Eliasson's installation series, and it should be taken quite literally. You shouldn't rush through, and you probably won't want to. More than once I asked the guards, "Can we go in there?" and then "Are you sure?" Eliasson scientifically brings out the precocious child in his viewer. His installations gently force you to interact with them and to reevaluate your awareness of light, space, and temperature and how each element alters your environmental perceptions.
As if the transformative installations on the fifth floor weren't enough, this is also the first public showing of Eliasson's ice car. On the second floor of the museum, Eliasson's creation for BMW's Art Car program is on display. Titled Your mobile expectations the icy automobile is housed in a microclimate chamber at 11° Fahrenheit. SFMOMA provides grey fleece blankets for you to cuddle up with as you enter the chamber and discover a concept car you might expect an Icelandic artist to design. There is also a collaged video of Eliasson and his hip-looking staff developing the frozen Beamer. To his credit, Eliasson tends to highlight what's going on behind the curtain -- both in the video and in the fifth floor installations. Prolific as an artist and inventor, Eliasson is obviously very thoughtful about his viewer, ensuring a highly engaging and reflective experience. I recommend letting the elevator deliver you directly into one of the installations, but you may prefer to enter up the stairs and over the bridge, through a myriad of colorful self reflections. Either way, just go. Trust me.
Olafur Eliasson: Take your time runs through February 24, 2008 at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third Street in San Francisco.