Olafur Eliasson’s Circular Mirror Installation Embeds Viewers in the Sun-Baked Qatari Landscape
Looking up also means looking down and sideways in the latest installation by artist Olafur Eliasson (previously). Opened this week at the Northern Heritage sites near Doha, Qatar, a cluster of large mirrors and rings made of steel and fiberglass stand on the dry desert landscape amongst shrubs and the remnants of animals that have passed through. Towering meters above the sandy terrain, “Shadows travelling on the sea of the day” allows visitors to wander underneath the glass surfaces and peer upwards at their reflections and that of the landscape, shrouding each figure in an endless swath of dusty earth.
“It is a kind of reality check of your connectedness to the ground,” Eliasson says in a statement about the project. “You are at once standing firmly on the sand and hanging, head down, from a ground that is far above you. You will probably switch back and forth between a first-person perspective and a destabilising, third-person point of view of yourself.”
The remote installation also groups the mirrors so that they reflect their semicircular support structures in addition to those nearby, “creating a sea of interconnections,'” the artist says. “Reflection becomes virtual composition, changing as you move. What you perceive—an entanglement of landscape, sprawling sculptural elements, and visitors—seems hyperreal while still completely grounded.” This connection serves as an urgent visual metaphor for humanity’s need to grasp its relationship to the earth as it confronts the climate crisis and attempts to find new paths for coexisting with the natural world.
Find more from Eliasson on his site and Instagram. (via designboom)
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Cincinnati Art Museum Discovers That a Rare 16th Century Mirror Reveals a Hidden Image When Illuminated
Prior to the ubiquity of the glass mirrors we use today, people often peered into polished bronze for a low-fi glimpse of their reflection. These objects often featured cast three-dimensional symbols or renderings on the side opposite the convex reflective surface, but another particularly artful subset also contained an added dimension of mystery.
While plumbing the archives at the Cincinnati Art Museum, curator Hou-mei Sung uncovered what appeared to be an ordinary patinaed mirror printed with the name of Amitābha Buddha. After closer inspection, though, she realized that the small bronze piece would reveal a hidden image of the spiritual figure enshrined in rays when illuminated.
Dubbed a “Magic Mirror,” the extremely rare work is part of a small collection of light-penetrating objects that date back to the Han dynasty (202 BCE to 220 CE)—only a few similar Buddhist pieces from China and Japan are thought to exist and are currently housed at the Shanghai Museum, Tokyo National Museum, and Metropolitan Museum of Art. Sung’s discovery is presumed to be the oldest uncovered, and although it’s still unclear exactly how ancient artisans created the pieces, it was likely a religious decoration hung in a temple or the home of a wealthy family.
If you’re in Cincinnati, you can see the mirror and its secret image starting July 23.
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Sarah Sze Implants a Fragmented Installation of Individual Mirrors in a Lush Hudson Valley Landscape
Artist Sarah Sze (previously) is known for precisely arranging unique images like photos, paintings, projections into massive sculptural constellations that collapse time and space, and one of her newest installations works in a similar manner, drawing on the tensions between the individual and collective and past, present, and future. Nestled into the lush hillside of Storm King Arts Center in New York’s Hudson Valley, Sze’s “Fallen Sky” is comprised of 132 distinct pieces of polished stainless steel arranged in a fragmented circle.
The sloping, slightly hidden installation, which is now part of the center’s permanent collection, reflects the landscape, shifting the mirrored images it displays depending on the time of day, season, and the location of the viewer. All of the grasses surrounding the metal components were chosen and planted by hand, creating a contrast between the sleek tops of the steel and the natural growths.
Spanning 26 feet, the amorphous, segmented forms evoke the process of erosion and the ways elements change and deteriorate over time. Sze pairs “Fallen Sky” with an immersive collaged installation titled “Fifth Season,” which will be on view inside the center through November 8, an accompaniment that speaks to her vision for the pieces. “The relationship of the human to landscape is this age-old exploration of artists, but both works I’ve made are much more about how the landscape is fragile, it’s in flux, and our relationship to it is fractured,” she said in a recent interview. “I think this has to do with our generation. Our relationship to landscape is not one of owning it.”
Sze speaks at length about the process behind “Fallen Sky” in the video below, and you can explore more of her projects on her site. (via designboom)
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A Mirrored Ceiling and Gleaming Tile Floor Turn This Chinese Bookstore into an Immersive M.C. Escher-Style Illusion
X+Living is known for its deceptively designed Zhongshuge bookstores that mimic M.C. Escher woodcuts and trippy infinite spaces. The latest iteration is this dreamy location in Chengdu featuring bold archways, a reflective tile floor that makes the display tables appear like floating boats, and a mirror embedded in the ceiling to create a seemingly endless loop of stairways and shelving. Completed in 2020, Dujiangyan Zhongshuge has a cafe on the first floor, along with a children’s area occupied by a bamboo forest and pandas climbing the bookcases. In the rest of the two-story space, the uppermost shelves lining the winding walkways are covered in a decorative print, adding to the illusion of countless volumes and ensuring all 80,000 available titles are within a customer’s reach.
See more of the Zhongshuge locations, in addition to the Shanghai-based studio’s cinemas, family parks, and retail spaces, on its site.
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Cosmic Nature: A Spectacular Polka Dot-Filled Exhibition by Yayoi Kusama Sprawls Across New York Botanical Garden
Now inhabiting the verdant, 250-acre campus of the New York Botanical Garden are oversized flowers sprouting in seasonal arrangements, a glowing pumpkin-packed infinity room, and a sea of 1,400 reflective spheres by Yayoi Kusama (previously). Teeming with squiggly sculptures, site-specific installations, and smaller pieces covered in the Japanese artist’s iconic polka dots, Cosmic Nature is an expansive exhibition celebrating decades of Kusama’s bold, joyful body of work.
Four new pieces are debuting during the immersive show, like the tentacled creature that marks the entrance to the grounds. Others include a 16-foot-tall dancing pumpkin, an obliteration greenhouse, and a new infinity room that reflects the lush greenery of the outdoor environment. Coupled with a variety of smaller acrylic paintings, fabric sculptures, and drawings on paper—the earliest of which dates back to 1945— the most recent works establish a broad visual trajectory of Kusama’s fixation on the natural world and never-ending penchant for polka dots.
While many of the playful blooms connect to larger themes about the human relationship to the environment, some pieces are distinctly personal, including “Flower Obsession,” which invites visitors into a space that mimics the artists’ own greenhouse. “Our earth is only one polka dot among a million stars in the cosmos…when we obliterate nature and our bodies with polka dots, we become part of the unity of our environment,” the prolific artist notably said.
Cosmic Nature opens this weekend at the Bronx venue and runs through October 31. (via Hyperallergic)
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Suspended Orbs, Webs, and Air Plants Imagine an Alternative Ecological Future by Artist Tomás Saraceno
Three reflective spheres hover above the courtyard of Florence’s Palazzo Strozzi in Tomás Saraceno’s immersive installation. The metallic orbs mirror the historic Renaissance architecture in addition to visitors who pass by, while marking the entrance to the imagined space that explores life beyond anthropocentrism. As its name suggests, Aria is concerned with air, encompassing human travel, its ability to foster growth, and how it’s entwined with every living organism.
The Argentinian artist (previously) is known for his large-scale works that fall at the intersection of science and art and consider the human toll on the natural world. Throughout Aria are various experiences dealing with contemporary environmental issues: Glass forms hang from the ceiling and house Tillandsia plants, which need only air to survive, while “A Thermodynamic Imaginary” considers the immensity of the sun and its unused potential.
Each of the works also references one of Saraceno’s 33 arachnomancy cards that explore ecological interconnectivity. References to arachnids manifest in the complex systems that hold Weaire–Phelan structures in “Connectome” or in the stark “Aerographies,” a series of clear balloons and framed networks that explore how “the movements of people, heat, animals, and spider/webs affect and are affected by the air,” a statement from Saraceno says.
Ecosystems have to be thought of as webs of interactions, within which each living being’s ecology co‐evolves, together with those of others. By focusing less on individuals and more on reciprocal relationships, we might think beyond what means are necessary to control our environments and more on the shared formation of our quotidian.
If you’re in Florence, stop by the Palazzo Strozzi to see Saraceno’s work before it closes on November 1, 2020. Otherwise, find out more about what he has planned for the rest of the year, which includes a new solar-powered balloon, on his site and Instagram. (via This Isn’t Happiness)
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