Goethe believed that architecture is “frozen music” (Fogg 808). Olafur Eliasson’s meditative work Remagine (2002) creates a fluid architecture, a nearly “musical,” harmonious movement of geometry. The work Remagine is showcased in the current Eliasson exhibition Take Your Time, which will be on display at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago until September 13, 2009.
Projected rectangles and trapezoids, loosely representative of building structures, lead us to contemplate the nature of design itself, and the human inclination towards creation of form. Eliasson’s transient, projected figures become a touchstone for contemplating the mind’s relationship to creating form; in The Republic, Plato speaks to this notion of the contemplation of shapes and form as a path to deeper philosophical truths: “The knowledge at which geometry aims is knowledge of the eternal, and not of aught perishing and transient… Geometry will draw the soul towards truth, and create the spirit of philosophy…” (Plato 219). The exhibition’s title Take Your Time suggests a sense of ownership, not over time and space, but ownership in terms of the awareness of our own perceptions of time and space. As in Bachelard’s assessment of Diole’s Le Plus Beau Desert du Monde, “Here both time and space are under the domination of the image… The being-here is maintained by a being from elsewhere. Space, vast space, is the friend of being” (Bachelard 208).
In Remagine, seven spotlights project rectangles and trapezoids, in varying levels of brightness, upon the exhibition wall. Various shapes link and “hinge”; the simple association of two or more shapes create a sense of depth, suggesting three-dimensionality. Shapes appear and fade at different times for periods of eleven seconds, changing in light intensity. Borders surrounding the shapes brighten with increased light saturation in thin bands of blue, lavender and green. The shapes are “fit” to the exhibition wall—at times the angles of the shapes fit the borders of the wall—the piece changes in its manifestations in various museums. Participation is encouraged—space for the public is ample for sitting, moving about, exploring the room in general, and approaching the main wall. As Eliasson intends, “You are part of this construction” (Olafur); the viewer experiences Remagine intellectually and even physically-- as shapes come and go, they leave traces of form on the retinae. The “composition” of the piece includes the room, fellow viewers, and the sense data broadcasted by the surrounding exhibitions—residual optics in the viewer’s field of vision from passing through the nearly “Op Art” piece Room For One Color on the path to Remagine, the scent of reindeer moss from the piece Moss Wall in the next room, the echoes from the movement and speech of fellow museum patrons—the space in Remagine is understood in terms of the collective sense-data of the entire surrounding environment.
Remagine considers intensely simple shapes, such that the “materials” become metaphorical and suggestive. In Remagine, light—the most ephemeral—is projected upon the wall and becomes a “material” suggestive of matter, seemingly creating three-dimensional arrangements. The sense of the projected shapes, “built” from light, suggests the sculptural, such that the most metaphorical becomes the most substantive element of the piece, and, in this way, the work points to space and inner-space: “And may all matter achieve conquest of its space, its power of expansion over and beyond the surfaces by means of which a geometrician would like to define it… the invisible space that man can live in… surrounds him with countless presences” (Bachelard 203).
We see our own shadows sharpen upon the wall as we approach the projected shapes, and encounter a present day allegory of Plato’s cave, in which the representational nature of the shapes echoes a more fundamental reality: “They see only their shadows, or the shadows of one another, which the fire throws on the opposite wall of the cave…” (Plato 205). Indeed, the projected light is derived from a more substantial source, and evokes Marsilio Ficino’s poetic idea that “light is the shadow of god” (Denning 4).
Eliasson envisages an attitude of “generosity” on the part of the visitor viewing his worls. Because Eliasson’s aim for the museum guest is to “see yourself seeing” (Olafur), he is asking for a self-conscious exploration and evaluation of the representational realm of the “cave”; through operating in a symbolic realm, we can evaluate our relationship to the world of reality, so that we “Grow accustomed to the sight of the upper world” (Plato 205-7).
The idea of “taking your time” implies a process in which claiming your time also means using your time to consider your own presence—in Eliasson’s words, “Your presence has consequences”—and evaluate the space surrounding you, such that “inner-space” and the outer world of form engage in vital relationships (Olafur). Sometimes the projected, overlapping shapes in Remagine suggest a multitude of places all held within the world of reality, or perhaps memories of places superimposed upon present spaces—the manner in which memory projects images upon the mind’s eye. In a sense, when we inhabit a room, we reside within the human mind, as the idea of form and construction is first built in our consciousness. The transparent quality of the images invokes the sense of the “ghosts of rooms”—spaces we inhabited in the past, memories of dwelling places.
The meaning of “taking one’s time” broadens to include claiming and analyzing one’s past relationships to form. Perhaps the title Remagine is meant to suggest a reconsideration and re-imagining of spaces, and to encourage daydreams about future spaces—to “re-imagine” space and time and our relationship to it. To take your time—to claim it as you would claim space— is to claim your ideals. The projected shapes suggest portals leading to past and future imaginings about spaces and an exploration into the inner-meaning we assign to images and space. There is a relationship between the inner-realm and the space in the world—our inner-designs potentially cast form upon the outer world.
Remagine considers the lofty and the mundane with equal reverence, and gestures towards, through simple shapes, the sanctity of the real world of form, buildings, objects, and people, while also suggesting the potentiality of spaces, rooms, design. By meditating upon the “rooms” the shapes evoke, one is reminded of the presence of simple, everyday spaces. How this present room becomes the world—“Slowly, immensity becomes a primal value, a primal, intimate value.” (Bachelard 195).
Witnessing Remagine can be a way to enter the “cave” and its world of representational forms as a means to re-enter the reality of forms with a heightened sense of sensitivity and personal responsibility. With this assessment and deepening of personal ideals, the enlightened observer brings her awareness to concerns within the realm of human society:
“In the world of knowledge the idea of good… is seen only with an effort; and, when seen, is also inferred to be the universal author of all things beautiful and right… this is the power upon which he would act rationally either in public or private life must have his eye fixed” (Plato 208).
We may approach the world with sensitivity and grace, recognizing that our “presence has consequences” (Olafur). In this manner, we may consider our surrounding environment with artistic sensitivity, and treat our personal art with utmost care, to protect our works with dignity and for posterity. With an attitude of reverence and with supreme skill, the experts at MIR Appraisal Services, Inc. extensively research fine art and personal property, providing in-depth analysis and consultation for your most prized works of art.
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Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space, translated by Maria Jolas. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994.
Dening, Melita and Phillips, Osborne. The Sword and the Serpent. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Pree, 1988.
Fogg, Walter. One Thousand Sayings of History Presented as Pictures in Prose. New York: Gryphon Books, 1971.
Plato, The Republic and other Works, translated by B. Jowett. New York: Anchor Books, 1973.
Olafur Eliasson on Engaging the Viewer (video)