Olafur Eliasson: Sometimes the river is the bridge

The exhibition “Olafur Eliasson: Sometimes the river is the bridge” is being held at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo in Kiyosumi Shirakawa. Due to the influence of Corona, the exhibition has been greatly changed and will remain open until September 27th.

Olafur Eliasson is an Icelandic-born artist who is interested in a sustainable world. His works can be seen in Japan as well, and the one in the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art, Kanazawa is famous for its installation. Although his installations may give a strong impression, he has created many works related to various natural phenomena and invisible time. For example, his work using a glacier in his birthplace, Iceland, makes us think relatively directly about environmental and cultural issues.

Their activities are not limited to the production of artworks, but they also actively conduct experiments and research projects as a studio, and the results of such research are also displayed in this exhibition. This kind of exhibition is often seen in architectural exhibitions, but this exhibition offered a different kind of enjoyment from the installation experience as it allowed us to look into the process of thinking.

“Beauty”, considered to be one of Olafur’s most famous works, uses a device to recreate the natural phenomenon of the rainbow, but it looks different for different people who see it. People look at it in different ways depending on how tall or small they are, those who see it from a distance, those who walk around behind it, and those who touch the mist with their hands.

The work that gives this exhibition its title, Sometimes Rivers Become Bridges, is a mechanical installation that projects water and its fluctuations, creating forms that water cannot imagine. The water seemed to transform itself by its own will, and at times I felt as if I forgot that the hazy object I was looking at was water. What is very different from the sensation of forgetting time when looking at the water in a pond is the fact that you forget that the symmetry you are looking at is water. The objects themselves are the same with the water stretched over the vessel, but they are projected and distributed in twelve pieces higher than your head. By taking these steps, the water seemed to cease to be water.

It’s very interesting to see a piece of work that makes you look at the same thing but feel like you’re looking at something completely different and feel different by applying these steps. This will be felt differently by different people, and while it seemed different to me, some people may think that this is just water. The ingenuity of creating a divergence of thought through a simple mechanism is very interesting.