Artist Olafur Eliasson brings his fun-house tour of visual delights to the Dallas Museum of Art this week, fulfilling expectations for a dazzling tour de force. The show officially opened on Sunday, but the artist flew into town for Tuesday morning’s press event and a public Artist Talk Wednesday night.
Eliasson uses tools intrinsically associated with film and television (one piece even replicates the atmosphere of a film screening) to conduct walk-in science experiments predicated on the relationship between human physiology and the formal elements of art. The exhibition includes a light installation in a small gallery space where a chandelier-like orb (below) creates shadowy patterns on the walls, floor, and ceiling. The “Inverted Berlin Sphere” doubles as a work of art itself and as the material tool for creating art from shadows.
Light is a major theme of Take Your Time, echoing the DMA’s blockbuster J.M.W. Turner exhibition from earlier this year. The show’s title is a reference on its other major theme – time – and it uses some of the same spaces as last year’s time-dependent video installation the world won’t listen from Phil Collins. Though each of these shows was helmed by a different curator, the DMA is nonetheless conducting an ongoing study of time and light phenomena, and Take Your Time deserves at least as much attention as the headlining Tut spectacle.
The Turner show surpassed attendance expectations through word-of-mouth, and the world won’t listen pulled in younger audiences who cherish Morrissey over Clement Greenberg. During Tuesday’s press preview, Eliasson explained each piece with absolute resistance to interpretation.
“I’ll try not to be too conclusive, it’s about evaluating what you see yourself,” he said.
Though the exhibition was created at the San Francisco Modern and has also shown at New York’s MOMA, it is undeniably site-specific. Eliasson pointed out a kind of sound and sight dialogue between the fountain outside the museum’s Flora Street entrance and Ventilator, an altered ceiling fan piece swinging overhead in the Barrel Vault with humming arcs and twists.
PBS favorite Joseph Campbell said the function of the artist is the mythologization of the environment and the world. Many of Eliasson’s pieces are totally immersive environments.
“We don’t need to take our surroundings for granted,” he said. “I’m obsessed with the fact that what we see constitutes a community experience, but it’s actually highly individual.”
He was speaking of his work, but he could have been speaking of the universal passage of time, or the unique progress of individual life.
“The only way to experience it is by going through it.”
Photos by Stephen Becker