Thursday, August 21, 2008

Eliason's Waterfalls

I think this will be my first post unrelated to food but I wanted to write about Olafur Eliason's waterfalls I saw on my most recent trip to New York. Olafur Eliason is one of my most favorite artists; his recent exhibition at the SFMOMA, which traveled to the New York MoMA, amazed me. I had always been interested in the concepts behind Eliason's work, but walking through the once white walled gallery spaces turned misting, stone chamber totally took my breath away as my imagination went wild. I loved these pieces when I saw them in person for the illusions they created in spaces that I had once thought were so controlled; after my initial wonder, I then attempted to decipher how in fact he did make the temperature of the SFMOMA gallery suddenly drop 10 degrees when walking between rooms.

With my love for Eliason's work in mind, I sadly did not love these waterfalls. A lot of what I love about Eliason's work is his ability to make the seemingly impossible happen in the strangest of places, ie. making a soft mist descend for the ceiling of the SFMOMA gallery, a place where one isn't even allowed to drink water from a bottle. I had also been terribly excited for the waterfalls since the New York Sun covered the projected installation this past January and I thus realize my expectations were a little high. The waterfalls, in contrast with the image in the NY Sun article, were constructed of scaffolding with water pouring off of one side. At night, I realize, the waterfalls are illuminated from behind and the scaffolding seems to disappear, but when I saw the waterfalls during the day, the advent of having a mettle structure coming out of the east river was a little less amazing than having mist indoors. So, in this manner, the first aspect I love about Eliason's work, the sheer miracles he creates in the oddest of places, was missing.

On the other hand, the second aspect of his work I enjoy, the construction behind his work, was
pretty amazing, although not unnecessarily visible at first glance. One of the challenges of constructing the waterfalls was the location in the New York's East River, where natural aquatic life must be taken into consideration. In this manner, the team behind the construction of the waterfalls used a material permeable to water but with holes too small for aquatic life to move through to create a basin from which water was pumped. Obviously, the materials and technology for creating such a basin were not already created as this request was unprecedented. What I thus find interesting about Eliason's East River installation is the creative sourcing of materials that had to go into the creation of these waterfalls.

Here also are two videos of the waterfalls; in the first one, you can the Pier 35 waterfall, while in the second, I scan between the Pier 35 waterfall and the Brooklyn Bridge waterfall, finally landing on my friend Danish who visited the waterfalls with me.

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