Olafur Eliasson’s “Baroque Baroque” at Belvedere’s Winter Palace

by Abby Lynn KlinkenbergPosted on

Known for his provocative installations that bend both reality and perception, Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson (previously featured on Hi-Fructose) aims to emphasize the relativity of reality. In his latest of many ambitious projects, he situates his works in the stunning baroque space of the Viennese Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy in an aptly titled exhibition, “Baroque Baroque”. While the relationship between his contemporary work and the extravagant exhibition space might not be clear at first, it comes into focus as both the art and its setting reflect a “prolific process of constant reformulation.” The double title emphasizes how the exhibition is a reformulation of a reformulation- a space of altered expectations and aesthetics.

“I find it inspiring that the baroque exhibited such confidence in the fluidity of the boundaries between models of reality and, simply, reality,” Eliasson says of the project. “The presentation of my works at the Winter Palace is based on trust in the possibility of constructing reality according to our shared dreams and desires and faith in the idea that constructions and models are as real as anything.”

Through his ambitious and unconventional use of mirrors, the viewer experiences a unique intersection between “reality” and “reflection.” A site-specific installation entitled “Wishes versus wonders,” 2015, is perhaps the highlight of the exhibition: half of a circular brass ring is mounted on a large mirror such that its reflection completes the circle- it seems to hover over the parquet floor, transcending the space between the actual and the artificial.

With influences as diverse as the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989, the James Turrell Skyspace at MoMA PS1, New York, and the quicksilver-like policeman in Terminator 2, Eliasson’s work can be seen as bridging the gap between high and low “culture.” In taking over the opulent Viennese palace, he transforms a place of exclusivity into a space where human beings can encounter the limits of their own perception.

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