With a focus on light and perspective, Olafur Eliasson’s installations have a transformative capacity that allows the viewer to experience the illusion of a supernatural environment. In an interstitial space of the Samsung Museum of Art in Seoul, Gravity Stairs is composed of glowing spheres which, attached to the ceiling and bathed in warm yellow light, resemble the sun. The otherworldly light and a mirror on the ceiling present an impression of floating through space and among celestial bodies.
Mirrors are essential to the magic of Eliasson’s work, which often challenges an individual’s usual relation to space and acts as a humble reminder of one’s minuscule place within the vast universe. While Gravity Stairs certainly achieves this effect through large-scale installation, the same impact is present in Eliasson’s smaller-scaled works, such as the recent Your Fading Other. Installed in the corner of a white-walled room, partially silvered glass is raised on a cold concrete block, creating the illusion of a room beyond. A desk is in the unreachable distance and fades into the background, imbuing one with a sense of loss and unreachable dreams.
The piece follows a 2012 sculpture, Your Arctic View, exhibited in 2013 at a solo show at neugerriemschneider in Berlin. Shown alongside thee other mirror works, Your Arctic View engages the viewer in a dance with one’s reflection, veiled under what appears to be a thick cloud of fog. Just as Gravity Stairs challenges one to imagine the feeling of falling toward the sun, Your Arctic View engages the viewer in the big-picture question of what it would be like to disappear. The effects can be utterly emancipating or perfectly catastrophic.