olafur eliasson’s installation in qatar creates the illusion of perfect circles by mirrors
Shadows Traveling on the Sea of Day by Olafur Eliasson
Olafur Eliasson wants viewers to realize that when they look up, they are looking down – down to Earth, down to themselves. When he hangs circular mirrors above semicircles for his recent public art in Doha, Qatar, reflection creates a perfect circle, the completion of an interrupted cycle. This is just one of many contexts that define his exposure ‘Shadows traveling on the sea of day’, who open to the public on October 24, 2022.
Somehow, viewers connect with themselves as their surroundings heighten their senses. They live in the present, they immerse themselves in the moment, they are invited – even encouraged – to drown out the noise and be in nature. Above and below them, the sand envelops them to let them know that they are far from artificial land, transported to a natural space.
images courtesy of Olafur Eliasson, neugerriemschneider in Berlin, & Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York/Los Angeles | photos of Iwan Ban
Through the mirrors, the reflection of other viewers becomes projected: they watch themselves exploring the space, they see others gazing at themselves – a smile here and there – and they wave their arms, perhaps testing if they are who they are looking .
Eliasson writes in the artist statement that accompanies the exhibition: “It’s kind of a reality check of your connection to the ground. You are both standing firmly on the sand and hanging upside down from a ground that is far above you.
It also examines the balance between perspectives. “You will likely switch between a first-person perspective and an unsettling third-person view of yourself. This swinging gaze, coupled with the movement of your body, amplifies your sense of presence, while curved structures seem to vanish into the environment, dematerialize and become landscape,’ Eliasson continues in his writing.
Olafur Eliasson, Shadows Traveling on the Sea of Day (2022)
Driving to the desert landscape of the Northern Heritage Sites
“Shadows Traveling on the Sea of Day” by Olafur Eliasson stretches across the rugged desert landscape of northern Doha, past Fort Zubarah and the village of Ain Mohammed. The artist describes the journey as already offering a glimpse of the sculptures from afar when they position themselves in the field of vision of spectators driving their vehicles.
Circular steel and fiberglass rings dot the horizon, so alien to the expanse of sand within the venue. Eliasson hopes that once viewers exit their vehicles and enter the dirt, they walk through the sand and approach the artworks with a sense of uncertainty. As the sculptural rings tower over them, their sensation turns to a strong urge to linger long.
public art in qatar can already be seen from afar
The vast and sandy landscape is accompanied by desert plants, animal tracks and rock formations. The kingdom encircles viewers for miles in all directions. As Eliasson thinks, the shimmering line of the horizon is the outer limit of the work.
“However, you are not the only one to have traveled to encounter the work of art. Its cool, hospitable shadows move slowly over the sandy ground during the day and more rapidly at dusk and dawn. Above you, in the ceilings equipped with large mirrors, you will also be able, with a little patience, to detect these cyclic paths”, he keeps on in his artist statement.
the reflection from the round mirrors creates a perfect circle for the semi-circular rings
Olafur Eliasson celebrates everything here
Olafur Eliasson invites his viewers to slowly watch the unveiling of his sculptural elements. When they take their time, they can notice the effects the artist is trying to invoke, that the mirrors connect and perfect what is partial. As they navigate the sandy landscape, Eliasson hopes viewers will gradually feel and relate to nature’s prowess through his sculptures.
“The nearby mirrors also reflect the steel structures, creating a sea of interconnections. The reflection becomes a virtual composition, changing as you move. What you perceive – a tangle of landscapes, sprawling sculptural elements and visitors – seems hyper-realistic while remaining completely grounded,” he writes in his artist statement.