Natural Wonder


You might not notice the large wooden duct that cuts horizontally through the project gallery and the office. But the staff has to duck under it all day. “I don’t know what we did to him to make him do this to us,” said one employee. “It’s a pain. But the real reason we work in a place like this is to get a chance to do something this cool.”

Olafur Eliasson’s new pair of interlocking installations, Your now is my surroundings and Your repetitive view, are not only cool: Their mind-bending disruptions of the gallery space have a rare logic and a satisfying mental symmetry. Let’s just say the Icelandic-born artist lifts out the skylight and tricks us with mirrors to bring the outdoors inside and the indoors outside with elegant simplicity. Eliasson’s known for spare fusions of natural phenomena (light, water, space) and unnatural contrivances, as well as for his glacial blue photographs. But his quixotic attempts to reconstruct natural wonders have more to do with consciousness than with ecology. The results tend to be sublime.

This time, the main gallery has been transformed into a narrow outdoor courtyard the same size as the glassless skylight that opens it to the elements. But you’re at the still center of an infinitely accordioning mirror-world, unable to distinguish between real sky and brick and reflected delusion.

Yayoi Kusama and Lucas Samaras did similar mirror tricks decades ago, but their mirrored rooms shut out the world. Eliasson turns the viewing space inside out, inverting gaze, structure, and function. Go on a rainy day. To get to his second piece, enter the wraparound passageway, step over the drainpipe (!), and you come upon a window in the gallery’s internal wall. This mirror-lined shaft channels light and another small, ordinary chunk of Chelsea into the interior—like a keyhole onto the miraculous. It also unlocks the secret of the wooden duct.