Installation art

The Mirror Woman by Geoff Harrison

A remarkable site specific installation by Korean artist Kimsooja titled "To Breathe - The Mirror Woman" could be found at the Crystal Palace in Madrid in 2006.  The palace was built in the 1880's to house a collection of flora and fauna from the Philippines, but the artist transformed it into a multi-sensory light and sound experience.

A special translucent diffraction film was used to cover the windows to create an array of naturally occurring rainbows, which were reflected by a mirrored surface covering the entire floor area.

An audio recording of the artist breathing was played throughout the space to create what must have been a memorable experience.

Melbourne's Lost Biennale by Geoff Harrison

When an art exhibition sticks in one's mind after 17 years, it tells you something.  The 1999 Melbourne International Biennale was an initiative of the Melbourne City Council, The Ian Potter Centre and Arts Victoria and the exhibition "Signs Of Life" was staged over several floors of a rundown former Telecom building in Russell Street.  It was a venue which according to reviewer Helen Stuckey came with no institutional baggage and was totally innocuous.

Shadow Of Falling Stars - Ugo Rondinone   

Shadow Of Falling Stars - Ugo Rondinone


Travelling from floor to floor was a journey of exploration and discovery and each level varied dramatically in character and light.  The most successful works were able to adapt the environment to their particular needs - there was video, installation, sound, sculpture etc.  For me, the most memorable work was "Shadow Of Falling Stars", by Ugo Rondinone.  In each corner of the room, video monitors were mounted high up (like surveillance equipment), 2 showing a figure walking, the other 2 showing a young girl dancing in slow motion.  Opposite the entrance was a wall of roughly finished timber painted dark green and in the centre a pink window overlooking the city.  Add to this the soundtrack of the artist repeating a languid dirge and it made for a very disturbing atmosphere.  I was going through a relationship breakdown at the time and he tapped into my emotions very succinctly.  

On another level, the entire floor was covered in a field of clover by Nickolaj Recke, and then there was Mariele Neudecker's aquarium sculptures - dark and mysterious.

Sadly, the building was earmarked for renovation into apartments immediately after the exhibition, thus denying Melbourne of an ongoing venue for cutting edge art from here and overseas.

A Dazzling Sun In A Gallery by Geoff Harrison

I would have loved to have witnessed this first hand.  Olafur Eliasson's The Weather Project installed in the 150 long turbine hall of Tate Modern in 2003.  

In his preparatory work, Eliasson encouraged active involvement of gallery staff in the project from the beginning.  He distributed a questionnaire asking staff about their everyday engagement with the weather.  Eliasson also engaged the representatives of various gallery departments, as well as the Tate director and the museum architect, in discussions that examined issues such as representation, experience, interpretation and display.  

 He was involved in press releases prior to the opening claiming research was being carried out in the Turbine Hall, which was described as a place apparently capable of forming meteorological conditions of its own. The Weather Project has been described as bringing out the full potential of Tate Modern and, by extension, of museums in general, as places of encounter and aggregation. Spontaneous meetings took place in the hall, celebrations, people embracing or reveling in the artificial light, or lying on the floor to gaze at their own reflections in the ceiling. The Weather Project has been credited with reaffirming the social role of the museum.   An edited essay by Marcella Beccaria, Chief Curator Castello di Rivoli Museo d’Arte Contemporanea in Italy. 

Wrapping The Reichstag by Geoff Harrison

Twenty years have elapsed since the artists Jeanne-Claude and Christo wrapped the Reichstag in Berlin in fabric drapery.  Apart from the result being visually stunning, the artwork had a powerful symbolic importance according to a recent article in The Book Of Life.

The history of the Reichstag, built in the 19th century, is tarnished due to it being the seat of Nazi government from 1933.  It's a painful fact for many Germans that this regime was popularly elected but as The Book Of Life points out, a vote cast in 1933 does not sanction every element of party policy up to 1945, including the concentration camps and atrocities committed by it's armies on the eastern front.

"Jeanne-Claude and Christo did not change the Reichstag; but by covering and then unveiling it, they set up a grand public opportunity for renewal of the nation’s relationship to its foremost political building. It allowed Germany to give its parliament back to itself."   The argument is that political art can help by giving expression to a collective experience of confession, grief, atonement and renewed good will.