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Light, Architecture and Experience

Feelings Are Facts, opened earlier this month at The Ullens Center for Contemporary Art (UCCA) and continues until 20 June. This exhibition marks the first collaboration between Olafur Eliasson, the Danish-Icelandic artist, and Ma Yansong, one of the most prolific Chinese architects. Together the artists have created an installation specially conceived for the space, uniting architecture, light and fog.

Eliasson is known for his exploration of human perception, and he often works with light, shadows, colour, water, wind, or fog to create a specific environment in order to move us to think about our experience of our surroundings – perceptions we usually take to be self-evident. Ma’s architecture stands at the forefront of new experimentation in building structures, refashioning form in bold pursuits of perfection. Their collaboration invites audiences to enter an endless space of fog, with colour emanating from fluorescent tubes of red, green and blue. By moving through the space, the colours blend, and so the viewers will endlessly create their own colour spectrum.

In Feelings are Facts; Olafur Eliasson and Ma Yansong challenge our everyday patterns of spatial orientation, thereby suggesting the need to invent new models for perception. The installation was specially crafted to fit the Big Hall of the UCCA, the dimensions of which were altered by substantially lowering the ceiling and constructing an inclined wooden floor.

“UCCA is proud to present Feelings are facts, an exhibition which catalyses a dynamic cross-fertilization between art and architecture. The final result is born of a unique collaboration between Eliasson and Ma. This breathtaking installation promises to transport the viewer on a journey, which reverses his normal art experience. Here the spectator, rather than simply viewing an art object from the outside, surprisingly witnesses himself becoming an integral part of the artwork. The viewer enters a world of extra-sensorial perception whereby colour, light and architecture enable him to re-evaluate his relationship with his surroundings,” says UCCA Director, Jérôme Sans.

Basing this project on a series of previous experiments with atmospheric density, Eliasson introduces condensed banks of artificially produced fog into the gallery. Hundreds of fluorescent lights are installed in the ceiling as a grid of red, green, and blue zones. By permeating the fog, these lights create walk-through spaces that, in Eliasson’s words, function to ‘make the volume of the space explicit’. The coloured zones introduce a scale of measurement in the gallery, their varying size and organization referencing urban-planning grids. At each colour boundary, two hues blend to create transitional slivers of cyan, magenta, or yellow, and so the visitors will create their own unique colour spectrum when making their way through this seemingly endless space. The artists use this structural marvel to present inquiries into the nature of reality. What should be the basis of our thinking and judgement in a space where reality and illusion interconnect? As we stand amidst such accomplished phenomena, can we re-examine with greater concern our sensations and experiences of that which is around us?

For further information visit on Olafur Eliasson visit www.olafureliasson.net or Ma Yansong www.i-mad.com. And for Ullens Center of Contemporary Art visit www.ucca.org.cn. Feelings Are Facts is curated by Jérôme Sans and Guo Xiaoyan,

Images (c) Olafur Eliasson and Ma Yansong
Photography by Sebastian Behmann

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