Sunday, October 25, 2009

Nature .. Man-Made - Olafur Eliasson at Bard

photo: Bess Reynolds
Parliament of Reality ... an Installation by Olafur Eliasson
Commissioned for the Bard College campus in upstate New York 
by the Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS Bard)  
Photo: yooperann 
Born in Denmark to Icelandic parents, artist Olafur Eliasson created 
The Parliament of Reality as a setting for reflection and dialogue, 
finding inspiration for the work in the Icelandic Parliament - the Althingi.   
photo: Bess Reynolds
The Parliament of Reality encompasses a circular pond surrounded by a ring of 24 planted trees. In the center of the pond, the shape of a circle is repeated in an island paved with distinctive stones: their twelve-point pattern references the meridian lines of nautical charts and the compass. Access to the island is via a bridgeway covered by a steel latticework passage. 
photo: Bess Reynolds
The Parliament of Reality ... in a field near the Frank Gehry–designed 
Richard B. Fisher Center for the Performing Arts.

photo: Bess Reynolds
Eliasson's new work is located on the North end of Bard's campus,
in the Hudson River Valley landscape.
Bard's Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts is my alma mater.

Olafur Eliasson Studio:
Bard Center for Curatorial Studies:


  1. Seems like kind of a stark design. Would anyone really want to spend more than a minute on that island?

  2. Howitgrows,

    Thanks for commenting on the design.

    What I find interesting is the juxtaposition of the contemporary materials set within the natural landscape. In this case, I appreciate the stark quality for its allusion to Eliasson's native Icelandic terrain. As I mentioned, the design spins off from a reference to that country's Parliament.

    Whatever the reason, I enjoy its minimalist bent. Such designs often resonate for me as much as an exuberant, richly planted garden, or some mix of the two: a geometric layout lushly planted.

  3. What an inspiring design! I would love to walk through the bridge and experience the patterns of the shadows in summer or see how icicles form on it in winter! Reminds me of one of Tadao Ando's teahouses.

  4. The inspiration for the design is clearly evident. This is very serene and contemplative. I must admit however that while from the entrance of the bridgeway it looks effectively representative a wild brush tangle from the long side view it looks exactly like a giant slinky. You just can't take me anywhere.LOL

  5. HM,
    The silvery bridge patterns are intriguing, I agree, & the steel introduces a hue that appears again in the stone surface of the island -
    cool but calming.

    Shadows! You hit upon an element that does not show up in the photos, but one that surely adds to the atmosphere when clouds shift in the sky above. Or the sun shine brilliantly. And icicles!
    I can see an aesthetic relationship to Ando's work. Great observations.

    I'll take you along on any of my garden journeys! Always a good idea to lighten the mood when faced with a giant slinky ;~)

  6. very interesting. brings up the old question: is this a garden or not?

  7. Did you see the Eliasson show at SF MoMA? The coverage (raves, really) in the local papers made me wish I were closer to the Bay Area. I'd be curious to see how the island would be used. Do the students use it on warm spring days to hang out and study? The stones seem a good height for it. At the same time I wonder if I might feel somehow exposed and on exhibit, out there on the island, like a large mammal on exhibit at the local zoo. Just from the photos, not having experienced the work properly, the bridge seems to be my favorite feature. The silvery loops look immaterial, so that the shadows seem to have more substance than what creates them. I'd imagine that this would be a good neighbor to the nearby Fisher Center.

  8. I am following you around! Went to Bard last year when, I think, this was under construction.Bridge looks marvellous, destination perhaps less so...
    My goodness that is a fabulous place, Americans do good philantrophy and therefore good universities.
    I wrote a bit about it here
    The year before we went to the Dia upstate which was equally staggering.

  9. TM,
    It's a garden as far as I'm concerned: An environment functioning as a work of art ...and... a garden setting ;~D

    Somehow I missed the show at MoMA :(
    Something must have been going on to keep me away, but I can't recall what was happening in my life. As the trees mature, I believe they'll embrace the island, adding a slight softening quality overall.
    Gehry's design for The Fisher Center makes such a bold statement. I can see how the peaceful nature of Eliasson's work would be a good neighbor. You always seem to have an ability to see the big picture!

    James the Hat, For some reason I'm surprised that you landed at Bard;
    a bit off the beaten path. But perhaps Gehry's fab building has changed Bard's CachÉ since my time there in the late 80's. Installations such as Eliasson's certainly put the place on the map these days.
    The Dia, on the other hand, is a destination for all savvy aficionados of contemporary art.
    I'll drop by your link tout de suite!