Olafur Eliasson, ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ (Detailed view) (2009). Photo from www.olafureliasson.net

Olafur Eliasson, ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ (Detailed view) (2009). Photo from www.olafureliasson.net

Roughly fifty miles north-west of Tokyo is the small town of Shibukawa. Beneath Mount Haruna, is a country lane that winds its way along to a forest clearing where a cluster of dark wooden outbuildings lies. These properties constitute Hara Museum ARC. Beyond the main buildings is a field wide enough to see the valley below but the view is interrupted by an incongruous stainless steel structure. This shelter is ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ (2009) by the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson.
Resembling an observatory in its shape and location a curved path leads to this anonymous-looking building. Almost entirely windowless, its reflective material reveals little about its purpose. Vaguely reminiscent of American trailers, its gleaming shell has the feel of an old-fashioned future about it. Separated by a thin trim of gravel at its base, this permanent installation has two distinct sections – the dome and the corridor.
The corridor is a pronounced juncture between what is outside and what lies within. The far wall of the dome is concave with vibrant streaks of colour projected across it. In the centre of the wall are a few multi-coloured blotches of light, like those accidentally produced on the surface of a photograph. Created by a row of thirteen small glass prisms studded diagonally across the roof are the source of these indoor spectrums. Positioned to follow the trajectory of the sun, each experience of ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ will differ from the next.
Commissioned as part of the permanent collection at Hara’s rural museum complex, ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ begun in 2006, almost four years before it opened. Having undergone various permutations the changing states and conditions remain constant. As is often the case with Eliasson’s installations, the circumstances themselves contribute to and inform the experience of the work.
On a bright summer afternoon, the spectrums were many and vivid in colour, producing a refracted pattern on the walls and floor, with any animation being so gradual as to be imperceptible. But at roughly once a fortnight, a perfectly arced rainbow appears on the wall opposite the prisms. During winter, this rainbow is only visible in the early morning. During spring and autumn, the rainbow is visible only during the latter part of the day, and on the summer solstice, the rainbow is only apparent at the museum’s latest opening hour.
Orchestrating such ephemeral events, ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ is a typical Eliasson work that uses a recurring motif, a familiar methodology, and one that reveals its illusion openly in the process. In utilising the pre-existing circumstances of the site to heighten a natural or conditional phenomenon, ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ ensures that Eliasson continues to occupy a unique place in contemporary art, at once concerning a romanticist’s reverence for nature while belonging to the scope of conceptual art.
Olafur Eliasson, ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ (Detailed view) (2009). Photo from www.olafureliasson.net

Olafur Eliasson, ‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ (Detailed view) (2009). Photo from www.olafureliasson.net

‘Sunspace for Shibukawa’ at Hara Museum ARC is approximately 2 hours from central Tokyo by public transport.
Olafur Eliasson was born in Copenhagen (1967). The artist lives and works in Copenhagen and Berlin.
http://www.olafureliasson.net
©Nick West 2016