Rainbow Panorama

They say there is a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but I got lost before I could find out if this was true. Wandering through a room of green and blue mist at the ARoS museum in Århus, I was more concerned with finding the exit than discovering a leprechaun’s secrets.

Olafur Eliasson’s rainbow’s exhibition is a whole body experience. Here the spectator takes centre stage, becoming a part of the work and engaging multiple senses. ‘Your Atmospheric Colour Atlas’ is a misty room, lit from above by red, green and blue lights. Upon entering the space one’s eyes are filled with the colour that permeates the mist and cease to be useful navigating tools. Totally immersed in colour, the concepts of ‘red’ and ‘blue’ take on a much more intense character than when viewed in everyday life and visitors must rely on sound and touch to orientate themselves in a world devoid of spatial cues.

Space is also important in ‘The Inverted Panorama House’, a circular screen with a dynamic combination of coloured lights, reflections and shadows projected onto the walls. The interior of the screen is like a kaleidoscope, with refractions and reflections spinning past each other. From the outside the silhouettes of those inside become past of the installation, with every nod of the head and wave of the hand projected as a diorama for the audience to scrutinise. This interaction between viewer and work is typical for the Icelandic artist, whose art is often fluid and focuses on perception. Here he explores J. W. von Goethe’s ideas about the phenomenological qualities of colour, with both the colour physically present and the after image this colour leaves on the eye being important parts of the artwork.

With the installation ‘Beauty’ Eliasson brings a natural phenomenon from the realm of science into the gallery yet retains many of the scientific concepts relating to refraction. Lamps illuminate a misty wall of rain in a darkened room, sending rainbows shimmering across the surface. They shift and disappear depending on the viewer’s vantage point, recreating the fleeting nature of a rainbow during a storm.

Less fleeting is ARoS’s famous Perspex rooftop installation, ‘Your Rainbow Panorama’. Visitors stroll through the circular structure, viewing the city through tinted panes and becoming part of the installation themselves as those below observe their silhouettes. Opened in May 2011, the rainbow structure is a striking addition to Århus’s skyline. It is also one of the few places in the world where one can orientate oneself according to colour. Instead of describing an apartment as lying in the west of the city, ‘the yellow direction’ also serves as a geographical descriptor.

I’m not sure about the gold, but they do say a picture is worth a thousand words. With five floors of galleries and an impressive collection of works by Danish and international artists, ARoS gallery is well worth a visit.

Entry to the gallery costs $NZ25 and, as I eventually discovered, the exit to ‘Your Atmospheric Colour Atlas’ is located in the red zone.

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