Your Double-Lighthouse Projection consists of two large, free-standing, circular chambers made of out stainless steel and wooden panels. Installed in close proximity to each other in a gallery, the chambers are of slightly different sizes – one is taller and wider than the other – but each one has a thin gap in its otherwise 360 degree wall that serves as an entrance into its interior. From the outside, the chambers appear plain, their flat-pack fabrication alluded to by the vertical panelling. On the inside, however, the walls of both chambers are lined top to bottom and all the way around with a seamless reflective projection panel behind which is a matrix of coloured lights controlled by a computerised light board. As the chambers do not have ceilings, the coloured light projected from the walls escapes out into the darkened gallery.
Attracted by the colourful glow emanating from the chambers, viewers enter the circular spaces and experience a slowly changing display of pink, purple and blue light. The reflective panel serves to intensify the light to the extent that it dissolves the wall into an ungraspable glow. In that it surrounds the viewer and therefore occupies their entire field of vision, the light has the effect of disorientating spatial awareness by erasing the perceptual distinction between foreground and background. Only the floor beneath the viewer’s feet can be perceived to be entirely solid. Space is therefore registered more accurately by bodily movement than by vision, which entails that the perceptual disorientation is magnified in the smaller chamber where movement is more restricted.
Focusing attention on the visual and physical processes that determine how light and space are experienced and understood, Your Double-Lighthouse Projection underscores the subjectivity of perception, while the agency of the viewer is asserted by the possessive adjective ‘Your’ in the title, which seems to invite the viewer to seize or somehow own the experience offered by the work.
As is the case with much of Olafur Eliasson’s work, Your Double-Lighthouse Projection tests the nature of perception. Referring to his light works as ‘experiment set-ups’, Eliasson, who since 1995 has worked with a team of artists, designers and technicians in a studio in Berlin described as a ‘laboratory of mediating space’ (Studio Olafur Eliasson (ed.), Olafur Eliasson: A Laboratory of Mediating Space, Berlin 2006), has explained how he came to be interested in the scientific and phenomenological properties of light:
I was interested in light from the very beginning because it negotiates strongly with the spatial conditions, which means that it can be an independent object on the one hand, a projection such as a form on a wall, a light projection; yet it can also be the source of light in general, the lighting for the entire room. That means we have a situation where an object and a phenomenon exist simultaneously. There is also no separation between the transition from the phenomenon to the space. One could say that the space and the phenomenon become one. It was ideas like this that sparked off my interest in light at the beginning of the nineties.
(Olafur Eliasson in conversation with Holger Broeker, 2 January 2004, quoted in Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg 2004, p.45.)
Since the early twentieth century, when artists such as László Moholy-Nagy (1895–1946) combined light projections with sculptural forms, light art has developed in tandem with artists’ interests in space and perception. During the late 1960s the Californian artists Robert Irwin (born 1928), Douglas Wheeler (born 1939) and James Turrell (born 1943) began investigating the material and immaterial properties of light and its potential to obliterate spatial boundaries. In this respect, works such as Turrell’s Raemar Blue 1968 (Tate L03012), an immersive environment in which blue light envelops the viewer, and Wheeler’s RM 669 1969 (Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles), an installation in which a square of neon light causes the space to appear as though it is receding as the viewer moves through it, can be seen as precedents for Eliasson’s exploration of light and space.
Your Double-Lighthouse Projection takes the exact same form as 360° Room For All Colours (private collection), which Eliasson made at the same time. However the latter work consists of just one chamber and emits a greater variety of colours.
Angeline Scherf (ed.), Olafur Eliasson: Chaque matin je me sens différent, chaque soir je me sens le même, exhibition catalogue, Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris 2002.
Olafur Eliasson: Your Lighthouse. Works with Light 1991–2004, exhibition catalogue, Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg 2004.
Olafur Eliasson: Your Rainbow Panorama: 360°, exhibition catalogue, ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Aarhus 2011.