Step Inside A Giant Kaleidoscope

Step Inside A Giant Kaleidoscope

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson is a master of light and colour, creating trippy experiential works that mess with our perception. The artist’s latest piece, recently installed at the John and Mary Pappajohn Sculpture Park in Des Moines, Iowa, is like walking inside a human-scaled spectrograph.

Dubbed the panoramic awareness pavilion, the outdoor sculpture consists of a circular steel frame supporting 23 panes of coloured glass, each with a reflective coating that starts as opaque mirror at the edges and fades to a transparent tint in the centre. The structure is open on one side so people can stand inside, where a fresnel lamp (a spotlight typically used for stage performances) illuminates it from within.

The most powerful time to see the sculpture appears to be at twilight, when the glowing arc begins to pick up reflections from the nearby buildings and streetlights. Standing inside, the circular panes of colour create a cinematic effect, almost like a piece of filmstrip, allowing a snippet of information from the surrounding city through each “frame”.

During the day, it transforms into a sort of deconstructed rainbow, as different parts of the spectrum layer on top of each other in the sunlight, creating changing patterns on the ground which repeat to infinity in the mirrored edges.

While it’s a beautiful addition to the sculpture park, because of its recognisable ROY G. BIV progression, it can also be used as a wayfinding tool, Eliasson tells Disegno.Daily.

“Walking through the city or the park’s paths, you know when you’re in the blue area, then the purple, then the orange,” he says. “I think it’s a measurement machine that indicates your movement. It’s almost a functional idea of mapping and a number of my works play around with or question our sense of orientation.”

The same colour wheel concept would work well as a central element in other public spaces like stadiums or even a busy plaza to help visitors remember where they’ve been and understand which direction to go. [Disegno.Daily]

Olafur Eliasson panoramic awareness pavilion (2013), proposed gift of John and Mary Pappajohn to the Des Moines Art Center. Photography courtesy Rich Sanders