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Vitamin Creative Space
Room 301, 2 9Hao, Heng Yi Jie
Chi Gang Xi Lu, Guangzhou
510300 China
tel: +86 20 8429 6760     fax: +86 20 8429 5609
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We have never been disembodied
by Vitamin Creative Space
Location: Vitamin Creative Space
Artist(s): Olafur ELIASSON
Date: 12 Mar - 12 Jul 2015

When you arrive at this new space for art and research, you have probably come from Guangzhou, left this highly modern city, with its historical downtown and future-oriented infrastructure, to move on to a semi-rural area, only fifteen minutes away, where the Hualong Agriculture Grand View Garden is located. You will have continued your journey through Hualong to finally reach Mirrored Gardens. This sequence of anticipation and arrival is central to your experience of the site and the artistic activities that it nurtures.

When I first passed through Guangzhou, I did not feel the city actively demanding my attention; moving through its dizzying design, with urban master plans superimposed one on top of the other, I could lean back while the city carried me along at its own pace – I became a consumer of space and time. Just outside the city, on my way to Hualong Agriculture Grand View Garden, I came to a village, called Dong Zhuang where I felt a greater sense of presence. The village is a mix of old and new, of derelict buildings interspersed among more obviously expensive homes. It is neither more beautiful nor more ugly than many other places; there’s no rustic romanticism about it. But by spending time there, I felt myself transforming from a consumer of time and space into a producer of presence. The absence of city planning makes itself felt. Instead, you create a plan for the town through your trajectory; you organise the space as you move through it; you become a pedestrian planner.

To an outsider, the Hualong Agriculture Grand View Garden is a surreal mix of botanical garden and museum of agriculture with a highly stylised village thrown in. This combination of practical agriculture with a garden design reminiscent of an English Romantic garden surprised me at first sight. I felt puzzled by its somewhat utopian vision.

Situated within this odd, cultivated landscape is Mirrored Gardens. I find it exhilarating to come across a building dedicated to art in this environment – a building that itself introduces the idea of a micro-village within garden-like surroundings. The fact that Mirrored Gardens takes into account the unusual sequence of transformations and exchanges that lead up to the experience of the space testifies to a new confidence in making sites for art that are, fundamentally, about how we produce reality.

For We have never been disembodied, I was inspired by the idea of using this humble context, intended for plants and agriculture, as a platform where full responsibility is handed over to the visitor, enabling him or her to become an agent in the space that is Mirrored Gardens. It is a platform of potentials, taking the intimacy of the village to its extreme, allowing for micro-sequences when visitors move through the building, and making explicit the temporal dimension of life.

This context has allowed me to make artworks that, through their direct presence, hold hands with the spaces in an understated, reduced manner. There is no need to conquer the space, no need to conquer the experience. Instead, a dimension of hospitality emerges through the collaboration of space, art, and visitor, each containing the others. While developing the exhibition, I worked with the idea that the architecture would find itself reflected in and identified by the artworks; visitors would find themselves in the artworks; the artworks would find themselves in the architecture; and the architecture would find itself within the visitors. This is not to say that all become one. The focus, instead, is on an economy of shifting identifications. The mirroring of Mirrored Gardens is not about the reflections themselves; it is rather about the ability to nurture identification, the same way we identify with something unknown yet emotionally familiar.

——Olafur Eliasson

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