Saturday I drove to Bard College
for the opening of Olafur Eliasson
’s first permanent outdoor installation in this country. Entitled The parliament of reality
, the piece consists of a circular cement island in the center of a moat-like pond, accessed by a bridge enclosed by arches of steel latticework. The pond is ringed with plantings of wild grasses that will take 2-3 years to fill in, and 24 trees, whose branches, when they grow out in 5 years or so, will ultimately form a unified circle. The trees also produce blossoms which, hopefully, will coat the pond with yellow petals each May. With seating in the form of massive local rocks, the idea is that it will become a place for meeting, discussion, and performance. At the moment the constructed elements dominate, and it takes some imagination to picture what it will be like when the trees, for instance, are higher than the latticed roof of the walkway. Without the vegetation it seems like the bare bones of something yet to be realized, as did Robert Irwin
’s Getty Garden
when I saw it in its earliest stages.
Middle photo: Photo: Olafur Eliasson Studio
The latticework pattern mimics that of the ripples in the pond. Did he know it would do that?
The Eliasson installation is adjacent to the Frank Gehry designed Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, a building I love for its quality of lightness and insubstantiality, heightened on this overcast day so that the roof of the building seemed to merge with the sky.
Sadly, this lyrical dance of wing-like curves and light ends abruptly with the rear of the building, which is as square and clunky as the back of any urban theater. Although I've been to the Fisher Center several times, I'm never prepared for the nasty slap of reality that awaits me as I walk around it to my parked car. I want to believe in the fairy tale.