Olafur Eliasson : Your colour memory

Arcadia Exhibitions Presents

Olafur Eliasson : Your colour memory

September 1, 2004 - January 9, 2005

About the Exhibition:

By offering viewers an unprecedented way to exercise the experience of their own retinal afterimages, Your colour memory advances Eliasson’s evolving exploration of perception, subjectivity and the fluid border between nature and culture.

Press Release and Artist's Biography

OLAFUR ELIASSON : Your colour memory
September 1, 2004 - January 9, 2005

Arcadia University Art Gallery is pleased to present Your colour memory, a new project by Berlin-based, Danish artist Olafur Eliasson. On view starting September 1, 2004 through January 9, 2005, the work will be introduced by Eliasson with a lecture on September 13 at 6:30 p.m. in Stiteler Auditorium followed by a public reception on Tuesday, September 14, 5:30-7:30 in the art gallery.

Surrounding the spectator with a continually changing spectrum of tinted light, Your colour memory offers viewers an unprecedented way to exercise the experience of their own retinal afterimages. Elegantly advancing Eliasson’s evolving exploration of subjectivity, perception, and the fluid border between nature and culture, this new project builds on earlier, large-scale works employing luminous color. The Curious Garden, Eliasson’s 1997 exhibition for the Kunsthalle Basel, for example, included a room bathed in a single wavelength of yellow light that reduced viewers’ color vision to a duotone scale ranging from yellow to black. For his Room for all colours, (the De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam, 1999), light from a grid of lamps—tinted red, green, and blue and controlled by a computerized dimmer—was mixed and diffused by a floor-to-ceiling translucent screen to demonstrate a gradual, chromatic progression over the course of each day. His 360° room for all colours (Musee d’art moderne de la ville, Paris, 2002) used the same color-mixing technology to envelope viewers within a cylinder of morphing spectral hues. Your colour memory distinguishes itself from these previous projects by making a discrete subject of the afterimage, an optical phenomena, like the rainbow—which Eliasson re-created for his 1994 work Beauty—that is among the most telling examples of the subjectivity of vision.

Born in Copenhagen in 1967, Eliasson attended the Royal Academy of Arts there from 1989 to 1995. He quickly took his place on the international art circuit with a series of solo exhibitions at major institutions including: Kunsthalle, Basel (1997); De Appel Foundation, Amsterdam (1999); Kunstverein, Wolfsburg (1999); the Art Institute of Chicago (2000); Neue Galerie, Graz (2000); Zentrum für Kunst und Medientechnologie (ZKM), Karlsruhe (2001); ICA, Boston (2001); the Museum of Modern Art, New York (Projectseries 2002); ARC/Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris (2002); and Reina Sofia, Madrid (2003).

Addressing Eliasson’s cross-disciplinary practice in his new volume of interviews, curator Hans Ulrich Obrist reminds us that Eliasson is “first and foremost interested in looking at the way we see and experience things,” a critical, self-conscious mode of attention the artist refers to as “seeing yourself seeing.” “Using simple devices like mirrors, holes, and optical matters to affect the spectator’s vision,” Obrist continues, “Eliasson attempts to reproduce such ephemeral phenomena as fog, ice, and rainbows inside galleries and museum settings. In order to challenge viewers in a situation in which they reflect on their modes of thought and behavior towards these natural phenomena, Eliasson has recreated the sparkling quality of rain by illuminating a waterfall with stroboscopic lights (Your strange certainty still kept, 1996); caused a cool breeze to blow (Your windless arrangement, 1999); created a solar eclipse (No nights in summer; no days in winter, 1994); and traced luminous rings in water (Neon Ripple, 2001).” For The Weather Project (2003), Eliasson’s widely acclaimed work for the Tate Modern (London), he reproduced the appearance of the setting sun inside the vast, five-story space of the Turbine Hall. The Blind Pavilion—Eliasson’s fun-house-like sequence of individual chambers, including a kaleidoscopic grotto, a tabletop camera obscura projection, and a rooftop periscope—represented Denmark in the 2003 Venice Biennale.

Your colour memory is among several exhibitions of Eliasson’s work currently on view in the United States, including “Olafur Eliasson: Photographs” at the Menil Collection, Houston (through September 5, 2004) and “I only see things when they move,” at the Aspen Art Museum (through October 3, 2004). His work is represented in numerous, international public and private collections including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; the Deste Foundation, Athens; and the Tate, London.

The opening reception is scheduled for Tuesday, September 14 (5:30 to 7:30 p.m). On Monday, September 13, at 7;30 pm, Eliasson will lecture about his work in the University’s Stiteler Auditorium. Additional programs include a lecture by neurologist and best-selling author, Dr. Oliver Sacks, on the topic of vision and the brain scheduled for October 26 at 7:30 p.m. London-based artist/writer David Batchelor will lecture on his recent book Chromophobia, an in-depth analysis of our cultural fear of color, on Thursday, October 28 at 7:30 p.m. in Stiteler Auditorium.

A full-color catalog documenting the exhibition and Eliasson’s work with luminous color—including essays by Jonathan Crary and the artist—will be published in February 2005.

This project has been funded by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a granting program of The Pew Charitable Trusts, administered by The University of the Arts. Additional support provided the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Zumtobel Staff, and the Friends and Advisory Board of Arcadia University Art Gallery. Lecture by Dr. Sacks sponsored and funded by the Arcadia University Distinguished Lecture Series with additional support from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for higher Education (SEPCHE).

New gallery hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday: 10am to 3pm; Thursday 10am to 8pm; weekends noon to 4pm; and by appointment.

Exhibition Events

September 13, 7:30 pm: "Your Unintended Confidence" Lecture by Olafur Eliasson. 
Stiteler Auditorium, Murphy Hall. Gallery will be open one hour before and after the lecture.
September 14, 5:30-7:30 pm: Opening reception in the gallery.
October 26, 7:30 pm: "Vision and the Brain" Lecture by Dr. Oliver Sacks, M.D. Kuch Center.
Stiteler Auditorium, Murphy Hall.
October 28, 7:30 pm: "On Chromophobia" Lecture by artist/writer David Batchelor.
Tuesday, January 4, 12 noon: " Why the world is (not) gray: the emergent perception of color" Lecture/Demonstration by John Siegfried, Ph.D., Professor of Physiological Optics and Psychology at Pennsylvania College of Optometry. The Little Theatre (directly adjacent to the Art Gallery), Spruance Art Center.

All events are free and open to the public.

Catalog with essay by Jonathan Crary available Spring 2005.

Exhibition Hours

  • Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday: 10am - 3pm
  • Thursday, 10am - 8pm
  • Saturday & Sunday: noon - 4pm and by appointment.

Exhibition Sponsors

This project has been funded by the Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative, a granting program of The Pew Charitable Trusts, administered by The University of the Arts. Additional support provided the National Endowment for the Arts, Pennsylvania Council on the Arts, Zumtobel Staff, and the Friends and Advisory Board of Arcadia University Art Gallery. Lecture by Dr. Sacks sponsored and funded by the Arcadia University Distinguished Lecture Series with additional support from the Southeastern Pennsylvania Consortium for higher Education (SEPCHE).

  • Why the world is (not) gray: the emergent perception of color

a lecture/demonstration by John Siegfried, Ph.D., Professor of Physiological Optics and Psychology, Pennsylvania College of Optometry

Tuesday, January 4, 12 noon
The Little Theatre (directly adjacent to the Art Gallery), Spruance Art Center
Free and open to the public.

Dr. John Siegfried is a distinguished member of the faculty of the Pennsylvania College of Optometry, Elkins Park, where he has been a Professor since 1980. In addition to affiliations and positions with institutions across the nation, he is author of over one hundred papers and presentations on the subject of the electrophysiology of human vision and its diagnostic clinical applications. Applying his experience with diagnostic tests in color vision, visual thresholds, and contrast sensitivity, he will address the following topics in his illustrated lecture:

  • Why there is no "color" in the external environment ­ only electromagnetic energy of different wavelengths and intensities reflected by surfaces.
  • Why there is no "image" on the retina of the eye, if by "image" we mean form, color, contrast, and motion.
  • How the perception of color is created by visual processing in the retina and visual cortex of the brain; and why does "red" look "red", anyway?
  • How color appearance can be affected by adjacent chromatic stimuli.
  • How color processing can go wrong in inherited and acquired color deficits.