Artist Olafur Eliasson has developed a series of site-responsive installations at the Versailles château and gardens. The spatial interventions challenge the visitors to discover a different Versailles, or even a different reality.
‘The Versailles that I have been dreaming up is a place that empowers everyone. It invites visitors to take control of the authorship of their experience instead of simply consuming and being dazzled by the grandeur. It asks them to exercise their senses, to embrace the unexpected, to drift through the gardens, and to feel the landscape take shape through their movement.’ – Olafur Eliasson
It has been told that Eliasson wandered around Versailles alone at night, to feel the atmosphere, collect impressions, and select the locations for his artworks. The works inside the château’s baroque rooms, where strict social norms were once exercised and where one was both observing and being observed, investigate notions of gaze through light and mirror reflections.
Stepping outside into the garden, a triptych of water based works is found. A circular veil of fog and a carpet of glacial residue question and diffuse the formality of the geometrical French garden. The element of water becomes both an expression of ephemerality and a re-interpretation of the original landscape architect André Le Nôtre’s unrealised plan of constructing a waterfall for the site.
Eliasson spent part of his childhood in the volcanic landscapes of Iceland, where his interest and sensibility for nature first developed. Today, his Berlin-based studio brings together contemporary art, architecture, science and technology to create multisensory experiences for urban and natural environments, as well as museums, art galleries, and historical sites.
Images: © Olafur Eliasson, Palace of Versailles 2016, Photo: Anders Sune Berg, Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonadkar Gallery, New York, Titles (from left to right): The curious museum, 2010, Your sense of unity, 2016, Solar compression, 2016, Waterfall, 2016, Fog assembly 2016, Glacial rock flour garden, 2016