A Mirage You Can Touch: Liquid Marble Installation Fools the Eye

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Even crueler than a real mirage, this convincing illusion continues to look like a real body of water until you reach down to touch its surface, only to find that it’s as solid as anything you’ve ever touched. Thankfully, this faux aquatic feature isn’t sitting in a desert somewhere to fake out unsuspecting travelers, but rather placed in the courtyard of the magnificent Domaine de Chaumont-sur-Loire Centre D’Arts et de nature, a garden center in France. The piece will be on display through November 2nd.

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Designer Mathieu Lehanneur achieved the effect with a marriage of 3D computer software, hand-polished green marble and natural light, so it looks like wind is rippling on the surface of a river. What would have been a split second of scenic beauty, experienced and then forgotten by the naked eye or captured in a two-dimensional photograph, is now frozen in time, made into a durable object that could last thousands of years.

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“I wanted to address the garden with water as my muse,” says Lehanneur. “The water whose presence we sense even before we first catch sight of it below the chateau, flowing uninterrupted to the sea. Some say the Loire is France’s last wild river; it shapes and nourishes the landscapes, it passes through without ever pausing along the way.”

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“I hope that, when passing the Chateau gates, the visitor will experience something that comes close to a magic portal, to a forbidden place in so many fairytales. Everything is liquid in this space, evanescent, enlightened, and yet it is executed in a material that is one of the most solid imaginable.”