Approaching the Grand Canal of Versailles from the palace, something seems off about the landscape: a tower of water pours from a seemingly invisible support, as if a hole has opened up in the sky. It’s only when you step to either side that you notice the steel structure that sends the waterfall crashing onto the glassy surface of the canal. This intervention is just one of nine that artist Olafur Eliasson has installed in the gardens and inside the Palace of Versailles, shifting visitors’ perception of their environment and themselves. ‘Olafur Versailles’ will be in place through October.
Continuing an eight-year tradition of inviting artists to transform the Palace and its grounds with their work, the new installation seems to shift this French landmark slightly off the axis of reality, adding a dreamy sense of strangeness that changes the atmosphere of the entire château. In the gardens, three installations represent various states of water; the second is a circular arrangement of steel pipes pumping fog onto the lawn while the third fills the Bosquet de la Colonnade with ‘glacial rock flour.’
Step inside to face illusions of light and reflection, using mirrors to make it unclear whether you are looking at your real surroundings or a mere facsimile of them at any given time. Perspectives of the interiors suddenly lose their sense of balance, and visitors catch glimpses of their own reflections in unexpected places, as if witnessing their own identical twins moving through the space.
“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.”