Blind Pavilion by Ólafur Eliasson was originally made for the Venice Biennale Art Festival in 2003 and was put at Viðey in May this year. It’s easy to climb up the small hill to get to it; pass the washing line behind the house to your left and you’re there. The installation is made of metal and glass, the glass either transparent or opaque. The construction consists of two rings, one inside the other with a hallway in between.
The first impression is geometric: a mass of metal angles. But looking through the angles, the landscape of Viðey is framed, like looking through a camera. What’s so special about that? Well, to be able to see that, you have to be about 1.75 m tall and stand in the centre. Then everything falls into place. Standing on the tip of my toes the black parts from both sides of the rings add up to a black wall. Suddenly I am completely surrounded. Blinded by black glass. Only four frames remain partially open, to see the landscape. Brilliant.
But there is more to be seen on this island. At the western part (go to your left after you come down Eliasson’s hill), Richard Senna has put up 18 basalt columns. To be exact: nine pairs of two are spread around. They have been there since 1990 when Senna donated them to Iceland. Afangar, they’re called, or Milestones. Both Eliasson and Senna make use of the landscape in their work. And both of them use mathematics to give their work the exact measurements it needs. While Eliasson has put perception of reality at the centre of his art, Senna tries to transform the landscape. From the distance, the milestones look like solemn landmarks, the form resembles the basalt from the coast a few feet away. Every pair consists of a four-metre high column, placed in such a way in the hilly landscape that they are perfectly even at the top. Pure and simple, but on this desolate island they literally stand out. The work speaks for itself.
To me, these works were worth the 750 ISK for the trip. But beyond the art, Viðey itself is an attraction. The only sound you hear is the humming of bees and the faint buzz of the Reykjavik cars in the distance.
If you want to see Blind Pavilion, hurry. The exhibition ends on August 20th.The Milestones won’t be going anywhere. You can take the ferry any day. It leaves Miðbakkinn Reykjavík daily at 10 am, and returns at quarter past one in the afternoon.