This collection presents the inspiration, artist statements, images, visitor responses, and artworks that form the horizon of this exhibition.

Held at Mirrored Gardens in Guangzhou, China, the exhibition was organised together with Vitamin Creative Space and its two co-founders, gallerist Zhang Wei and art critic and writer Hu Fang.

Visitors’ visual responses are displayed on this site using #我们始终形神一体# on Sina Weibo and #EliassonMirrored on Instagram.

Hu Fang - Why We Look at Plants, in a Corrupted World.
If I could share the agony of someone in a vegetative state, I wouldn’t try to write about it, friends. I would stay silent for my plant person.
It’s just that at a certain moment in the interactions between the world and my involuntary nervous system, I enter the plant person’s world, and my nerves gradually overflow the Yŏng Quán (Gushing Spring, Kidney 1), Fēngchí (Wind Pool, Gallbladder 20) and Zhàohăi (Shining Sea, Kidney 6), spilling past the Chéngfú (Hold and Support, Bladder 36), Yīnmén (Gate of Abundance, Bladder 37) and Tiānzhù (Celestial Pillar, Bladder 10) to reach the limits of human perception.
The crowd keeps murmuring around me, but I no longer clearly hear what they say. I no longer care what they are saying. The moment my involuntary nervous system overflows, I am staring intently at the gaps between people pressing into the subway, where myriad silver sprites are flying about. These sprites are nothing special, but are so dense that my eyes swell from the light when they gather together. The train passes through a tunnel, the doors open and shut, and for an instant I think I see my body floating above the crowd like a meteorite entering the atmosphere. It is undoubtedly this incandescence that will birth me with its burning gasses oxidizing into crystals, with its scorching cinders forming me.
Read full text here: http://supercommunity.e-flux.com/texts/why-we-look-at-plants-in-a-corrupted-world/

Hu Fang and Olafur Eliasson discussing Chinese gardens at Life is Space at Studio Olafur Eliasson, 2011
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Never Tired of Looking at Each Other - Only the Mountain and I

Hu Fang: Forgetting Each Other in Mountains and Water

Rather than just a question of the physical formation of landscape, the topography of this place should be understood as being part of a cultural topology, which allows us to imagine the possibility of a “homeopathic architecture” (a kind of architecture that complies with the gravity of the Earth and the human scale of perception). Spring water, rain water, underground water; drinking, recycling, filtering, purifying, irrigating—the aqueous system here does not aim to create a scenery; instead, it is part of an energy cycle. Civilization tends to mature in river delta, humans always live close to the water because there is a pleasure to sense the transparency of the source of life: we like to be intimate with that which nurtures life.

Here, we try not to block or filter the air by any manmade mechanic system. One of today’s problems is: can we still breathe if there is no manmade mechanic system? We can say that we live soaking in air and here the architecture attempts to create a climate that lets us immerse ourselves in natural air.

While we explore our perceptions of light, we also pay attention to the darkness of night and its disappearance in urban space—how do we preserve the dark night here?

Open ego, 2015
Mirrored Gardens

-Continued-

Different models were produced during the process of conceptualizing ‘Mirrored Gardens,’ and these spatial or thinking models not only point towards this place, but also to other places; they not only point towards farmland, villages and the city close by, but also to the mountains, rivers and ancient gardens. When looked at from a faraway star, ‘Mirrored Gardens’ may appear to be a spot point in the complex body system of the Earth; and like a small spot in the meridian systems of the human body, it connects the flow of many different energies. While the reasons behind these energy flows remain obscure, they represent both the aspiration to create and to perish.

Can art, through the persistent quotidian practice of it, hold the possibility of becoming a kind of collaborated labor with our other essential aspects of life? Can it become a system that can always regenerate values, something similar to sustainable agriculture? Here, art will be experimented in reality through the abstract effects of time (whose results may be forever delayed, however). It will learn from all the wisdom of humankind, and become itself an inspiring and contagious practice of living wisdom. From there, materials, skills, humanness and occasionality interweave, representing a view of a vivacious world.

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From Hong Kong, to Guangzhou, to Mirrored Gardens - a film by SHIMURAbros
We have never been disembodied - a film by SHIMURAbros
Two unthought thoughts - a film by SHIMURAbros

Hu Fang:
The first night, during dinner, we talked about certain clichéd ways of looking at Chinese gardens, but I think we are all aware that the garden we were going to encounter would really be more imaginary. The garden contains its own transformation. It arrives at the moment of our meeting. So, in a way, the meeting between the garden and us could only happen because we have been waiting for it, and the garden has been waiting for thousands of years, thinking about this journey, where everyone crosses the physical distance of time and space to feel another garden behind the garden.

Olafur Eliasson:
I think we are all looking for something in the garden, and, based on what we already know, we create our own garden. Some of the sophistication of the Chinese gardens, their principles, is probably hard for me to see, since my eyes are influenced by the history I carry with me. Obviously my relationship to the garden is influenced by what I know and by my journey here. I grew up in Denmark, with a Eurocentric view of the world - China was far on the horizon - so I have to deal with the limits of my own understanding. When I go into the garden, I see the garden, but I also see the limits of what I can see; I see the construction of my own way of seeing things. So in a way, I use the garden to reflect myself.

Your disappearing garden, 2011
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Robert MacFarlane - Landspeak
As I have traveled, I have come to under­stand that although place-words are being lost, they are also being ­created. I met a painter in the Hebrides who used landskein to refer to the braid of blue horizon lines in hill country on a hazy day; and a five-year-old girl who concocted honeyfur to describe the soft seeds of grasses held in the fingers. John Constable invented the verb to sky, meaning “to lie on one’s back and study the clouds.” We have forgotten ten thousand words for our landscapes, but we will make ten thousand more, given time. Of course there are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation, and of which words offer only a remote echo—or to which silence is by far the best response. Nature does not name itself. Granite does not self-identify as igneous. Light has no grammar. Language is always late for its subject. Full article here: https://orionmagazine.org/article/landspeak/

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Olafur Eliasson: The journey to Mirrored Gardens is, in a sense, Mirrored Gardens

When you arrive at this new space for art and research, you have probably come from Guangzhou, left this highly modern city, with its historical downtown and future-oriented infrastructure, to move on to a semi-rural area, only fifteen minutes away, where the Hualong Agriculture Grand View Garden is located. You will have continued your journey through Hualong to finally reach Mirrored Gardens. This sequence of anticipation and arrival is central to your experience of the site and the artistic activities that it nurtures.

To an outsider, the Hualong Agriculture Grand View Garden is a surreal mix of botanical garden and museum of agriculture with a highly stylised village thrown in. This combination of practical agriculture with a garden design reminiscent of an English Romantic garden surprised me at first sight. I felt puzzled by its somewhat utopian vision.

Situated within this odd, cultivated landscape is Mirrored Gardens. I find it exhilarating to come across a building dedicated to art in this environment – a building that itself introduces the idea of a micro-village within garden-like surroundings. The fact that Mirrored Gardens takes into account the unusual sequence of transformations and exchanges that lead up to the experience of the space testifies to a new confidence in making sites for art that are, fundamentally, about how we produce reality.

Contextual setting: Riverbed, 2024, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Bruno Latour - An Attempt at a 'Compositionist Manifesto'
"Composition" underlines that things have to be put together (Latin componere) while retaining their heterogeneity. Also, it is connected with composure, it has clear roots in art, painting, music, theater, dance, and thus is associated with choreography and scenography; it is not too far from "compromise" and "compromising", retaining a certain diplomatic and prudential flavor. Speaking of flavor, it carries with it the pungent but ecologically correct smell of "compost", itself due to the active "de-composition" of many invisible agents.

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Inspiration: Your embodied garden, 2011
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The peoples´ compass, 2015
Mirrored Gardens
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Hu Fang:
While your body was slowly appearing from the dark, your face ramianed in the shadows. You did not relise when the colourful light blurred the edges between light and dark, between your body and space. Unlike any other day, the beautiful sunshine of this day caressed the city so generously - the city, once so violent, so temporary, now gained a kind of beauty, like that among ruins.

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Filmmaker and poet Derek Jarman - From his book on colour "Chroma"
Who has not gazed in wonder at the snaky shimmer of petrol patterns on a puddle, thrown a stone into them and watched the colours emerge out of the ripples, or marvelled at the bright rainbow arcing momentarily in the burst of sunlight against the dark storm clouds?

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Olafur Eliasson
When I watch someone dancing, I dance along with her. Invisibly, on the inside. The external movement is transformed into felt presence and my response charts out a faint psychogram, my physical self. I/body - a resonator and emotional agent in one. My body can be trained, exercised, sensitised by concentrating on this inner duet with the dancer. A dialogue beyond boundaries begins. Mirroring a body while simultaneously reflecting on this mirroring makes it a critical act. I am aware that we are dancing even though I only think about how my feelings move.

Steen Koerner
If I hold my hand up in the air, I can walk around it with the rest of my body, and those who watch me will detect a space emerging around my hand. The body is very open to mutation depending on what input it gets. It's a process that you are somehow both involved in and detached from at the same time. Only when you let go are you able to add other layers. If you imagine a willow - the feeling of it, how it bends back and forth in the wind - you can transfer this feeling to your body and make your arms move like a tree.

Hu Fang
The scent of your absence pervaded the atmosphere. I have been trying to know you, to know myself. When you turned around, I was surprised by the gracefulness of your movement. Being in the outdoor setting of this world, indifferent, we are always expecting a gift, but we forget that we ourselves are the actors.

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Mirrored Gardens, Guangzhou
Design by Sou Fujimoto Architects, Tokyo
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Hu Fang: For Those Who Live in Paradise Every Day

People are always eager to walk out of a picture and walk into reality. They wish to quit being the tourist of their own life. While tourism—the consumption of scenery—brings us to every corner of the world, it also awakens our guilt. Not only can we not contribute to the construction of these places, we have worthlessly exhausted the future energy of them.

So, instead of a touristic purpose, there must be something else that has drawn me here. If this is what it looks like to live in paradise every day, will this scenery—these clouds, this ocean scene—lead to a more innocent life for humankind?

Or, should we simply admit that we are already in paradise, but just have refused to recognize it; the best moment of the world is perhaps the very moment that we are in right now, the moment that is always being prepared.

Self-loop, 2015
Mirrored Gardens
Inspiration: The cubic compass rock, 2007

To walk is to produce an instant future

Inspiration: Walking Riverbed
Inspiration: A slightly desynchronised but otherwise perfect couple, 2014
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Timothy Morton: Displacer Beasts: The Mystery of Motion

Objects are already ontologically out of phase with themselves. They don’t sit in some kind of rigid temporal box. Instead, they are “internally” out of phase with themselves, and this is what produces time and the possibility that they can interact. Thus when an object exists, when it persists, we can say that it is like a quantum object. It breathes, moving and not-moving at the same time, emanating a certain tempo with which other objects may or may not synchronize. The present moment, then, is only a fiction imposed on a strange “nowness” that is a phenomenological sensation of time that takes place within and between objects themselves. This nowness can be relatively extended or narrow, depending on how the object in question is breathing. It just isn’t true to say that there is a rigid reference frame for measuring time, whether we think of this frame as encompassing all entities, or whether every entity has its own unique frame. For an entity to “be in” a frame, some interaction with some other object(s) must have occurred. We can’t specify the dimensions of nowness in advance.

Email from 22 March 2015: Subject: sound and insects invited

Dear Olafur,

It was so nice to share those moments at Mirrored Gardens. I'm happy to be back from Hong Kong, entering again into the embodied space. I'm sending you a sound recording which now is part of the soundscape of the exhibition; there have been increasing singings from the generation of frogs that have emerged from the season, a butterfly visitor, a spider resident, and other insect visitors. They are always quiet, elegant and polite.

We are transcribing our road conversation from Mirrored Gardens to the village, let's continue the dialogue. I hope to see you soon.

Take care!

Fang

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Hu Fang

Even without a mirror, you can still see yourself through the faces of other people, of trees, of water.
The waves will extend endlessly, and the stone will remain unchanged. When you turn, I clearly know that it is not a farewell, but an entering - entering into the outdoor setting of this world.

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Olafur Eliasson: The journey to Mirrored Gardens is, in a sense, Mirrored Gardens

For We have never been disembodied, I was inspired by the idea of using this humble context, intended for plants and agriculture, as a platform where full responsibility is handed over to the visitor, enabling him or her to become an agent in the space that is Mirrored Gardens. It is a platform of potentials, taking the intimacy of the village to its extreme, allowing for micro-sequences when visitors move through the building, and making explicit the temporal dimension of life.

This context has allowed me to make artworks that, through their direct presence, hold hands with the spaces in an understated, reduced manner. There is no need to conquer the space, no need to conquer the experience. Instead, a dimension of hospitality emerges through the collaboration of space, art, and visitor, each containing the others. While developing the exhibition, I worked with the idea that the architecture would find itself reflected in and identified by the artworks; visitors would find themselves in the artworks; the artworks would find themselves in the architecture; and the architecture would find itself within the visitors. This is not to say that all become one. The focus, instead, is on an economy of shifting identifications. The mirroring of Mirrored Gardens is not about the reflections themselves; it is rather about the ability to nurture identification, the same way we identify with something unknown yet emotionally familiar.

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Doreen Massey - Some Times of Space

Imagine a journey. It does not have to be an epic one; it could be quite quotidian. Simply form “here” to “there”. From Manchester to Liverpool let’s say. One way to picture it is as travelling across space. You’re moving between two places on a map. Manchester and Liverpool are given; and you, the active one, travel between them. You have a trajectory.

Now think of it another way. For this movement of yours is not just spatial; it is also temporal. So, you’re barely out of Manchester, approaching the mosses which stretch away, flat, on either side, than Manchester itself has moved on. Lives have pushed ahead; business has been done; the weather, indeed, has changed. That collection of trajectories which is Manchester is no longer the same as when you left. It has lived on without you. And Liverpool? Likewise it has not just been lying there, static on the map, awaiting your arrival. It too has been going about its business. Moving on. Your arrival in Lime Street, as you step off the train, begin to get into the things you came here to do, is a meeting-up of trajectories, as you entangle yourself in stories which began before you arrived. Not the arrival of an active voyager upon an awaiting destination but an entanglement of ongoing trajectories from which something new may emerge. Movement, encounter, and the making of relations, take (make) time.

Doreen Massey - Some Times of Space

It is impossible to encounter without any preconceptions at all, but the full recognition that the encountered is also moving on (changing, while persisting) at least disturbs a little one’s confidence that these expectations will be met. An encounter is always with something “on the move”. The voyager is not the only active one. Origin and destination have lives of their own.

Bergson writes of “movement, which is reality itself”. Movement in the widest sense of process, of change. Space, then, can not be a static slice orthogonal to time and defined in opposition to time. If movement is reality itself then what we think of as space is rather a cut through all those trajectories. A simultaneity of unfinished stories. Space has time/times within it. Not the static simultaneity of a closed system but a simultaneity of movements. And that is a different thing altogether.

It means, for one thing, that you can’t go back in space. The myth of the return. By the time you get on the train again to go back home that night, disentangling yourself – physically at least – from those Liverpudlian trajectories, the Manchester you left will not be the Manchester of now (just as you yourself will have changed). Space has its times. To open up space to this kind of imagination means thinking time and space together. You can’t hold places (things, anything) still. What you can do is meet up with them, catch up with where another’s history has got to “now”, and where that now is itself constituted by nothing more than, precisely, that meeting up (again). “Here”, in that sense, is not a place on a map. It is that intersection of trajectories, the meeting-up of stories. An encounter. Every “here” a here-and-now.

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Work from the exhibition: Time amplifier, 2015

Hu Fang

You, on the edge of autumn
Yearn for summer
You pass by clinic of children
Yearn for childhood
Should the world as it is
Be shadowed with none but trauma
Shall the leaves as we touch
Be shimmering with scent of flora
On top of building, panorama in sight
Echoes hymn of the city downright
On snow blank ceiling you write
With chalks so white:
Thus, for the time yet to come about
Yearn the people shall

Work from the exhibition: Self-loop, 2015
Inspiration: Watercolour
Inspiration: The eighteen moons in penumbra no. 4, 2014
Inspiration: Obsidian field in Iceland

Olafur Eliasson: excerpt from Rear-view time

As we walked through the fields of shiny surfaces, the obsidian deflected our gaze from what lay ahead, constructing a sense of the space we had just left behind. Like a rear-view mirror, the black stones gave a ’then’ to our ’now’ and ’soon’. Time was given space. Immediate futures were produced through fragmented images of the past.

Inspiration: Model for a timeless garden, 2011

Olafur Eliasson

So how long is ‘now’, and where does ‘here’ end? One frontier of ‘now and here’ is the weather forecast, with all its weather people and predictions. In feudal times, meteorology was a matter of life and death. The prediction of the weather originated from a real need to prolong ‘now’ to include tomorrow’s weather, taking our overly suspended reality for a joyride into the future. Like time travellers, weather predictions can draw a small part of the future back to be included in our cultivated sense of ‘here and now’

Hu Fang

You made a slight gesture and formed a gust of wind. You turned your hand and turned the noisy city into peace.
A layer of blue-grey covered the land. Even the scaffolding seemed calm.
You and I, we are living in a completely different time, and maybe because of this, I can hear your voice more clearly.

Olafur Eliasson: A breath is a space. I space by breathing.

We can use our breath to check into our body, to feel it and to feel how we feel. The breath connects us with ourselves, with our surroundings, and with other people – we do, after all, share the same planetary environment and interact according to similar spatial contracts. Gravity keeps us grounded. We are all in time and of time, changing with each breath we take.

Try to experience the volume of your breath. It isn’t all that easy. Thoughts drift and occupy space within the flow of air. I am learning and I am in need of learning to stop my mind from drifting. Return to the breath.

*I owe the title phrase to my good friend Tor Nørretranders.

Inspiration: Four handgardens, 2008

Olafur Eliasson - A breath is a space. I space by breathing.

If we choose to call this village a museum, it will become a lived museum. We will hang a trajectory amplifier over the door to the bakery, insert a colour interface in the school, and dye the river green. The contract between time and space will inevitably change. I hope to see a museum like this emerge in the future. The Chinese scholar’s garden is a model for this new museum. The garden isn’t a closed cosmos but part of an atmospheric system. It opens itself up to the weather, to the air, and to the universe; it gives the mundane a place in planetary life. It changes from day to day, breathing along with the visitors as they breathe in and out.

The garden is carefully nurtured, but its gardeners not only sustain its cycles and its equilibrium with the universe, they also cultivate their own becoming garden. When we travelled to Suzhou in February 2011 and were working long days in the Master of Nets Garden, Steen would move through it in slow-motion, becoming gardener and tree simultaneously. His movements became caring. He was gardening. He was becoming garden.

I would ask Steen to tree – not to be like a tree or to be a tree; I would ask him to tree. That took some time. Trees – they take their time too.

Inspiration: Motional city map, 2010
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We have never been disembodied
Olafur Eliasson
Mirrored Gardens
12 March – 12 July 2015