Contemporary Reactions: Changing Perspectives

Contemporary art is challenging. It’s meant to be—although art doesn’t ask you to change your opinions, it does ask you to shift, and expand, your perspectives. For Anna Koelsch, a museum visitor from San Francisco, Jeppe Hein’s Rotating Mirror Object II (2013) did exactly that.

Hein’s piece is exactly how it sounds: it’s a mirror object mounted on the wall that rotates around a central axis. The object appears square, but it is actually concave and divided diagonally into two angled halves so that the surface reflects different sections of its surroundings, much like a kaleidoscope does. The piece thus creates a disjointed perception of space, perpetually reconstructing the viewer’s perspective with ever-changing reflected fragments to create new wholes.

“What was so great about Jeppe Hein’s Rotating Mirror Object II was that it was set up in a way so that it reflected two completely different pieces of art in its two panels,” Anna explained. “In one, the backdrop of my reflection was a collection of white forms scattered across the hardwood floor [Jacob Dahl Jürgensen’s Capital]. In the other, I am shown alongside a wall covered in photos of volcano calderas [Olafur Eliasson’s The volcano series]. Not only did I look different in the two mirror panels, but my surroundings change too.”

In this way, Hein’s piece forced Anna to create new ways of looking at herself and experiencing her environment. After all, as Anna put it, “Whether you like it or not, a mirror shows you what’s there. But, it only provides a single perspective.” Hein takes and bolsters our concepts of mirrors and reflection, providing viewers a necessary perspective shift and fostering brand new ways of looking, perceiving, and understanding the world we live in.

“As disappointing as it can be to admit, I often think with tunnel vision,” Anna said. “It’s difficult for me to think about a problem or situation with a different perspective once I already have decided on the lens through which to view it. Rotating Mirror Object II was a reminder of the importance of seeing all of the angles and surroundings—not just the one angle I have learned to train my eyes on.”

Bikuben will be on display at the UMOCA Main Gallery through December 20, 2014.


Research in 2015 by the American Alliance of Museums supports the fact that institutions like UMOCA help communities better understand and appreciate cultural diversity through art. $10 can help UMOCA continue to exhibit relevant and current art. Please schedule a donation for Love UT Give UT for March 26.