Contemporary Reactions: Immersion

The Bikuben exhibition in UMOCA’s Main Gallery is coming to a close, but over these past six months, the gallery space was truly a time capsule with a twist, fostering a diverse artistic and cultural portrayal of Utah’s historical Danish population through contemporary art.
For Ted Phillips, a visitor from Boulder, Colorado, Bikuben was a creative and informative look into a lesser-known part of Utah’s history.
“Contemporary art sometimes seems to lack context, so it was interesting to see the curators link Utah’s historical Danish population with modern Danish art,” Ted explained.
Ted was particularly mesmerized by Shipsearching (2011), which was designed by Mie Olise to foster an all-encompassing experience of being on a ship. The massive white piece is ubiquitous in UMOCA’s Main Gallery and is reminiscent of an abandoned wooden building. The structure invites viewers to take a few adventurous steps into and up its interior. At the top is a narrow and low-ceiling space, which adds to a cramped and almost claustrophobic sensation. A blanket is laid out on the floor, and a projector displays faded video of a fluttering sail. The sound of gentle, coursing waves flows throughout.
“The sound from the video and the creaks of the wooden structure made for a really immersive experience,” Ted said. “Staring at the video almost made me feel like I was swaying.”
Like Ted, many visitors of the museum considered Shipsearching a highlight of Bikuben, not only for the installation’s grandiose size, but also for its evocative nature. Olise brings viewers aboard a ship and out to sea, but she also plays on the familiar yet intensely intimate emotions that accompany certain themes: a remembered and rediscovered past, how quickly or how slowly time passes in a moment, and the uncertainty of being on an endless journey.
Bikuben will be on display at the UMOCA Main Gallery through December 20, 2014—be sure to stop by soon!