The Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s installation Det lyttende Spejl at the entrance to the newly opened Regional Hospital Gødstrup generates a unique atmosphere that has a spontaneous and physical impact on the viewer. Utilising mirror reflections, Eliasson employs the geometric shapes of the installation and dissolves the pavilion’s physical boundaries.

The viewer’s body as co-creator

At first glance, Det lyttende spejl has a seemingly simple construction: Two curved pipes, crossing one another perpendicularly, hold a large disc aloft at a slight angle to form a shed roof at the entrance of the hospital. The reflective underside of the disc mirrors the semicircular pipes, creating the illusion of two complete circles passing through the ceiling and rising into an imaginary space above.

As visitors enter the pavilion, they can gaze up at their own reflections in the mirror and see themselves incorporated, upside down, into the artwork, embraced within the globe drawn by the pipes. The tilt of the ceiling allows the reflections to be seen from the outside. As the viewer moves towards and around the pavilion, the rings appear to shift in shape, changing from ellipses to circles and back again. In this way, the piece engages not only the viewer’s vision but also their body by looking at their own reflection in the mirror and is thus incorporated into the artwork.

A larger perspective

‘A hospital is a place that in addition to dealing with minor injuries and illness is also confronted with births and deaths – with life in all its extremes – and in these situations we invariably come to see our lives in a greater context. The listening mirror offers a space where we can see things from a broader perspective,’ Eliasson explains.

Eliasson is driven by his interests in perception, movement, embodied experience, and feelings of self and community. This physical image has poetic parallels to the way in which a hospital gives rise to new perspectives on life. Thus, Det lyttende spejl is a work of art that enables new insights and sensory experiences.

Regional Hospital Gødstrup

The Regional Hospital Gødstrup, which has a total floorspace of 148,000 square metres, is the new major hospital for central and western Jutland and is designed to be a patient-centred hospital. This includes an ambition to set new standards for influencing the patients’ senses and well-being, including through building-integrated and site-specific art.

Det lyttende spejl was realized with support from the New Carlsberg Foundation.

About Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967) attended the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 1989–95. Today he lives and works in Berlin and Copenhagen. His work spans a variety of art forms, including photographs, videos and installations, and he has created numerous projects for the public space and held solo exhibitions in many of the world’s leading art museums.

Eliasson is known in particular for large, spectacular, haunting installations, which often explore human sensations and examine and incorporate elements such as light, air and water. More than two million people visited his solar installation The weather project in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern in 2003, and most Danes recognize his Your rainbow panorama at the top of the art museum ARoS in Aarhus.