Rio 2016: Glowing ring appears over Brazil ahead of Olympic Games
Away from the competition and controversy of the 2016 Rio Olympics, Japanese artist Mariko Mori has made a quiet statement in Brazil.
Atop the 190-foot Véu da Noiva waterfall in Mangaratiba (a municipality on the outskirts of the state of Rio de Janeiro), her prismatic "Ring: One With Nature" -- a 10-foot acrylic ring, supported by a Teflon-coated stainless steel -- appears suspended in air.
Through a trick of the light, it seems to change hue -- blue, gold, transparent -- depending on the position of the sun and viewer.
"The Olympic game logo, the symbolic logo is five rings symbolizing the unification of all nations and ethnicities, and celebrating peace," Mori said in her London studio ahead of August 2 unveiling ceremony.
"I wanted to add a new ring with which to symbolize the connection between humans and nature."
Created as part of the Rio Olympics' Celebra Cultural Program through her nonprofit, the Faou Foundation, the "Ring" is the second in a series of six permanent site-specific artworks meant to provide "lasting testimony to the natural beauty of its surroundings," according to the foundation's website.
"Each time of the day, it will reflect the beauty of nature," Mori says.
A dream brought to life
Much of Mori's work is themed around technological or futurist themes and the man-made (an interactive teardrop-shaped UFO; self-portraits as an interplanetary pop star), but the conception of her "Ring" was decidedly primal.
Seven years ago, while on holiday in Bermuda, Mori dreamed she was walking through a tropical rainforest, eventually arriving at the foot of a waterfall where an ancient ceremony was taking place. Women chanted and prayed, while onlookers sat in witness.
"Then, suddenly, the golden ring appeared at the top of the waterfall ... It was so magical," she remembers.
So when her touring exhibition "Oneness" brought her to Brazil in 2011, she set out to find the waterfall of her dreams in the country's thriving wilderness.
"[In Brazil] you can really understand that we are just a fragment species of the nature, and you really experience the dynamic of it. Even in Rio the city, if you don't pay attention, nature can take over."
But bringing the dream to life took time. The location was only finalized in March 2016 (she'd initially considered two other locations that fell through); and it took two years of research to figure out how to properly layer and apply color within the acrylic to create the desired color-change effect.
While she would have erected the "Ring" regardless of whether her proposal was endorsed by the Olympic committee, Mori can't help but find the timing serendipitous, calling the Games "a moment of unification."
It's in this spirit of unity that she'll run with the Olympic flame across Rio as one of the final torchbearers on August 5, ahead of the opening ceremony.
"I'm not really a sports person, but I find it's really a privilege to have artists participating in such an event. The torch relay is not as physically demanding as trying to break a record, but I really like the idea of people connecting with each other to carry the sacred fire," she says, laughing.
"I think it's the perfect moment to share the work."