There haven’t been many positive things to say about environmental issues in conjunction with the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. Guanabara Bay, the venue for the sailing competition, is seriously polluted with raw sewage and floating garbage, and the Games’ organizers failed to spend more than a fraction of the $4 billion they pledged to cleaning up the city’s waste-water system.
But about 60 miles to the west, Ring: One with Nature rises above the forest floor and transcends the chaos of Olympic proportions that’s playing out downtown. The forthcoming eco-conscious sculpture by Japanese artist Mariko Mori is a rare bright spot for the event’s environmental legacy.
Mori’s installation—which opens to the public on August 3, two days before the Games begin—features a luminous acrylic ring, 10 feet in diameter, that appears to hover midair atop the 190-foot Véu da Noiva waterfall. Shifting from blue to gold as the sun moves across the sky, this symbolic sixth Olympic ring “celebrates the unity between every being and nature and is emblematic of the unity of all nations and ethnicities,” Mori says.
Like the Olympics Games themselves, the artwork has significance beyond the borders of its host country—it’s part of an international celebration of place. Mori established the nonprofit Faou Foundation in 2010 to promote environmental awareness worldwide through six proposed public art installations on each of the habitable continents: Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, North and South America. Each one is to be carefully designed to honor the unique ecological habitat that surrounds it. Ring is the second installation in the series, following Sun Pillar on Japan’s Miyako Island, in 2011.
Ring is built to stand the test of time, and it’s a good thing. Mori’s reminder of our endless connection to the natural world is one we’ll undoubtedly need to circle back to long after the closing ceremony of the Rio Olympics on August 21.
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