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In this compass, a magnet hangs from an oblong, wooden octahedron, both of which are surrounded by a yellow stainless steel ring. Half of the octahedron’s faces are painted black, and the others reveal the original wood. The work was constructed to mark an event held at Studio Olafur Eliasson and the Akademie der Künste in conjunction with European Commission President José Manuel Barosso’s New Narrative for Europe project.

By virtue of its steady indication of north, the compass serves as a well-known aid for orientation. The artist’s interest in the instrument springs from the way that the compass, by allowing us to situate ourselves in relation to a map or a grid, enables us to see ourselves within a context. In fact, upon reflection, one realises very quickly that compasses orient us not only geographically and topographically, but also socially. The particular visual sensation of the compass – needles to the north – is something we all share: the compass binds us to one another through our subjective faculties of sensation.


Stainless steel, wood, paint (yellow, black), magnet