Motion is the central principle behind this public artwork, planned especially for Willis Tower. The dynamic pattern on the wall is activated by the motion of people walking, driving, or biking past; by the motion of the earth in relation to the sun as light moves across it; and by changes in the season and weather. Viewing the work from various positions and at various times of day produces a dramatically different experience. The artwork covers the wall with a pattern of metal tiles based on Penrose tiling. Discovered by mathematician and physicist Sir Roger Penrose in the 1970s, this approach produces a system of non-periodic tiling that is based on five-fold symmetry. The result feels both regular and random, hovering just beyond our ability to quickly comprehend it.

Each tile is curved, a fragment of the inner surface of a sphere, and the main tones used in the work – blue, deep green, and white – are redolent of the surfaces of nearby Lake Michigan and the Chicago River. The concave shapes and colors of the tiles produce a dynamic effect when visitors walk around it. Seen from certain angles, the pattern reveals a vortex that seems to twist and accelerate in response to viewers’ movements. The enameled steel gently catches the light of the sun; the concave surfaces collect shadows that shift as the day progresses. At night the work is lit from behind so that flashes of light escape through the interstices between the tiles. As viewers move, the pattern of light appears to move with them, revealing the underlying geometry of the work and creating a captivating effect that activates the street around the building at night, attracting visitors at all hours.

Atmospheric wave wall, 2020 - Willis Tower, Chicago – 2020 - Photo: Darris Lee Harris

'Atmospheric wave wall’, 2020 (photo: EQ Office)

It was a great pleasure for me to create a work of art specifically for Willis Tower and for Chicago. Inspired by the unpredictable weather that I witnessed stirring up the surface of Lake Michigan, 'Atmospheric wave wall‘' appears to change according to your position and to the time of day and year. What we see depends on our point of view: understanding this is an important step toward realizing that we can change reality. It is my hope that this subtle intervention can make a positive contribution to the building and to the local community by reflecting the complex activity all around us, the invisible interactions and minute fluctuations that make up our shared public space.

I’m excited to share that 'Atmospheric wave wall‘ at Willis Tower on the exterior Jackson Blvd. wall in Chicago has been unveiled today!

Image used on Blog post '1905' (from S3)

STUDIO BERLIN exhibition catalogue, 2020

We just received our copy of the catalogue for STUDIO BERLIN and are pleased to provide a peek. The exhibition location, Berghain – a world-renowned techno club – famously does not allow any photography once inside, so this publication gives rare glimpses into the space in the background of the artworks.

STUDIO BERLIN is a ‘snapshot survey’ of the art being made in Berlin that opened in September 2020, produced by the Boros Foundation in cooperation with Berghain. Responding to the upheaval caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, it is primarily designed to reflect current tendencies and changes in art and society and provide artists living in Berlin with a platform for their recent productions. STUDIO BERLIN presents the output of over 120 Berlin-based artists on all floors of the club. The show features German and international artists working in photography, sculpture, painting, video, sound, performance, and installation art. (Due to the Corona Ordinance, the exhibition is unfortunately closed until further notice.)

The accompanying catalog expands on the exhibition and presents installation shots of the works together with dedicated material produced by the contributing artists. In drawings, photographs, or sketches as well as statements, poems, and other fragmentary formats, they share their very personal perspectives on what it means to make art in this challenging time. With a preface by Klaus Lederer, Berlin Senator for Culture and Europe, and an introduction by Juliet Kothe and Karen and Christian Boros.

Olafur contributed his new artwork ‘Filling the explanatory gap between the conscious mind and the physical body’, 2020, to the exhibition. Other artists featured include Yael Bartana, Monica Bonvicini, AA Bronson, Tacita Dean, Simon Denny, Simon Fujiwara, Cyprien Gaillard, Isa Genzken, Anne Imhof, Sven Marquardt, Adrian Piper, Anna Uddenberg, Wolfgang Tillmans, and many more.

Image used on Blog post '1903' (from S3)

Photo: @JustinWu

Saturday was the 5th anniversary of the Paris Climate Agreement, and as UNDP Goodwill Ambassador for climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Olafur would like to share an important message from the UNDP: 2020 is a year many of us are ready to leave behind us. But it is in turbulent times like these when we think of those who are impacted by this pandemic the most. The combination of climate change and COVID-19 is increasing inequalities and placing half the world – 4 billion people – at even greater risk of falling and staying behind. As the intensifying climate crisis and the surging pandemic widen the divide between rich and poor, inaction is not an option. We need a total response to protect our planet and people. And we need it today. @UNDP #WorldIsInOurHands #HalfTheWorld

Image used on Blog post '1901' (from S3)

‘Caring Northern Light’ and ‘Lucky Stone’, two elements of Olafur’s artwork ‘WUNDERKAMMER’, 2020

‘The current pandemic has caused immeasurable suffering and disrupted so much of our everyday existence together. This is especially true for those of us who value and take part in cultural life. Because many of the important cultural sites that we take for granted are all closed – cinemas, theatres, concert houses, clubs, museums and stadiums – the only public spaces where we can move about safely together is outdoors, in the shared space of the city. It’s important to celebrate – even now – that public space belongs to all of us and that it is, in fact, very valuable.’ – Olafur @Dazed

The exhibition ‘Unreal City’ is on now through 5 January. It features 36 digital sculptures arranged as a walking tour along the River Thames, including Olafur Eliasson’s artwork ‘WUNDERKAMMER’, 2020. The sculptures, created to be experienced in AR using Apple’s ARKit, are arranged across 24 sites between Waterloo Bridge and Millennium Bridge on the Southbank. Organized by Acute Art and Dazed Media, featuring works by Olafur Eliasson, Cao Fei, Alicja Kwade, Koo Jeong A, Marco Brambilla, Darren Bader, KAWS, Bjarne Melgaard, and Tomás Saraceno.

To view the exhibition, download the free Acute Art app on your device to get the map and view the artworks.

Image used on Blog post '1899' (from S3)

‘Earth Speakr’, 2020

What does a stone know? Or as Hugo Reinert put it in his essay ‘About a Stone: Some Notes on Geologic Conviviality’, ‘What kind of critter might a stone be? Does it have a life, or something like it? What modes of passionate immersion – or love, or intimacy – could a stone afford?’

Thinking along with more-than-human perspectives is essential to imagining possible futures, and kids are doing just that through Earth Speakr, an artwork started by Olafur and created with kids, for kids to express themselves by creating messages about the climate and their own future.

Earth Speakr is funded by the Federal Foreign Office on the occasion of the German Presidency of the Council of the European Union 2020 and realised in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut.

Your museum primer, 2014 - K20 Grabbeplatz, Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf, 2014 - Photo: Christian Uchtmann / Studio Olafur Eliasson

‘Your museum primer’, 2014

There have been multiple articles written recently about the future of museums and other cultural institutions in light of low visitor attendance, reduced revenue, and subsequent funding crises. To survive the current pandemic reality, we wonder, how will the museum reinvent itself? And who will do the reinventing? Will the main stewardship lie with the institutions themselves, or will it shift more towards the public?

A piece Olafur wrote about 17 years ago uncannily resonates with the situation today (notice his prescient use of ‘immune system’ and ‘virus’ metaphors):

‘As long as we have had art history, we have had the discussion about whether art should be referred to as a representational system (reflecting society like a mirror) or whether it is an integrated part of society itself. If we consider art as one of many cultural trajectories in a society, these questions are little different from asking if the weather is separable from the city. Of course the art institution is an integral part of the life of a city. Cultural institutions are among the many “immune systems” of a society’s self-reflection. When a “virus” such as the commodification of our senses attacks us, and the developing identity of the city’s life is challenged, the immune system is (or should be) active in restoring a plausible dialogue involving some sense of resistance. It is important to note here that I doubt whether art has any power to change things directly; I consider the field of artistic practice to be more like a giant laboratory, where research on multiple fields is constantly being conducted.’ – excerpt from Olafur’s text ‘Museums Are Radical’, from ‘The weather project’ catalogue, 2003

Olafur Eliasson and Andri Snær Magnason in conversation – Pt 2/2 : On hope

Part 2: Olafur and Andri Snær Magnason in conversation at the Berlin studio, talking about hope, contemporary mythos, and how to scale language to meet the enormity of climate change.

Magnason is author of the book ‘On Time and Water’ (2019), as well as the poetic eulogy ‘A Letter to the Future’ (2019), engraved on a plaque at the site of the dead Okjökull glacier in Iceland.

Olafur Eliasson and Andri Snær Magnason in conversation – Pt 1/2 : On time

Part 1: Olafur Eliasson and Andri Snær Magnason in conversation about making time tangible, timelessness versus embodied temporality, and the question ‘who is the keeper of time?’

Magnason is author of the book ‘On Time and Water’ (2019), as well as the poetic eulogy ‘A Letter to the Future’ (2019), engraved on a plaque at the site of the dead Okjökull glacier in Iceland.

Image used on Blog post '1893' (from S3)

A cellular landscape – the most detailed model of a human cell to date, obtained using x-ray, nuclear magnetic resonance, and cryoelectron microscopy datasets. Credit: Evan Ingersoll & Gael McGill – Digizyme’s Molecular Maya custom software

‘I think if we think of ourselves as being inhabited by organisms – or once free-living organisms [that are] now completely tethered organisms – that have their own needs, for food, for stimulation, for all sorts of sensory proclivities that I just mentioned, that we can find a continuity between living consciousness, awareness, and sensitivity, at a microscopic level and at a macroscopic level. I think that throughout biological history, fusion of different organismal types has been much underestimated as an evolutionary phenomenon, and we see this in social organization of people. We see a beehive or an ant hill as a phenomenon made of individuals but far beyond individuals and their capacity. E.O. Wilson describes Amazonian ants that stretch across many many trees and make structures with their bodies, that any of the ants by themselves could never survive, but as these massive communities, essentially cities of ants succeed in feeding and reproducing in ways that are unthinkable for the individuals. I think that that’s fundamentally the idea.’ – Lynn Margulis, Sputnik Observatory interview

How can this notion of a single organism having evolved from microscopic social organisation prompt us to reassess our fundamental assumptions about the individual? Where does the individual end and the community begin? And how can this questioning of the individual reshape not only how we see ourselves, but also how we see our place in our communities, in the more-than-human sphere, and as political agents? A beautifully detailed image of a single cell, comprised of countless, interdependent, thriving parts, seems like a good place to start.

Interpretive flare display of unthought thoughts, 2020

(Sound on!) ‘Interpretive flare display of unthought thoughts’, 2020 – a clip from the latest video by SHIMURAbros of Olafur’s work. Music by Mamoru.

Your uncertain shadow (colour), 2010 - The Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy, Vienna, 2015 - Photo: Anders Sune Berg

‘Your uncertain shadow (colour)’, 2010

‘It’s important to say what hope is not: it is not a belief that everything was, is, or will be fine. The evidence is all around us of tremendous suffering and tremendous destruction. The hope I’m interested in is about broad perspectives with specific possibilities, ones that invite or demand that we act. ... Hope locates itself in the premises that we don’t know what will happen and that in the spaciousness of uncertainty is room to act. When you recognize uncertainty, you recognize that you may be able to influence the outcomes – you alone or you in concert with a few dozen or several million others. Hope is an embrace of the unknown and the unknowable, an alternative to the certainty of both optimists and pessimists. Optimists think it will all be fine without our involvement; pessimists take the opposite position; both excuse themselves from acting.’ – Rebecca Solnit, ‘Hope in the Dark’, 2004/2016

Image used on Blog post '1887' (from S3)

Olafur Eliasson: Near future living light is on view until 24 October at neugerriemschneider, Berlin.

Image used on Blog post '1887' (from S3)
Image used on Blog post '1887' (from S3)
Image used on Blog post '1887' (from S3)
Image used on Blog post '1887' (from S3)

'If we focus on a simple shape as it shifts, pulsates, grows, and shrinks in a darkened space, it becomes surprisingly easy to deceive our perceptual apparatuses, to upend what we know to be true, and to fool ourselves into asking: is the shape, in fact, simply growing bigger or smaller on a flat surface or is it moving closer to us and further away in space. The quiet atmosphere of Near future living light is defined by emergence and slow transformation. A spotlight, a black box, and a wall collaborate to form a space defined by abstraction that invites us to exercise our imagination in confronting how we normally see and navigate the world.’ – Olafur

‘Sustainability research lab’, 2020, now on view at Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, until 27 September.

‘Sustainability research lab’, 2020, now on view at Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, until 27 September.
Video by SHIMURAbros, music by mamoru
Visit Sometimes the river is the bridge

#weusedto WEUSED.TO

WeUsed.To was conceptualised by Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin in collaboration with Andreas Roepstorff and a group of researchers at the Interacting Minds Centre at Aarhus University, along with Alan Woo and Daniel Massey. It is part of the ongoing research collaboration ‘Experimenting, Experiencing, Reflecting’ (EER), funded by Carlsbergfondet.

Who is we?

The WeUsed.To platform carves out space for people to share their experiences of COVID-19. Perhaps through the wide spectrum of individual contributions we can find what thoughts, feelings, realisations, and insights we have in common. When writing a statement, users choose to frame their contribution using ‘I’ or ‘we’. An ‘I’ signals a clearly individual perspective, of course. A ‘we’, however, it more ambiguous. What perspective does that ‘we’ represent? Whom are we speaking for? ‘We’ can be an inclusive pronoun, acknowledging a broader community with shared concerns. And ‘we’ can be exclusive, sometimes inadvertently leaving out groups or elevating one ‘we’ at the expense of other ‘we’s. A particular use of ‘we’ is innocent to one user but will be exclusive and even unjust to others. As WeUsed.To has unfolded, ‘we’ the project initiators have witnessed this. And the complexity of ‘we’ has afforded in-depth conversations about how to deal with the term. Not only do COVID-19-related topics appear on the platform, but also concerns related to political events and race discussions. As authors of the site, we find it important to acknowledge the potential friction in ‘we’ statements while retaining the option for users to choose their perspective. The ‘I’/‘we’ choice is an invitation to actively become aware of and reflect on the communities we participate in, their scope, and their co-existence and/or overlap with other communities – or lack of the very same. It is an invitation to reflect on who speaks and for whom, and on what these speech acts do in the world. Visit WeUsed.To

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