'To track the sun is to track yourself, because the sun tracker locates the centre of your orbital ellipse, giving your position right now and rendering visible your path. The reflexive potential lies in understanding that we are not the centre of the universe, but are in a way the mirrors, circulating, tracking, spinning in concert with others.' - Olafur Eliasson on 'Your circadian embrace', 2023; previously installed at 'Lighten Up! On Biology and Time' in EPFL Pavilions, Lausanne (photo: Julien Gremaud).
Olafur developed the visual concept for the contemporary ballet 'Tree of Codes', 2015, choreographed by Studio Wayne McGregor and with music composed by Jamie xx.
The stage design uses intricate sets of reflective, transparent, and refractive surfaces and coloured light to create a dynamic, ever-evolving, and complexly layered space in which the dancers are multiplied and overlap. Lights panning over the audience cause its spectral image to appear on the stage's reflective, coloured scrims, integrating the viewers with the activity on the stage. Triggered by Jonathan Safran Foer’s 'Tree of Codes' (an artwork in the form of a book, which was in turn inspired by Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz), this new, evening-length work features a company of soloists from the Paris Opera Ballet and dancers from Wayne McGregor Random Dance (Photo: Joel Chester Fildes; Opera House, Manchester, 2015).
'Your hesitant kaleidorama' is the second kaleidorama in the exhibition ‘Olafur Eliasson: Orizzonti tremanti / Trembling horizons’, Castello di Rivoli' that focuses exclusively on the optical phenomenon of light flares in lens systems. The structure, attached to the wall along one mirrored side, is tilted downward toward viewers, who face the curved screen straight on. Reflected by the two abutting mirror panels, the optically enlarged mirrored space seems to expand down and away from the viewer in three dimensions. On the wall behind the screen, a wooden box with a slowly rotating arrangement of lenses and colour-effect filters refocuses a spotlight beam onto the rear of the screen. Coronas and tinted ellipses of light — usually considered as optical aberrations in photography or film — here instead become the focus in a complex, ever-changing display of shapes and shadows (video: SHIMURAbros / music: Olafur Eliasson and Petur Hallgrimsson).
Excerpt of @SHIMURABros' film ‘Rainbow assembly’, 2016, from Olafur’s solo exhibition ‘The parliament of possibilities’, 2016–17, at Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art, Seoul. Within a darkened space, multiple spotlights illuminate a circular curtain of fine mist. From certain perspectives, a shimmering rainbow can be seen in the falling water; it shifts in intensity or disappears as the viewer approaches or moves away.
'Your sound galaxy', 2012, suspends a group of twenty-seven polyhedrons from the ceiling in two horizontally concentric circles. Each polyhedron is made of a stainless steel frame clad in mirrored glass that has been turned inward so that the blue-grey backs of the mirrors act as the faces of the solid. A single halogen light mounted inside each polyhedron is multiplied by the reflective interior into a twinkling glow that escapes through the gaps in the frames. Previously shown at Red Brick Art Museum, Beijing 2018 (video: SHIMURAbros / music: afewnote).
It’s been five years since the completion of Fjordenhus, the first building designed by Olafur Eliasson and Sebastian Behmann for Kirk Kapital. Rising out of the water, Fjordenhus was created to forge a new connection between Vejle Fjord and the city centre of Vejle. The fjord flows directly through the building inviting in the elements – the wind, water, harbour, land, and the changing weather. The building brings together years of research in diverse fields into one project – urban space, light conditions, nature, physical movement, and how we use our senses. Fjordenhus melds artistic and architectural vision, incorporating site-specific artworks by Eliasson with specially designed furniture and lighting.
In 2005, Olafur’s exhibition 'The light setup’ at Lund Konsthall showcased various experiments employing ingenious technical solutions, turning the exhibition space into something reminiscent of a laboratory or artist's studio where visitors can not only study the techniques involved but even experiment themselves. Presenting the constructions as an important aspect of the works is a way of deliberately demystifying the phenomena that the visitor encounters and helps to break down their seemingly sensational aspects. Olafur thus invites visitors to be aware of their own vision and to take an active part in creating and experiencing the works. We become partners in creating the images that are generated.
Image: Installation view of 'The light setup’ at Lunds Konsthall, Sweden, in 2005 (photo: Terje Östling).
Four layers of progressively more complex polyhedrons form the framework structure of 'Weather orb'. The core is an icosahedron, a Platonic solid with twenty triangular faces, and the framework expands exponentially from one layer to the next, ending in the outermost layer composed of octagons, hexagons, squares, and decagons. Many of the polyhedrons’ faces are filled by either polarised filters or special plastic panes that interact to produce a range of tones. The combination of materials and the various angles and shapes of the faces create a complex interplay of light, colour, and shades of grey. Viewers’ movement around the work changes the alignment of the various panes, causing new colours and tones to emerge and vanish within the form.
Images: ‘Weather orb’, 2020; previously installed at Kunsthaus Zürich in 2020 (photo: Franca Candrian).
Olafur Eliasson has long been inspired by the inherent visual confusion of the ellipse, which, depending on the context, can produce an illusion of a circular disc viewed in perspective. Here, the ellipses shift simultaneously upon their axes, creating the sense that the disc is rotating and tumbling at the same time.
Image: 'Today leaning into tomorrow, yesterday leaning into today', 2023 (photo: Jens Ziehe).
Video: Olafur in ‘The living lighthouse’, 2023; currently on show as part of Olafur’s solo exhibition 'The curious desert‘, near the Al Thakhira Mangrove Nature Preserve and Qatar Museums - the National Museum of Qatar, Doha.
The colourful shadows move along the walls, overlap, and give rise to secondary and tertiary hues. Visitors’ silhouettes dance among the waves of light and colour, causing new shades and forms to cascade about the room. The disorienting curtain of moving light incorporates the walls and surrounding space into the artwork, transforming the exhibition gallery from a container for art into an object of attention in itself.
Image: ‘The living lighthouse’, 2023; currently on show as part of Olafur’s solo exhibition 'Olafur Eliasson: The curious desert’, near the Al Thakhira Mangrove Nature Preserve and Qatar Museums - the National Museum of Qatar, Doha, until 15 August 2023 (photo: Anders Sune Berg).
Inside the National Museum of Qatar, an extensive presentation of works from throughout Olafur’s career invites viewers to situate themselves anew in relation to expansive light installations, photo series from Iceland, complex geometric studies, watercolours, optical devices, and a sprawling research map.
Image: 'Algae window', 2020; Currently showing as part of 'Olafur Eliasson: The curious desert'; Open from today, until 15 August 2023; Near the Al Thakhira Mangrove Nature Preserve and Qatar Museums - the National Museum of Qatar, Doha (photo: Anders Sune Berg).
'It is an extraordinary opportunity to create artworks for the sabkha near Al Thakhira Mangrove Reserve. The sun, the wind, the nearby lagoon saltwater – they all help co-produce the artworks that visitors will encounter here. I hope the artworks in turn may sensitise people to the singular landscape and to the more-than-human agencies at work. The other half of my exhibition, at the National Museum of Qatar, is an assembly of embodied thoughts and actions from over 25 years of working as an artist. These two naturalcultural sites enrich each other – together they make up "The curious desert."' - Olafur on his solo exhibition, 'The curious desert'. Open from today, until 15 August 2023; Near the Al Thakhira Mangrove Nature Preserve and Qatar Museums - the National Museum of Qatar, Doha (photo: Ali Faisal Al Anssari).
Today, the film ‘Olafur Eliasson, Shadows travelling on the sea of the day’ airs at The Fire Station in Doha, and can be watched in full over on the SOE tv channel.
Following the creation of Olafur's installation commissioned for the desert near the Ain Mohammed heritage site in Northern Qatar, ‘Olafur Eliasson, Shadows travelling on the sea of the day’ captures Olafur's longstanding exploration of the interplay between human perception and the natural world, with conversations between Her Excellency Sheikha Al-Mayassa and key members of Studio Olafur Eliasson.
In the words of the artist: 'Shadows travelling on the sea of the day, 2022, is an invitation to resync with the planet. It is a celebration of everything being in and moving through the desert site north of Doha at the time of your visit – animals, plants, and human beings; stories, traditions, and cultural artefacts; wind, sunlight, air, and shimmering heat.'
The film is the first of a two-part series – the second will provide insight into the creation of Eliasson's upcoming solo exhibition 'The curious desert' at The National Museum of Qatar, opening on 19 March. Credit: 'Olafur Eliasson, Shadows travelling on the sea of the day’ is a Tigerlily Productions for Studio Olafur Eliasson and Qatar Museums.
'Your timekeeping window', 2022; Previously shown at Olafur’s ‘Nel tuo tempo’ at Palazzo Strozzi, Florence.
In this room of the palazzo, a new wall covering the historical windows is mounted with twenty-four glass spheres arranged in a circle. With the original glass panes masked, the light from outside—as well as the view beyond—is now visible only through the spheres, which act as a lens. Through the process of optical refraction, the scene rendered in each of the twenty-four spheres appears upside down, creating a compound image of the environment that lies just beyond the palazzo’s exterior (video: Thefactoryprd).
Fluorescent lights in red, green and blue are set above the exhibition hall. By placing them next to one another, the colours blend together throughout the hall. The changing-colour effect is heightened by the addition of fog, which enhances the colours of the lights overhead.
Images: 'Your blind movement', 2010. Previously installed in Martin-Gropius-Bau, Berlin in 2010 (photos: Jens Ziehe).
A monofrequency bulb is mounted at the center of a mirror-polished bowl, which emits a bright light. In front of the bulb, two dichromatic glass disks are installed, which change colour according to the viewer’s position and movement. Visitors and surroundings alike are reflected in the glass disks, which also creates a gentle moiré effect.
Round, monochromatic, illuminated boxes are attached at the level of the windows on the trains in a subway tunnel. Depending upon the speed of the trains, the different heights and colours of the lights create the impression of a coloured sine wave, which contains all the colours of the spectrum.
Image: ‘I only see when I move’, 2001. Previously installed in St. Louis, Missouri in 2001 (photo: Jennifer Dorsey).
'The glacierhouse effect versus the greenhouse effect’, 2005 is constructed of steel tubes that form a spiral structure. When temperatures drop below freezing, typically during winter nights, water is sprinkled at intervals from the oculus at the top of the pavilion. The water freezes as it runs down the latticework frame, tracing the contours of the spiralling surface and coating the metal tubes with ice. During the daytime, when temperatures often climb above freezing, the ice begins to melt, dripping down the turret before freezing again into new formations at night. In the work’s desert environment, there is very little rain. To cover the pavilion with ice in the winter months, a complex system was established to collect water from various roofs and lead it to an underground container, where it remains until temperatures drop below freezing again (photos: Andrew Gellatly).
The Frick Collection presents an installation inspired by the institution’s acclaimed ‘Diptych publication series’. In conjunction with a Diptych focused on Claude Monet’s ‘Vétheuil in Winter’, the Frick is installing an artwork created for the occasion by Olafur alongside the Monet painting, one of the museum’s few Impressionist works.
Image: Left, Claude Monet’s ‘Vétheuil in Winter’, 1878−79 and ‘Colour experiment no. 109’, 2020 (photo: Joseph Coscia Jr)
Upon entering the courtyard of the palazzo, visitors encounter a large elliptical screen hanging above them. The screen, which appears to flicker and change as visitors move around the courtyard, presents a moiré pattern. This effect occurs wherever two or more similar patterns are overlaid and clash. It is familiar as an artifact in print and on screen, and, in the physical world, in meshes, fences, and facades. As visitors move about, the pattern appears to change with their shifting perspectives, encouraging them to move around even more.