Olafur Eliasson – In Real Life

On my search to do something inspiring on New Years Day, because I really wanted to start this year doing something inspiring, I stumbled across an exhibition at the Tate modern, which was closing on the 5th January (sorry to anyone reading this who wanted to experience it).  It was an artist I hadn’t experienced before, but I was immediately struck by his work.  With that I had made my decision to visit on New Years Day, and see if his installations were as inspiring as the pictures looked.

This might seem ambitious for something to do on New Years Day, after a night of gin drinking and singing odd songs that make no sense (Auld Lang Syne…seriously read the lyrics), but over the last few years I have realised that I want to see as much of things as I can, and lounging around in bed with a hangover will not get me there.

Olafur Eliasson, was born in 1967 and is a Danish-Icelandic artist known for sculptures and large-scale installation art employing elemental materials such as light, water, and air temperature to enhance the viewer’s experience. In 1995 he established Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin, a laboratory for spatial research.

In this article I will be using mostly my own photography, but there will be a video of some of his work as well which I found on Youtube.

The exhibition was a collection of work that Eliasson has developed over the years, and it ranged from interactive art to photography, personally I was more taken with the interactive elements.  The start of the exhibit starts in the hallway of the exhibition.  Rows of tube lights are hung which throw out a hazy yellow light, altering the colours of everything else that you look at, for me this felt quite oppressive, but others commented on how it felt like sunset (it doesn’t really help when I don’t like the colour yellow).


The way that Eliasson has used the space is similar to his 1998 installation called “A room for one colour” which had this set up and the lights changed the viewers perception of the other colours around them, much like a sunset can change the colour of the surrounding scenery.

Two large structures hung like lampshades are then positioned as you go into the exhibition space, and they cast shadows on the wall and reflect colours from material that has been woven into them.  They are like small planets dangling in the space.

As you walk into the space, you are met with a cacophony of structures which are behind perspex, it has references to natural structures such as DNA, shells, cells and molecules and the odd mirror dotted about so that you can see yourself within the jumble of different items.


Next was a room which had a wall of moss and a wave machine, as well as a convex ball in the wall which when looked through it alters the perspective of things on the other side.

I could go on and on about each room in this exhibition, but there was a lot to see, so I am going to talk about just three more things with a bit more detail, and urge you all to look out for an exhibition to go to.

Firstly is the room which contained the light which is the feature picture of this article.  Contained within this room are 3 installations, “Your Planetary Window”, “Your Spiral View” and another hanging sphere which throws out multicoloured lights, through coloured material.

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“Your Planetary Window” is made of 3 windows to the outside world, a triangular one, a diamond one and a round one, each are surrounded by mirrors, and the windows themselves are made of small pieces of glass that change the perspective and view of the outside world, therefore you can never see what is just outside, you are forced to see just little elements of what is surrounding the area.

“Your Spiral View” is a wavy mirrored tunnel that you step into and walk though, the light and reflections distort your surroundings, making this a cosmic tunnel of discovery.

Finally there is that amazing sphere, it is like a magical disco ball, the light pooling out around the room, presenting a magnitude of colours, it is like being inside a rainbow.

The next area that I was struck by was called “Your Blind Passenger”.  This is a 39 metre long corridor that has been filled with synthetic fog.  As you enter the fog is thick and disorientating as you can only see around 1.5 metres ahead of you, I honestly didn’t think that the corridor was as narrow as it was until I head butted the wall.  As you walk through the space, different colour lights are shone through the fog, the most disturbing for me was the yellow, making it almost feel post apocalyptic.  The room is oppressive and claustrophobic, and while I couldn’t wait to exit this room, it was also the one that sticks with me the most.  Art doesn’t always have to be something you like for it to make a real impact on you.

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The last, which was seriously impressive was “The Big Bang Fountain”.  This is a pitch black room, which has a running fountain in the middle of it, every few seconds a strobe light flashes once over the fountain, seemingly freezing the water into a tableau.  This is mesmerising and beautiful.  As I was unable to take photos of this (understandably as it would ruin the darkness for anyone else in the room) here is a video of how amazing this installation is.

This exhibition was vast and encompassed so many different elements, but all hark back to how we interact with our surroundings and the difference in perspective.

As I was getting ready to write this article, I was idly flicking through netflix and found a documentary about Eliasson (Abstract- the art of Design season 2 – it is the first episode), and this has Eliasson talking about his art and how the natural world influences his work.  The most inspiring thing I hear him talk about was the colour of the sky.  We have all heard the adage that we all live under the same sky, and that brings an assumption that when we look up we all see sort of the same thing… the same colour blue, the same types of clouds etc.  What he then did was show himself in different places and the difference in colour of the sky.  From Norway, to America the skies all have a different hue and atmosphere based on pollution,  environmental changes and weather, this really made me think about how what I see and perceive is not what the person next to me sees.

If you want to see more of this amazing artists work you can find his website here.

Here are a few more photos of this exhibit:-

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Have you seen any of Eliasson’s work?  Why not tell me what you think in the comments?  Like this post?  Why not share it?


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