We are happy to announce ‘Your ocular relief’, Olafur Eliasson’s eleventh solo exhibition with Tanya Bonakdar Gallery in New York, on view from 9 March through 24 April 2021.

Since the early 1990s, Olafur Eliasson’s practice has concentrated around the investigation of perception, often using natural phenomena to heighten our understanding of each other and our surroundings. ‘Your ocular relief’ continues his long-standing investigation of the cognitive and cultural conditions of perception, seeking to offer an alternative to the current pressures that shape our existence.

‘I hope that “Your ocular relief” offers a moment to exhale. In this past year – at a time when it felt as if there were no release, no relaxation – I became convinced that we need a moment of relief, of beauty, of letting go, in order to conceive of a better tomorrow. Before you have hope, you have to have relief.’ – Olafur Eliasson

‘The glacier melt series 1999/2019’, 2019. Now on view as part of Olafur’s solo exhibition ‘In real life’ at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Photos: Erika Ede

In 1999, Olafur Eliasson photographed several dozen glaciers in Iceland as part of his on-going project to document the natural phenomena of the country; this particular series of photographs formed a work called ‘The glacier series’. Twenty years later, Eliasson decided to return to Iceland to photograph the glaciers again. A new work, ‘The glacier melt series 1999/2019’, brings together thirty pairs of images from 1999 and 2019 to reveal the dramatic impact that global warming is having on our world.

‘Your waste of time’, 2006. Several blocks of ice from Vatnajökull, the largest glacier in Iceland, were removed from the glacial lake Jökulsárlón, into which Vatnajökull flows. Part of the ice is thought to have been formed around 1200 CE. Weighing six tonnes in all, the blocks were transported to the Berlin gallery neugerriemschneider, where they were exhibited in a refrigerated space. Photo: Jens Ziehe

‘It is a challenge to verbalise time itself, even though, paradoxically, talking takes time. Describing time in conversation tends to take away the duration from it, as it is mostly described as an idea or concept. For me, the idea of time becomes especially abstract when we consider the history of our universe, the vast time of deep cosmology, the geological time in the history of the planet, the history of the atmosphere, the history of mountains. Vatnajökull, the glacier from which the blocks of ice in Your waste of time come, formed some 2,500 years ago; the oldest ice that still exists in it is from around 1200 CE. This span of time lies at the limits of comprehension.

‘But it is possible to stretch our frame of reference. When we touch these blocks of ice with our hands, we are not just struck by the chill; we are struck by the world itself. We take time from the glacier by touching it. In a sense, “Your waste of time” is a “waste of time” because I shipped the ice across the world for it to be on view for a short period of time, after which it melts away – a nanosecond in the life of the glacier. Then there’s another way in which time is wasted: we take away time from the glacier by touching it. Suddenly I make the glacier understood to me, its temporality. It is linked to the time the water took to become ice, a glacier. By touching it, I embody my knowledge by establishing physical contact. And suddenly we understand that we do actually have the capacity to understand the abstract with our senses. Touching time is touching abstraction.’

– Olafur Eliasson on his artwork ‘Your waste of time’

‘Stardust particle’, 2014 (photo: Jens Ziehe) – now on view as part of Eliasson’s solo exhibition ‘In real life’, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

‘Your uncertain shadow (colour)’, 2010. Courtesy of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary. Now on view as part of Eliasson’s solo exhibition ‘In real life’, at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao.

‘How do emotions work to secure collectives through the way in which they read the bodies of others? How do emotions work to align some subjects with some others and against other others? … emotions play a crucial role in the “surfacing” of individual and collective bodies. Such an argument challenges any assumption that emotions are a private matter, that they simply belong to individuals and that they come from within and then move outwards towards others. It suggests that emotions are not simply “within” or “without”, but that they define the contours of the multiple worlds that are inhabited by different subjects.’ – Sara Ahmed, ‘Collective Feelings. Or, The Impressions Left by Others’, 2004

‘Atmospheric wave wall’, 2020, permanent installation on the exterior of Willis Tower, Chicago (photo: Darris Lee Harris)

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 (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!

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.

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

‘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.
https://acuteart.com/

‘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

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

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.