Abstract: Olafur Eliasson


Olafur Eliasson

“Art is the world’s ability to investigate and have an intimate relationship with itself.”

-Olafur Eliasson

In season two, episode one of the Netflix series Abstract: The Art of Design, we are introduced to Olafur Eliasson. After giving up all he had to move from his home in Denmark, Olafur moved to Germany to pursue his passion, art. Eliasson decided, “If I’m going to somehow say something, I’m gonna be myself.” He didn’t want to follow the traditional narrative that art was difficult to understand and needed to be explained to people by a museum or an expert; he wanted to make the viewer feel capable of co-producing the narrative of the work.The idea of collaboration is seen in all of Eliasson’s work; working with people from various fields to inspire and execute his works. Olafur does not think of art as rational; he wants it to be interactive. He takes the reality that each person’s truth is their own and plays with it. For example, in 1993, Elison made a rainbow in an otherwise empty space between two walls, intrigued by the idea that the rainbow only existed because the person was looking at it; the angle created by one’s eye would also make that rainbow unique to them. This rainbow installation is part of a large portion of Eliasson’s work which is inspired by nature. To Eliasson, nature is a relatable language, one we all speak. In one of his most moving works, his team installed pieces of glacial ice from a melting glacier in Greenland and placed them in the street in prominent locations worldwide, including outside of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris. This work allowed people not only to interact with glacial ice in the middle of a metropolitan city but to watch it melt; a statement about the climate which to Eliasson required no explanation.

When you look at a work of art it is as if it is looking at you. You are the one who is being listened to.”-Olafur Eliasson

The Why

How is an idea made? And why is it worth making? While those working with him in his studio are concerned with how they will execute a project, Eliasson is thinking about why. He thinks about the space before an idea; where did it come from? He thinks about the space when you have an idea but cannot verbalize it. And he thinks about the space after an idea; why should this work be made? This examination seems an excellent recipe for passion. Follow those ideas with a “why” that inspires you, and do it with confidence because if that “why” inspired you, it is sure to inspire others.

“It’s incredibly important that we do not take our surroundings for granted.”

Olafur Eliasson

Contemporary Art

The way Eliasson speaks about art makes one reflect on its importance and on the reality that art is important because people are looking at it. A work of art sitting alone in a museum with no spectators is simply an object in space until it is seen by someone. When we think of art as Eliasson describes, art becomes a team sport between the work and those interacting with it; both crucial to the experience.  Eliasson encourages us to appreciate our surroundings and how they make us feel, how we interact with our space. He asks us to reflect on how different qualities of light change us and to understand that our realities are relative. Watching this episode makes one consider not only their surroundings but the power of ideas and how much they can grow. Which of your ideas would you love to see grow? How can you achieve this? Take inspiration from Eliasson and collaborate with others to make your dreams into reality.

with love,

Danielle Barich

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