Yuko Hasegawa


Olafur Eliasson

Sometimes the river is the bridge

Venue : Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT)



Organization : Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo operated by Tokyo Metropolitan Foundation for History and Culture / The Sankei Shimbun

Artists :
Olafur Eliasson

Since 1995, Olafur Eliasson has given a palpable shape to meteorological phenomena such as fog, mist, and rain, as well as substances and occurrences with an indeterminate form that are elusive and hard to grasp, such as water, ice, and light, turning these things into works of art. During the late 1990s, when Eliasson launched his artistic career, many artists including Pierre Huyghe, Liam “For me, the sensation of harmony is rather one of uncertainty.”
(Olafur Eliasson)

Gillick, and Pipilotti Rist were appropriating themes and artistic media from everyday life and pop culture at all once, in an effort to foster new forms of communication with their audiences. By appropriating everyday experience or treating it as a kind of readymade, these artists attempted to present the realm of this experience as a new environment or reality.

How do we relate to the spaces, objects, and information (images, texts) that surround us? Thanks to sensors equipped with a new sensibility and a cognition attuned to these environments, a kind of “intra-action” (Karen Barad) that evokes in us not only a mutual, reciprocal function between inside and outside, but also an introspective function within ourselves, has already emerged from these artists. What unites them is a spirit of inquiry and an attitude that is cross-disciplinary and cross-medium. Faced with the artistic movements represented by these artists, it was Eliasson who appropriated the natural environment and its constituent elements and turned them into readymades. Eliasson, a Danish artist of Icelandic origin, cultivated an intimate relationship to the sprawling nature of Iceland from a young age. To him, the domain of art is a free, tolerant contingency that incorporates a wide variety of elements within it, fostering interactions and encouraging chemical reactions between them. And in order to experiment with these possibilities, Eliasson deploys a wide range of media and approaches ranging from architecture, product and environmental design, film and video, and performance. The scope of his interests extends to fields of academic research related to scientific fields like geology, geophysics, optics, biology, and perceptual psychology, as well as philosophy. His studio, Studio Olafur Eliasson, lies at the center of these activities, encompassing a staff of more than 150 technicians, researchers, architects, and other experts.

It seems imperative to verify what exactly is meant here by the term “natural environment.” The “great acceleration” is said to have started in the 1950s. With rapid industrialization and development, humans have become excessively involved in nature, thereby altering it: as a result, the binary opposition between human society and nature is no longer valid. The notion of the anthropocene, which explains this shift and can be traced back to geology, is now being debated in all sorts of fields, from the political and economic to the cultural. It was in the 2000s that Eliasson began intentionally steering his practice towards the objective of sustainability, in response to dramatic shifts in the natural environment. When the media asked him what art could do in the face of environmental change, he always gave the same answer. Art offers no solutions: it can only encourage awareness in people, or to make them believe in the significance of their own small, individual actions (directed at solving the problem).

The art of the 1990s sought to build and make adjustments to connections between individual human experiences, memories, and bodies, and encourage critical self-reflection in response to the increasing informatization and diversification of the environment. In contrast, the period since the year 2000, when political and social crises came to a head under global capitalism, has seen a shift towards a search for spiritual and physical survival and sustainability in the face of major conflicts and ruptures. What is demanded of us is not a process of modulation, but a total resetting, or viable alternatives. Eliasson is one of the artists who has responded to this situation in the most astute, intellectual, and practical fashion, as the proposition itself has shifted.

"Olafur Eliasson, the artist who listens to the future: art as the practice of ecology" Yuko Hasegawa (Excerpt from the catalog text)