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Olafur Eliasson stands in front of multi coloured wall projections

Olafur Eliasson, the Creative Genius Who Dares Be Concerned with His Environment


This brilliant Scandinavian not only has one of the most plausible bodies of work of the contemporary art scene, but he also exercises a delightful social responsibility.

From the moment he tamed the sun to place it indoors, this artist gained a definitive space in the collective memory. In 2003 the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern housed a replica of the sun thanks to Olafur Eliasson’s The Weather Project.

But if we were to encompass the work of this creator, born in Copenhagen from Icelandic parents, we could say that his work is oriented toward generating cracks, beautiful cracks, not only in the perceptive structure of the audience but also in the space which contains them and even, maybe, in reality itself.

Regarding his philosophy, Eliasson expresses his eagerness to have an impact on a “non-artistic” reality. A quality that responds to a somewhat nineteenth-century notion –– and therefore is perhaps even more significant –– that emphasizes the capacity (and almost the obligation) of art to improve its surroundings.

“The art world underestimates its own relevance when it insists on always staying inside the art world. Maybe one can take some of the tools, methodologies, and see if one can apply them to something outside the art world”, he states in an interview for the New York Times.

But besides expressing this social commitment in his work, which stands out for its sophistication and tendency to sensorial stimulation, Eliasson also achieves it in his personal life. Together with his wife, historian Krogh Jansen, for instance, he founded 121Ethiopia, an organization that helps improve the quality of life of Ethiopian children, and which was set to work after they adopted their two children in said country. He also created Little Sun, a small LED solar lamp of which 200,000 have been distributed in regions of Africa that have no access to electric light.

Olafur Eliasson exhibit

British author Ned Beauman tells about the way in which Eliasson’s study operates. It is a sort of commune in which close to 90 people eat vegetarian dishes together and take turns to wash the dishes. It is even rumored that one can tell how long someone has been working there by how healthy they seem (the healthiest being, of course, the oldest members).

Olafur Eliasson exhibit with light


There is so much to say about Eliasson’s talent and a his brilliant works –– such as him dyeing a river electric green (Green River), designing luminous alternatives for his next kinetic installation, building the Serpentine Gallery’s pavilion, exploring the chromatic power in J. W. Turner, or participating in Tree of Codes, the audiovisual ritual that is currently being held in diverse venues around the world –– His work is altogether overwhelming and, it must be said, excels. And yet it seems worth stressing his integrity to transcend customs like glamour, sophistication or recognition in order to arrive at a place that very few creators reach nowadays: the search for a healthy universe, in the widest sense of the phrase, and shared by everyone.

Tree of Codes will be showing from November 25 to December 3, 2016, at Faena Forum.


Image credits:

1. Olafur Eliasson by Stephanie Berger

2. At Olafur Eliasson’s studio

3. Tree of Codes at the Opera House, Manchester

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