Olafur Eliasson: "Sometimes the river is the bridge"
The merit of an artist lies in his ability to stimulate curiosity and make people think, not only in the success with the public and the critics. This thing happened to me a few weeks ago, when I visited an inspiring exhibition at the MOT - Museum of Contemporary Art. This event offered me the occasion to better understand the research of one of the most exciting artists of our age. The long queue I found at the Museum – as well as the broad coverage of the exhibition on the local media - is the clear proof of the artist's ability to involve and stimulate the masses through its artworks.
"Viral" is an unpleasant word in this age of pandemic. However, it is the most powerful word to describe the works of Eliasson. During my two hours at the exhibition, I heard thousands of camera's clicks around me. Each of the artworks was conceived as a photogenic subject - well-arranged and strategically positioned - waiting for the camera lenses to focus on it.
Inaugurated in March 1995, and designed by architect Takahiko Yanagisawa, the MOT museum locates in Kiba Park, in Koto-Ku district. Here, exhibitions related to contemporary art are organized, such as painting, sculpture, fashion, architecture and design. The Museum hosts a permanent collection on contemporary art and hosts large-scale international exhibitions. Besides, the Museum has a library with art publications and promote a wide range of art events and workshops.
"Sometimes the river is the bridge is about a fundamental shift in perspective that allows us to see that which is not obvious, the invisible", states the artist Olafur Eliasson. "In the face of the collapse of our planetary boundaries, there is an urgent need to redesign the systems in which we live, to re-engineer the future. For that to happen, we need to reconsider fundamentally how we see everything. Up until now, we have organized our present based on the past; we now need to shape our present according to what we want from the future. The potential of this perspective shift is that it can help us reconsider the traditional idea of progress."
Olafur Eliasson is a Danish artist, famous for his large-scale artistic projects. Over the years, the artist has developed an artistic practice embracing various fields, such as design, photography, architecture, installation, sculpture and drawing. In 1995, he founded Studio Olafur Eliasson - with the help of artisans, architects, art historians, and various other professionals, who assisted him in the realization of his works.
For his installations, he uses natural elements (water, light, fog) and various technical devices to transform the environments into something immersive, where people can feel part of the work itself. He is always looking for a way to make the climate issue tangible. His art concerns not only the scientific aspect of natural elements on the environment but also the influence that these elements have on the people themselves.
Elegant and straightforward, Eliasson's works try to refine what may be our way of relating to the environment that surrounds us. For the work Green River (1998-2001), Eliasson poured a bright green dye into the rivers that flowed through downtown Los Angeles, Stockholm, Tokyo and other cities. The scope was to show the turbulence of downtown areas and make sure that the inhabitants did not forget the vitality of these places. In 2003 for "The weather project", he installed a giant artificial sun inside the Turbine Hall of the Tate Modern in London to evoke the weather changes. "It is not just about decorating the world… but about taking responsibility," stated Eliasson in a TED Talk. The exhibition "Sometimes the river is the bridge", which took place in Tokyo from June 9th until September 27th - showcased impressive installations that demonstrated his ability to manage light and geometry incorporating them with natural phenomena. Here you will find the description of selected artworks, those that mainly impressed and inspired me.
Beauty (1993). In this work, a rainbow emerges in a darkened room. By capturing the power of nature, Eliasson makes the rainbow an integral part of the environment, allowing visitors to interact with something that we can usually only see from afar and never touch.
The exploration of the center of the sun (2017). It is an asymmetrical polyhedron, with highly reflective glass plates, which hangs from the ceiling. Illuminating the work itself and the room, the polyhedron project colours on the walls and stimulate the viewer to move around it to examine it from various angles. A solar panel provides the light that powers the LEDs positioned on a slowly rotating structure, suspended within the core of the work. The effect of light and colours transforms the entire environment into a galaxy with a variety of colours.
Beyond-human resonator (2019). Exhibited in a semi-dark room, the installation consists of the arrangement of a large bevelled glass ring, a glass plate filtering the colour effect and an LED lamp supported by a steel rod. In this way, the glass reflects and dissolves the LED light creating a coloured light painting on the wall.
Who is afraid (2004). Based on the Color theory, the work is made up of three glass discs, coated with a material that reflects the light of one colour by letting the light of the opposite colour pass through. The continuous movement of the discs generates colours on the wall (cyan, magenta and yellow) and their superimposition generates the tones of red, green and blue.
Slow-motion shadow in color (2009). Upon entering the room, the visitor sees his shadow projected on a wall as a series of five different silhouettes. This thing happens thanks to five colored spotlights positioned towards a white border. Arranged in line, they combine to illuminate the wall with a brilliant white light. When the visitor enters the space, passing in front of the projector, he blocks any colored light from various angles, thus creating the shapes of multiple colors.
Sometimes the river is the bridge (2020). A recent work by the artist, consists of the arrangement, in a completely darkened environment, of a shallow pool with a small motor that creates small waves on the surface of the water. Projected onto a screen positioned above the pool, it creates a dynamic play of water, movement and light. Its elegant minimalism, and the ability to creating amazement with the natural elements, makes this work the most "Japanese" of Eliasson's production.