Olafur Eliasson Big Bang Fountain

At Tate Modern an exhibition that will make you meditate on real life


During the opening of “In Real Life”, the monographic exhibition Tate Modern dedicates to Olafur Eliasson on the occasion of his thirtieth year of activity, the artist showed up wearing an elegant jacket and a solar-powered flashlight – which he has patented himself – around his neck. Not far away, there is Waterfall, an eleven-metre-long cascade of real water that flows out of visible pipes and scaffoldings. Interestingly, this waterfall seems to encapsulate the metaphors of what can be seen, or rather perceived, in the halls and rooms of the museum, which, already in 2003, housed The Weather Project, which consisted of a space that was lit by an artificial sun that was made of 200 single-frequency light bulbs. Now as then, thanks to the language of light and by means of certain artifices that can alter the way in which we perceive reality, the William Turner of Installation Art has been encouraging us to deeply meditate on the way we perceive the world and, above all, on the need for an environmentally sustainable evolution of our civilization. Eliasson’s art is therefore in line with contemporary relational languages, so much so that the artist himself calls it “open and inclusive, not closed and exclusive”. Inside the museum rooms, you can step through a 40-metre-long yellow fog tunnel (Your Blind Passenger) and then through a mirror-covered corridor (Your Spiral View). Going on, a wall that has been covered with scented lichens (Moss Wall) suddenly reminds you of your sense of smell.


There emerges a call for an environmentally sustainable evolution of our tired civilization


A monographic survey exhibition gathering 37 projects that have been developed over 30 years


All this appears to you as an unreal world, until, instantly, an uncertain shadow appears  (Your Uncertain Shadow Colour), making you feel the precariousness of this reality. Eliasson’s evocative and artificial sensorial stimulations actually encourage the observer to existential thinking, in particular about climate change. Ice Watch, an ice clock that was made of blocks of ice that had detached from a fjord in Greenland due to global warming, was placed in front of Tate Modern façade last December as a prelude to the present show. Now, the exhibition features The Presence of Absence Pavilion, a bronze sculpture that represents the emptiness created by ice melting. Eliasson’s concern with climate change led to some projects on sustainable energy; for example, in 2012 he conceived a social project, Little Sun, consisting in a solar powered flashlight that looks like a yellow daisy. At the 2017 Venice Biennale, Eliasson put on the Green Light Workshop, a social project during which migrants and refugees were encouraged to participate in a workshop on the creation of recyclable modular green lights. Tate Modern gathers 37 projects that retrace Eliasson’s thirty-year-long career and urge humanity to search for a beauty of both form and contents, just like his Beauty, a machine that creates indoor rainbows. Thank you, Olafur: for the peace message of your rainbows.


Olafur Eliasson
In real life
Tate Modern
Curated by
Mark Godfrey
Emma Lewis
Until 05/01/2020

Michele Ciolino


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