TitleOlafur Eliasson: Life
Duration01 April 2021 to 31 July 2021
Telephone+41 61 645 97 00
|Title||Olafur Eliasson: Life||Duration||01 April 2021 to 31 July 2021||Venue||Fondation Beyeler|
|Telephone||+41 61 645 97 00|
In his seminal 2003 site-installation "The Weather Project", Olafur Eliasson conjured the sublime beauty of nature by creating the illusion of the sun setting inside Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. For his latest work, "Life" at the Fondation Beyeler in Riehen, Switzerland, the Berlin-based Danish-Icelandic artist goes one step further by turning the museum’s interior into an actual natural landscape. While The Weather Project blurred the line between indoors and outdoors with an elaborate set-up of projections, mirrors and artificial mist, Life literally erases it by removing sections of the building’s glass façade and flooding the interior with water to connect it with the adjacent water lily pond. Dyed green and filled with water plants in collaboration with landscape architect Günther Vogt, the inundated galleries, which visitors navigate through a network of walkways, present a multisensory, collective experience that challenges our conventions of art, nature and cultural institutions, as well as life itself.
Inspired by his interest in efforts to consider life not from a human-centric but from a bio-centric perspective, Eliasson’s installation conveys more than anything an awareness that “our lives are inextricably entangled with our surroundings and with structures and systems that extend far beyond our local context”, which highlights the often-ignored or forgotten truth that “we are all vulnerable and not fully in control” as he explains. By giving the impression that nature has taken over the institution, Life encourages visitors to expand their perception of nature and reassess their relationship with it, as well as envision a future of peaceful coexistence.
Infused with uranine (a nontoxic bright green dye used to study water flow) in order to make the presence of water more explicit, the flooded galleries take visitors by surprise, more so since in lieu of paintings and sculptures, a variety of dwarf water lilies, shellflowers, water ferns and other water plants are on display. Constituting an ever-shifting canvas of textures, colours and shapes, the floating flora packs quite the visual punch, especially during at night when UV lighting produces a phosphorescent phantasmagoria – visitors are free to explore the exhibition day or night as there are no opening or closing hours.
However, what makes the installation so potent is its unnatural naturalness, a sense of displacement and wonder mixed with familiarity and reverie, as well as its sensory richness. “Through the smells of the plants and water, the sounds of the surroundings, the moisture in the air, visitors are always invited to use more than vision alone to explore the artwork”, the artist says. Combined with the occasional butterfly, bird or even bat that ventures into the open galleries, Life’s unruly ecological blueprint cedes control to both humans and non-humans like plants, animals, microorganism, and the weather – “elements that museums usually work very hard to keep out” as Eliasson points out – welcoming everyone and everything inside both as a gesture of environmental awareness and as a statement of nature and culture’s inseparable connection.