16 September 2014

OLAFUR ELIASSON: RIVERBED

OLAFUR ELIASSON "RIVERBED" at Louisiana Museum in Denmark / courtesy Louisiana and the artist / © Olafur Eliasson / photo © artfridge & Anna-Lena Werner OLAFUR ELIASSON "RIVERBED" at Louisiana Museum in Denmark / courtesy Louisiana and the artist / © Olafur Eliasson / photo © artfridge & Anna-Lena Werner all images: Olafur Eliasson "Riverbed" at Louisiana Museum, Denmark (20.8.2014 - 4.1.2015) / Courtesy the artist and Louisiana Museum, © Olafur Eliasson / photos © artfridge.de

It feels like there is hardly a nature phenomenon left that the well-known Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has not approached or visualised yet. For his current outside-in installation "Riverbed" he turned the south-wing of Louisiana Museum in Humlebæk (Demark) into a wet and rocky landscape that embeds a small stream of water floating through three large rooms. The official purpose: a merging of art, architecture and an imitation of nature. But that agenda seems familiar and – let's be honest – has really been done before. The question is: Does the past devalue the work?

It is, for example, hard not to think of Walter De Maria's legendary installation "Earth Room" which he installed permanently at Heiner Friedrich Gallery in New York in 1977. Back in the 90s, Anne Raver visited the "Earth Room" for the New York Times and described its perception as suggesting a lack of "horizons at the edge of this field. Just blank white walls […] So you just stand there looking and breathing in the earthly air, which is a little more humid than it might be in a room without a field." (NY Times)

Where De Maria used dirt, Eliasson uses stones. Icelandic stones, to be precise. And one may sense a change of air and atmosphere inside the re-created stonescape of Louisiana, too. Is "Riverbed" thus an update of the "Earth Room"? People have often assigned a spiritual experience to De Maria's installation. But does spirituality have the same position in Eliasson's work? When closing the eyes, the sound of the other visitors' creaky movements takes the mind to a place that is far away from art and institutional white cubes. It is a meditative and reflective process that is stimulated by the manipulation of clean space. Visitors watch their own movements, trying to balance themselves through the path they choose to walk.

The most interesting part of "Riverbed", however, is neither its illusionary, nor its participative experience, but rather the disappointment (I would even call it frustration) caused by the discomfort of being surrounded by windowless walls that look nothing like a horizon. The white walls' blankness, which Anne Raver points out in her text, functions as a latent reality-check. Once the giant plastic tubs filled with stones approach these walls, a distinct gap reveals the construction underneath and thus the artificiality of the naturalistic landscape.

According to Elliason, "there is no romance involved" in "Riverbed". "Not a god, but people made this," he says. This is the distinction between his and past artists' agendas of bringing nature into an institutional context. The exhibition does not feature a spectacle of sublimity. It rather poses an open question to our individual relationship with nature, and how we want to experience it. Above all, the installation has a repelling effect: it triggers a longing for escaping the claustrophobic white cube and to step outside. To see a horizon, which, at least at the coast just in front of Louisiana Museum, is pretty romantic.


OLAFUR ELIASSON
RIVERBED
20.8.2014 - 4.1.2015

LOUISIANA
Gl. Strandvej 13
3050 HUMLEBÆK
Denmark
Opening Hours: TUE-FRI 11-22, SAT-SUN 11-18, MONDAY CLOSED

Artist's website: olafureliasson.net

  OLAFUR ELIASSON "RIVERBED" at Louisiana Museum in Denmark / courtesy Louisiana and the artist / © Olafur Eliasson / photo © artfridge & Anna-Lena WernerOLAFUR ELIASSON "RIVERBED" at Louisiana Museum in Denmark / courtesy Louisiana and the artist / © Olafur Eliasson / photo © artfridge & Anna-Lena Werner OLAFUR ELIASSON "RIVERBED" at Louisiana Museum in Denmark / courtesy Louisiana and the artist / © Olafur Eliasson / photo © artfridge & Anna-Lena Werner OLAFUR ELIASSON "RIVERBED" at Louisiana Museum in Denmark / courtesy Louisiana and the artist / © Olafur Eliasson / photo © artfridge & Anna-Lena Werner OLAFUR ELIASSON "RIVERBED" at Louisiana Museum in Denmark / courtesy Louisiana and the artist / © Olafur Eliasson / photo © artfridge & Anna-Lena Werner OLAFUR ELIASSON "RIVERBED" at Louisiana Museum in Denmark / courtesy Louisiana and the artist / © Olafur Eliasson / photo © artfridge & Anna-Lena Werner all images: Olafur Eliasson "Riverbed" at Louisiana Museum, Denmark (20.8.2014 - 4.1.2015) / Courtesy the artist and Louisiana Museum, ©Olafur Eliasson / photos © artfridge.de
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