Olafur Eliasson’s is a Danish-Icelandic artist with an extensive body of work that spans sculpture, painting, photography, film and installation pieces. For this post, the focus will be on Olafur Eliasson’s environmental artwork, as he strives to make the concerns of art relevant to society at large. Art, for him, is a crucial means for turning thinking into doing in the world.
What the artist is doing is making the concerns of our societies and our impact on the Earth transparent through his work, and thus presenting these concerns back to us through art.
Past work includes Project Ice Watch, which involved ice blocks being brought from Greenland to the Tate Modern last year. By bringing these blocks of Greenlandic glacial ice to a public space, it gave people the opportunity to see, feel and experience the effects of climate change first hand.
Moss Wall 1994, is a 66-foot long wall made of Finnish reindeer moss. You can smell this huge living organism before you even enter the room. Visitors are allowed to touch it.
Riverbed, also works with human interaction. Audiences are invited to walk on the art, as it is in a gallery space filled with earth and rocks, with a small stream flowing through the space. As audiences walk on the work, bits of rock roll and fall into the stream. Someone could even place a larger rock in the stream completely obstructing the flow of water. Just by being in the space, we already begin to damage it.
A major exhibition of more than 40 works by Olafur Eliasson is currently at the Tate Modern, which reflects the Danish-Icelandic artist’s ongoing quest to raise awareness of the climate emergency (Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life, 11 July-5 January 2020).Eliasson’s studio has also collaborated on a special menu based on organic, vegetarian and locally sourced produce, which will be available at Tate Modern’s Terrace Bar throughout the show. “An average UK meal has 1,583 grams of CO2. The meal we are serving is down 52% [on carbon output],” the artist says.
On 22 September 2019, Eliasson was appointed as a Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations Development Program “to advocate for urgent action
on climate change and sustainable developments goals.”
In the context of his appointment, Eliasson emphasized the need to stay positive: “I also think it’s important not to lose sight of what is actually going quite well. There is reason for hope. I believe in hope as such and I’m generally a positive person.
Watch him talk about what art can do to fight climate change.