Olafur Eliasson at the Guggenheim: like the northen lights

March 2, 2021
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An Exhibition of Atmosphere among Fog Banks, Artificial Waterfalls and Lichen Walls

The visitor becomes the main character of the retrospective and he's invited to explore the limits of perception

An Icelandic legend tells that Sleipnir, Odino’s eight-legged palfrey, gave birth to the Shelter of the Gods, a horseshoe-shaped canyon located in the north of the island, with one of his hoofs. Let’s lose ourselves for a few minutes in a magical land, inhabited by elves, with volcanoes, glaciers and just a handful of people to enter into the atmosphere of Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at Guggenheim in Bilbao. The challenge set by “In real life”, curated by Lucía Aguirre, is to reprogram our mental structures through fog banks (Your atmospheric colour atlas, 2009) and artificial waterfalls (the Waterfall series), virtual mirrors (Moss Wall, 1994).

The visitor is the uncontested main character of this retrospective that, through about thirty artworks among installations, sculptures, pictures and paintings, from the 14th of February until the 21st of June 2021, explores the limits of perception. Room 209 is a disorienting test, with its mirrors and geometrical games, in which the spiral shape is often recurring: the spira mirabilis was a figure dear to the artist, the same that mathematician Bernoulli (1700-1782) wanted to be engraved on his epitaph: “Eadem mutata resurgo” (Though mutated, I’ll be born again). Olafur creates and destroys: a bronze sculpture (The presence of absence pavilion, 2019) represents the tangible void left by the ice blocks extracted in Greenland and carried to Copenhagen and Paris, now melted.  

The Other Spaces studio he founded in Berlin is a hub for artists, architects, chefs and specialists

In “The result is shocking. Society, with its growing digitalization, made us unaccustomed to the first-hand experience, that directly acts through our senses in order to get to consciousness, that is the ultimate goal. His concern about how human beings are abusing nature acts like a wave that, instead of sterilely breaking onto the museum’s walls, flows into activism: “Goodwill Ambassador for climate action and the Sustainable Development Goals”, is the recognition he was given by the United Nations in 2019. The Other Spaces studio he founded in Berlin is a hub for artists, architects, artisans, chefs and specialists that cooperate on projects about extremely urgent matters, from renewable energies to migrations. The multiform voice of Björk, musician with whom he shares origins and social engagement, seems to be the perfect soundtrack to get in touch with the intimacy this journey can give, revealing itself unexpected and overwhelming like the northern lights.

The Author

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Elena Altemura. Editorial Assistant. From linguistic studies she bounces to those of engineering and arrives, through a process of kinetic liberation, to digital marketing. Performing at a gallery in Pietrasanta she meets the director of AW ArtMag in 2019 to which she binds professionally, combining the Stendhal syndrome for Boltanski to the excitment for editing. In the office, she is tête-à-tête with the PC. At home, she looks out of her window, thinking, writing and planning the next reportage.

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