Olafur Eliasson: The Weather Project

Olafur Eliasson: The Weather Project

by Susan May

Eliasson has built an international reputation from the installations and sculptural works he creates that engage, amaze and disorientate the viewer.

His work explores human perception of the world and the boundaries between nature, art and technology.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Art
  • Rating: 3.60
  • Pages: 143
  • Publish Date: February 10th 2004 by Tate Publishing(UK)
  • Isbn10: 1854374893
  • Isbn13: 9781854374899

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This unique space lends itself beautifully to Installation Art. The first project of all was a monumental female spider constructed from steel, and overlooking three tall steel towers, each thirty feet high. Then came Juan Muñozs piece, Double Bind, another conversion of the space in the Turbine Hall into several floors; this time playing on perspective and illusion, visibility and invisibility. After three such challenging installations, perhaps my trepidation about Olafur Eliassons The Weather Project was understandable. Walking slowly towards it down the long sloping floor of the Turbine Hall, was a unique experience. The Turbine Hall is massive: 500ft long and 75ft wide, and Olafur Eliasson had effectively doubled the space, replacing the ceiling with a huge mirror. If I tore my eyes away from the glowing ball, I could climb up to another level and look behind to see how the effect was created. It is no coincidence that for a commission in Britain, Olafur Eliasson chose the weather as his theme. Olafur Eliasson is fascinated by the way museums mediate the reception of art. We have all experienced the way we are offered an array of information before we even see a work of art from the marketing poster and press reviews, to the helpful (if distracting) interpretation text panels, on the walls of the gallery or museum. Olafur Eliasson suggests that such information overly influences our experience and understanding of the work. In The Weather Project he decided to incorporate these aspects into making an exhibition, so that the experience of the work could be as free from this as possible for the viewer. He conducted a survey of staff at the museum, posing a series of twenty-odd wide ranging questions, examples being, How often do you discuss the weather?, Do you think the weather or climate in any way impacts on your salary?, In which season do you kiss someone other than your partner the most?, to Do you think the idea of the weather in our society is based on nature or culture? Olafur Eliasson explained that he did not want people to have any preconceptions: I think there is often a discrepancy between the experience of seeing and the knowledge or expectation of what we are seeing. The Weather Project, produced as a catalogue to the exhibition, does indeed contain photographs of the installation, and I enjoyed these as a reminder of the experience. With the close co-operation of Susan May, the author of this book and project curator, Olafur Eliasson used the answers to the questionnaire from various departments in the museum. Those represented included Education and Interpretation, Operations and Front House, Communications, as well as the Director of the Tate and the museums architect. In his essay, Museums Are Radical, Olafur Eliasson critically addresses the broader issues of the museums structure and functions, as well as its power to control information or display art in mediated forms of experience. Olafur Eliasson uses the subject or theme of weather as the basis for exploring more fundamental questions and ideas he has about Art and society: about experience, mediation and representation, explaining: The reason is obviously not because of the relationship between the institution and the weather, but for me its the relationship between the institution and society. For instance, the response by the Director to Olafur Eliassons initial question to the Round Table about how the Tate Modern worked, was: I think its an interesting concept because youre essentially unpacking and de-layering the museum, which is itself a construction. It all feels rather random choosing pieces about the weather to include to fill a thickish book. Olafur Eliasson attempted to bring a part of the world into the building, and through the experience and memory of the work, a part of it was taken back out into the wider world by myself, and countless others. This takes place in numerous ways, on various collective levels ranging from hyper-mediated (or representational) experiences, such as the television weather forecast, to more direct and tangible experiences, like simply getting wet while walking down the street on a rainy day. The window, as the boundary of ones tactile engagement with the outside, mediates ones experience of the exterior weather accordingly.