Olafur Eliasson’s In Real Life at Tate Modern

  • Morgan McTiernan

Image: Dazed Digital Words: Morgan McTiernan (unpublished) Artificial rain dripping down a window, Reindeer moss appearing to grow from the gallery’s wall and a channel of copper water flowing slowly back and forth. This is the welcome to Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s retrospective, In Real Life at Tate Modern. From the start, visitors interact with mother nature and at some points able to touch or taste the elements. Eliasson explores his interests in the environment and weather and achieves this through sculpture and interactive artworks. Eliasson believes ‘feelings are facts’ and invites visitors to interact with art, allowing them to touch, smell and taste the interactions. In “Your Blind Passenger” (2010) visitors are invited to walk down an endless corridor partially blinded by thick orange fog. There is a sweetness in the air however the vast amount of influencers capturing content for the gram leaves a bitter after taste. The most exhilarating artworks of all is where Eliasson makes it rain. Walking into a pitch black room and the smell of downpour hits. A curtain of rain fills the room where a rainbow dances on the mist. The beauty is mesmerising and the temptation to clutch the colours, even if that means getting a little bit wet, is worth it. Named, “Beauty” (1993) this artwork explores Eliasson’s fascination with colour theory where the meteorological phenomenon is simply achieved by water, pumps and hoses. Continuing his interest with water, “Big Bang Fountain” (2014) is a fountain placed in a completely dark room only illuminated by bolts of strobe lights. Water is pumped upwards where flashes of light captures the motion, freezing the curvature of the water before it splashes back into the fountain. The blackness of the room combined with the crescendo of the strobe lights leaves a disorientating after effect. The first room of the exhibition contains hundreds of Eliasson’s models and prototypes which clarifies his thought process and interest in mathematics, science and geodesic domes. The “Cold Wind Sphere” (2012) is one of the small models seen in the prototype room brought to life. The geometrical chandelier is structured with circular shapes with glass triangles in shades of blue slotted in. A light bulb illuminates the centre which creates a kaleidoscope of colours which reflects onto the white gallery’s walls. Eliasson is an environmental campaigner and his interest is perceived in a series of photographs he took two decades apart of glacial ice in Greenland. The melting is clearly noticeable and acts as a visual reminder of the impact mankind has on the environment. This work is reminiscent of Eliasson’s “Ice Watch” (2018) where ice blocks from Greenland were laid out to melt along Southbank, London. If any message is to be taken from Eliasson’s retrospective, that is : “The most important sculptural project going on today is shaping the future of planet Earth.”