What is this? An electric fan is circling overhead, turning and twisting as it changes direction, with the whirling noise of the fan filling the room. It seems to come closer and then it jerks away, moving off in another direction into another part of the room, before coming back. Is this science or is it art. It is both – the introductory room in the exhibition of work by the artist Olafur Eliasson at the Moderna Museet and ArkDes in Stockholm.
Eliasson, born in 1967 in Iceland and now living and working in Denmark and Berlin is a master of the integration of science and art to create installations which immerse viewers in a world where to see is not to believe and where simple materials and concepts, often involving light and optics, ask the viewers to engage and create their own realities. In the UK, he is best known for his 2003 installation “The Weather Project” in the Turbine Hall of Tate Modern in London, seen by two million visiors.
Outside the exhibition entrance stands the “Model Room”, a case full of geometric and architectural models which Eliasson kept as an archive of his work and is now a reflective work of art where the viewer can imagine Eliasson’s creative working methods – an interpretation of the artist’s studio now recorded and captured for ever.
Inside the exhibition Eliasson engages with all the viewer’s senses in many different ways in the different rooms. This is a magical tour through his work of the last 20 years and includes water falling and rising, a hexagonal kaleidoscope, a wall of moss, a meteorite, sandstorms and a disorienting yellow space which creates lingering visual after effects. In “I only see things when the move”, Eliasson plays with colour and light by projecting moving coloured vertical bands across the gallery walls, in which the contrasting black shadows of the viewers become part of the artwork and in the last room, Eliasson has turned the traditional maze on its head with “Your body of Work”. Mazes are generally solid, dark, dense and threatening as the visitor become lost and terrified about never finding a way out; here the maze is amazingly light, colourful and transparent and, although the way out is obvious, the viewer want to stay, explore, enjoy and experience of the changing colours that result from different viewpoints through the maze.
This exhibition reinforces the versatility and imagination of Eliasson. Being held in modern minimalist art galleries is a contrast to the other current exhibition “Baroque Baroque” in the elaborate baroque interiors of the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy in Vienna. Both show that his work can be successful in a variety of surroundings.