Called In Real Life, the exhibition comprises around 40 works from the last 26 years of the Danish-Icelandic artist’s career.
Eliasson hopes the show will challenge visitors’ perception of reality – a common theme in his work.
“When one leaves an exhibition like mine, I hope that it’s not as if you had stepped into some kind of dream machine and then you walk back out into reality,” Eliasson says in the video. “I really hope that you step closer to reality and see things in higher granularity.”
“I think that culture and art can ask questions, can entice and inspire you to evaluate things in a greater perspective,” he added.
The works on show also reflect the artist’s interest in colour theory, geometry, the environment and natural phenomena such as waterfalls.
One of the pieces created for the exhibition is an 11-metre-high waterfall constructed from scaffolding, installed on the terrace.
Eliasson said the piece questions whether nature is real or man-made in the context of the anthropocene era – the new geological era in which human activity is the dominant influence on earth’s geology.
According to Eliasson, the piece is meant to probe questions including: “Is nature constructed? Is nature real? Is it fake? Does nature exist?”
“Now we have what we call the anthropocene which means there is no nature. Nature is now humanised,” he said. “The waterfall for me is about asking yourself not where we come from but where are we actually going to go?”
Another natural phenomena that recurs in the artist’s work is the rainbow. Eliasson’s 1993 work, Beauty, is created by shining a light through a cloud of water drizzling from the ceiling, conjuring an indoor rainbow which morphs as the viewer moves around the piece.
“It’s exciting that if you are in the room, and I’m in the room, due to the angle of the eye, the drop and the lamp, we see two different rainbows,” Eliasson said. “I often use Beauty as an example of a piece which is highly individual, and also addresses collectivity.”
Other pieces in the retrospective prompt viewers to participate, such as Your Uncertain Shadow, in which a set of colourful spotlights at one end of an empty room cast chromatic shadows of participants against the opposite wall.
“The people in the room are in fact the producers of content,” Eliasson said. “It was very important to consider whether we hand the narrative or the authority of art to the visitor.”
The exhibition also includes a room dedicated to Eliasson’s broader artistic practice which engages in social and environmental issues.
Here, videos about his ongoing project Little Sun are exhibited – a solar-powered mini lamp that provides a reliable energy source.
“There are actually about 1.2 billion people in the world today without access to energy who use petroleum, kerosene, paraffin and candles,” Eliasson stated.
“We have now delivered 830,000 lamps and we’re going to push for a million this summer. That’s a lot of money not going into petroleum.”
Eliasson has recently designed a pendant lamp exploring complex mathematical geometries for Danish lighting brand Louis Poulsen and completed his first ever building last year in Denmark.
Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life is on at the Tate Modern until 5 January 2020.
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