Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Side Glance: The Weather Project by Olafur Eliasson, Tate Modern 2004

 In 2004, Eliasson installed the Weather Project at Tate Modern in London. At the far end of the hall is a giant semi-circular form made up of hundreds of mono-frequency lamps. The arc repeated in the mirror overhead produces a sphere of dazzling radiance linking the real space with the reflection.
"Eliasson views the weather – wind, rain, sun – as one of the few fundamental encounters with nature that can still be experienced in the city. He is also interested in how the weather shapes a city and, in turn, how the city itself becomes a filter through which to experience the weather. ‘Every city mediates its own weather’, Eliasson has said.
‘As inhabitants, we have grown accustomed to the weather as mediated by the city. 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. A level between the two extremes would be sitting inside, looking out of a window onto a sunny or rainy street. The window, as the boundary of one’s tactile engagement with the outside, mediates one’s experience of the exterior weather accordingly.’ In The Weather Project, Eliasson has sought to bring a part of London into the building, and through the experience and memory of the work, a part of it is taken back out into the city by the viewer." (The Weather Project)
 "I'm not interested in weather as a matter of science," he continues. "I'm not a meteorologist or a botanist. I'm interested in people: how people engage sensually with the qualities of weather — rain, mist, ice, snow, humidity — so that through their engagement they may understand how much of our lives are cultural constructions. We have a desire to assume that certain
things, like our reactions to the weather, are natural, but they are in fact cultural, and the end result of this can be entrenched ideologies, which we take to be inevitable. This is the path toward totalitarianism."
He rethinks that remark after a moment. "I shouldn't have insisted that everything is cultural and not natural, because that is as dogmatic as the reverse. I should have said that the line separating nature and culture changes through history, and this is what we should be aware of."


isaacschumann said...

I saw this exhibit at the tate modern in 04, it was really stunning. I knew very little about the artist, thanks for posting.

While not scientific, this is nonetheless a valuable contribution to our understanding of the climate and climate change, and much needed. IMO a neglected subject, the physical sciences will tell us only so much. I was a fine arts major in college before switching and have always enjoyed such accessible pieces like this that mix themes and disciplines and ask us hard questions.

I have always had a negative reaction to the idea that we are an outside force acting on a pristine nature; we are part of it, though maybe a naughty and careless part;)

Olaf said...

I also saw his exhibition in 04 and was very impressed. Later, I had the great opportunity to attend a talk by Eliasson at ETH Zurich. He demonstrated that he is very interested in our cultural landscapes, how they change and how we perceive them.

I read that Eliasson also founded the Institut für Raumexperimente in Berlin in 2009, but unfortunately I don`t know any details about that.