Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life review

5 out of 5 stars
Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life review
Olafur Eliasson 'Your uncertain shadow' (2010) © Olafur Eliasson

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Olafur Eliasson does epic like few others. The Danish-Icelandic artist was last at Tate Modern in 2003 with 'The Weather Project', a monumental installation that transformed the Turbine Hall into a pulsating, hazy sunset. This time, they’re showing 40 works, including many large-scale installations, made throughout his career.

One of the most impressive is ‘Beauty’, a descending veil of super fine mist that causes a faint rainbow to appear in the darkness. The undulating waves of microscopic water droplets look like fine falling sand or the light fracturing through a horse’s mane.

Another centrepiece is ‘Din blinde passager’, a 39-metre-long corridor filled with fog and an intense bright lemon glow. Stepping into this blaze of light involves over-riding every primal instinct screaming at you not to. It’s terrifying, exhilarating, beautiful and what I honestly imagine death will be like.

The themes of Eliasson’s art can loosely be summarised as elemental forces, perception-altering and yellow (from a wall of moss tinged a soft primrose to the unabating sunshine hum of repeating lights, yellow overwhelms this show). Both the nature-inspired works and the sensory-befuddling ones make you hyper-aware of your own body and the events happening around it.

You feel the ripples of coolness from a swinging ceiling fan like it’s the first time your body has come into contact with moving air particles or you start seeing ‘light’ like it’s a ‘thing’ the way a table is a ‘thing’ or a plant is a ‘thing’. Gazing into the kaleidoscopic mirrors or walking into the fog, the sheer weirdness of having a body tottering around the planet becomes a conscious consideration.

For centuries, artists and philosophers have mumbled about the ‘sublime’, the point at which beauty and terror collide to create that awe-inspiring feeling you get when standing on a Highland peak or staring at thrashing waves. Eliasson is a twenty-first-century master of the sublime – it’s no surprise Caspar David Friedrich is referenced here or that Eliasson has previously been inspired by JMW Turner.

But when Eliasson captures the monumental power of nature it’s for a specific reason: to make it explicitly clear that THIS – this glorious, miraculous planet with its winds, rains and rocks – is precisely what we’re systematically destroying by letting it melt, crack and fall apart. This is epic environmentalism and, yes, it’s sublime.

By: Rosemary Waugh



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