Olafur Eliasson, the Danish artist who brought the sun to Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall and created man-made waterfalls in New York City, has a new project at the ARKEN Museum of Modern Art in Copenhagen.
Eliasson’s installation Din blinde passager (Your blind passenger) is a 295-foot-long tunnel filled with dense fog. Because of the tunnel’s limited visibility, visitors passing through the tunnel must use senses other than sight to orient themselves.
Din blinde passager is the sort of quality, experiential artwork that is attracting larger crowds to contemporary art museums and galleries in recent years. The worst examples of this type of installation art are a bit like a ride at Disney World–they give us a short-lived thrill, can be gimmicky, and lack resonance. But thoughtful works like Eliasson’s offer a deeper museum experience and allow us to engage in the world in an original way. I love the fact that Eliasson’s exhibit disorients museum-goers and invites them to pay close attention to subtle environmental changes like sound or the slow shift of light.
Your blind passenger uses many types of white light–bright daylight, a golden sunrise, chilly blues, deep twilight. Normally, these changes in our environment are so slow and commonplace that we hardly notice them, but Eliasson’s piece condenses an entire day down to a singular, intense experience. With the distractions of our surroundings eliminated, with limited visibility in a contained space, we notice light in a way we never have before. Eliasson’s piece is a reminder that we are enveloped by changing light (both natural and unnatural) on a continual basis, but few of us detect it as we go about our daily lives.
Eliasson’s exhibition is the final instalment in ARKEN’s three-year UTOPIA series, which examines the role of utopia in contemporary art and culture. “For me, utopia is linked to the now, the moment between one second and the next,” Eliasson explained in an interview. “It constitutes a possibility that is actualised and converted into reality, an opening where concepts like subject and object, inside and outside, proximity and distance are tossed into the air and redefined. Our sense of orientation is challenged and the coordinates of our spaces, collective and personal, have to be renegotiated. Changeability and mobility are at the core of utopia.”
Christian Gether, director of ARKEN, believes that Eliasson is unique in how he engages with gallery spaces. “Eliasson is extremely interesting because he takes a new view of the institution of the museum,” she says. “He does not see the museum as separate from the world but as a concentrate of the world – a space made available for the contemplation of human relations. Hence, he is the ideal artist to conclude the UTOPIA project.”
Olafur Eliasson’s Your blind passenger is open through November 2, 2011. Luckily, for those of us who can’t make it to Copenhagen, there are two excellent videos of the piece available here. The first video was produced by the Tate and includes an interview with Eliasson, as well as footage of his installation. The second video is from Eliasson’s own website. Because the second video contains no voiceovers or cuts, it gives a better sense of what it is like to walk through the 295-foot-long tunnel in silence. (If you’re reading this article in an email, click here to watch the videos).
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