Olafur Eliasson: Your Blind Passenger

Olafur Eliasson's "Your Blind Passenger" (Courtesy Photo)

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.

Arken Museum

"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." (Courtesy photo)

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).




Din blinde passager – Arken museum from Studio Olafur Eliasson on Vimeo.

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By | 2016-11-11T21:55:53+00:00 07.25.11|Greatest Hits, Images, Spaces|Comments Off on Olafur Eliasson: Your Blind Passenger

About the Author:

I’ve spent almost 20 years helping thousands of successful artists of all disciplines and working to make the arts more accessible. (One friend likes to call me “the arts enabler.”) From 1999-2012 I worked at The MacDowell Colony, the nation’s oldest artist colony, but I've also done time at an arts magazine, a library, an art museum, and a raptor rehabilitation center. In May of 2012 I left MacDowell to pursue writing, speaking, curating, and creative projects full-time. In 2015 I was named a “Top 100 Artist, Innovator, Creative” by Origin magazine. I've appeared as an arts and culture commentator on New Hampshire Public Radio, and in 2017 I was the recipient of the Wampler Art Professorship at James Madison University. I am the founder of the Gwarlingo Salon series, which connects artists like DJ Spooky with rural audiences in the Monadnock region. In 2017 my collaborator Corwin Levi and I will publish our first book, Mirror Mirrored, which combines Grimms’ fairy tales with vintage illustration remixes and the work of contemporary artists like Kiki Smith, Carrie Mae Weems, and Amy Cutler. I grew up in Atlanta, Georgia, but have called New Hampshire home since 1999. My studio is located in the historic, mill village of Harrisville. I miss fried okra, the early southern spring, and restaurants that stay open past 9:00 p.m., but rural life agrees with me. In New Hampshire I can see the stars, go kayaking or snowshoeing, watch bald eagles fish in the lake, and focus on my creative work in silence. I no longer have to worry about traffic jams; deer, wild turkeys, and frost heaves are the primary road hazards here. Although I live in the country, I’m fortunate enough to be part of a vibrant arts community that extends beyond this small New England village. The quiet days are punctuated by regular travel and frequent visits to museums, theaters, readings, arts events, lectures, and open studios around the country. (You can read my full CV here.) Thanks for visiting Gwarlingo. I hope you'll be in touch.