Olafur Eliasson, the weather man

Olafur Eliasson’s name may not ring a bell, but surely on some occasion a piece of his work has reached your mobile phone, Facebook profile or Instagram. We could say that he is the “weatherman” of the art world, since his career took off in 2003 – nothing more and nothing less than at the Tate Modern in London – his discourse has been that of working from the experiences of the weather. However, this message has evolved in recent years, and in the same way that Olafur has grown as an artist or the weather has changed, although some try to deny it, his work has turned towards the severity in which our planet finds itself. Olafur no longer talks to us about how the day is, now he talks to us about how the climate is.

The Weather Project, Olafur Eliasson in Tate Modern (London). 2003.

At Tate, the author gifted us with an experience. It wasn’t so much about the message behind the work, but about the sensations that awakened in us this artificial revival of such natural events as a sunset. Recreate atmospheres to offer experiences. Perhaps this is the most magical thing about his work, in these artificial environments it is possible to connect with our spirit, ability to feel, perhaps even more than if we were in the nature of that event. Is this due to the contrast for being contained? By being aware of the artifice of the piece? By the fact of “framing” the event, giving it importance? However, this is the Olafur that tells us about the weather, and now it has come to worry us about the weather.

From atmospheres to reflections

Simultaneously with a new exhibition at the Tate Modern in London which will run until 5 January 2020, another work appears which is located at the Serralves Foundation, in Porto. What is peculiar about both? There is no longer just a sensation, now there is also a message. At least a much stronger message than in his previous works.

“Y/Our future is now”, a cry in which the author invites us to stop reflecting on issues related to climate change in order to confront them definitively, all this with pieces that try to make us think about issues such as origin, relationships, passivity…

One of the main attractions of the work is the use of the foundation’s garden for the exhibition of some pieces, turning the experience into a walk through nature in which extremely artificial works appear contrasting with the search for the evocation of the natural events of his previous works.

The message appears. The “loop”, the repetition, something that seems to evoke the phrase “He who does not know his history is condemned to repeat it”. However, in this age of overinformation it seems that we cannot be ignorant of our past, what leads us to close this loop? Inactivity, over-reflection, lack of interest. Olafur asked in the presentation of his work the following: “Why don’t you each write a letter from a future imagined 30 years from now, asking yourselves what you did wrong in 2019 so that everything would end so badly?”

Tar as poison in some pieces, mirrors that reinforce the idea of not ceasing to think, instead of acting, with those “loops” floating, motionless, frozen and ignorant of the time that passes.

Perhaps in these works the author does not give us those atmospheres to which we are accustomed, perhaps that “weatherman” has changed the meaning of “weather”, in the sense of climate, for the moment. Maybe that’s the real message: If we don’t act now, he won’t be able to give us atmospheres again, because he won’t have any natural events to draw inspiration from.

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