Until 4 April 2021, we have the opportunity to experience something truly unique at Guggenheim Bilbao, thanks to the retrospective on Olafur Eliasson (Denmark, 1967). In this condensed showcase of his diverse artwork, the artist invites audiences to play a part, breathing life into the works themselves. Through their experiences and interactions, each from their distinctive viewpoint, visitors bring new and varied meanings to the works. They stop being mere observers and become co-authors.
The visit comprises various ingredients. There are those presented by Eliasson, such as his concern for the environment, investigations into geometry and interest in how we perceive and shape the world around us. And there are those which audiences bring to the show through their interaction with the works, their movements and hyperphysical or emotional experiences.
Artist and awareness-raiser
Convinced that art can have a profound impact on the world beyond museum walls, Eliasson has created artistic installations whose aim is to raise awareness on climate change. Employing materials such as glacial ice, green-dyed water, moss, photosynthetic plants or light, he invites us to think about our dependence on the natural world and its beauty. And to reflect on our commitment to Earth, because we need it. What are we doing to our planet?
Eliasson’s kaleidoscopic tunnels, his lamps of reflective metals, are made up of intricate forms built of simple shapes. They are inspired by geodesic domes and the work of the architect and designer, Buckminster Fuller, who championed the idea of doing more with less, of using innovative design to get the most out of limited materials.
Eliasson looks to remind us that real life is not only what we see, or the information that our senses pass on to our brains. He invites us to ponder if what we perceive is real or if the sensory information received by our brains could be modified by different elements such as light, space and movement. His installations, which employ light tricks, rainbow colours and smoke, can be perplexing, which is exactly what the artist wants. For spectators to see the world from another perspective, from a viewpoint that until now, we were unable to perceive.
In real life. #irl
The title of the exhibition at Guggenheim Bilbao, In Real Life, alludes to the idea that art and the everyday are not mutually exclusive. According to Olafur Eliasson, “art isn’t cut off from its surroundings, we have to go to a museum to appreciate reality, to understand ourselves.”
Visiting a museum isn’t a journey to the past but a way to connect with the present. An opportunity to get closer to reality, to see the world in greater definition. Museums are the strongest cultural hubs in our society. “In Real Life” also refers to #irl, now used to differentiate between what has happened in the physical world and what has taken place online. Because this show, aside from its intellectual appeal and the reflections it puts forward, is a physical experience. Eliasson invites us to visit not only with our eyes, but also through touch, hearing and smell. That’s the #irl encounter he has created for us
Photography: Oscar Rivilla
Translation: Rebekah Jane Rhodes
Art director: Oscar Rivilla and carolina Verd
Hair&Makeup: Naomi Gayoso for Guerlain. Assistant: Elisa Jiménez
Main picture: dress by Marella Official
Picture 2 and 3: suit by Marella Official
Picture 4: dress by Simona Corsellini