On arrival to the Tate Modern, you are greeted by Waterfall, 2019—an 11 metre high man-made waterfall. Fiercely gushing out rapids of water from its metal scaffold structure, and surrounded by the high-rise buildings of central London, this manufactured event of nature sets the tone for what is to come inside.
Ascending the stairs to level 2 of the Blavatnik Building, an electric fan hangs overhead from the ceiling. It softly propels itself, left, then right, and then back again, almost as if alive (Ventilator, 1997). As you approach the entrance, a warm orange glow immerses the entire room (Room for one colour, 1997), and by this point you already know that what you will find inside, will be nothing but a sheer delight—and you aren’t wrong.
Delicate sculptures, walls covered in moss, artificial sunlight, wave-machines and the soothing sight of rain trickling down a window (all whilst its sunny outside), greet you in the first and second rooms. Beauty 1993 continues the tone, utilising very limited elements to create an interactive scene of wonder. A pitch black room filled with just a single spotlight and a steady mist of water. This most basic of combinations creating a shimmering rainbow. Children—and adults—dance through the mist, mesmerised by the feeling of the water on their skin and the ever-changing, elusive rainbowed patterns.
Perhaps the most thrilling piece of the entire show is Din blind passager (Your blind passenger), 2018. A 39 metre long passageway filled with a dense fog and different hues of coloured light. The light floods through the fog and takes over your entire awareness. You can only see an arms-length in front of yourself as you make the tentative journey forward, constantly in awe at the experience and the softly blended gradients of colour.
Big Bang Fountain, 2014 captures the split second moments of life that constantly exist around us, yet we often miss. A pitch black room is filled only with a strobe light that flashes intermittently below an explosion of water. The flash captures a temporary form in the water, almost like a crystal sculpture, before a moment later it is gone, soon to be replaced by another temporary sculpture.
The exhibition is completed with a visit to The Expanded Studio, a miniature slice of Studio Olafur Eliasson in Berlin. Here you can sample a collection of resources, research and questions pulled together by both Olafur and his team. We are also able to learn more about some of Eliasson’s more environmentally active projects, such as Ice Watch, Green Light and Little Sun.
It’s important to remember that whilst all of Eliasson’s work is both awe inspiring and beautiful on face value, each piece is often coupled with underlying metaphors and an environmental consciousness. His intrigue and concern for nature comes from the length of time he has spent in Iceland, and it’s through his work that he aims to share this awareness of nature and the senses.
As the experience of each piece unfolds and dawns upon the entire room, there is an unbridled sense of togetherness in the audience. It’s this sense of togetherness, awareness, participation and play, that has the power to make a real change beyond the gallery walls. Olafur is a firm believer that Art can have a strong impact on the World outside of the museum, and In Real Life demonstrates just how. It shows us reality closer and in more detail than ever before, and leaves us feeling exhilarated, inspired, and with a new found awareness of nature and the World around us.
Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life is running until 5th January 2020 at the Tate Modern. Tickets are £20, and only £5 for Tate Collective members, which is free to join for 16-25 year olds.