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ELIASSON, Olafur; The cubic structural evolution project

Olafur Eliasson was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1967.  Since his first exhibitions in the early 1990s, Eliasson has emerged as one of the most significant contemporary artists from Scandinavia and a pioneering figure in international installation art.  His work has been exhibited extensively across Europe but has only been seen in Australia on the occasion of the 1998 Biennale of Sydney.  Recent major solo exhibitions have been held at the Tate Modern, 2003; Dutch Pavilion at the 50th Biennale of Venice, 2003; Museum Ludwig, Vienna, 1999; The Powerplant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, 2001; Fundació Miró, Barcelona, 2002; and Cleveland Museum of Art, 2003.  Since the mid 1990s he has regularly been included in prestigious group exhibitions including the Yokohama Triennale 2001; the Hugo Boss Prize, Guggenheim, New York 2002; Munster Sculpture Biennale 1999; Carnegie International, Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh 1999/2000; and the 49th Biennale of Venice 1999.  His work is held in several important international collections, including the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; Centre Pomidou, Paris; Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Fondació La Caixa, Barcelona.  Research has indicated that Eliasson's work is not held in the collections of any Australian art institution.

Olafur Eliasson's atmospheric installations from the mid to late 1990s prompted critics to describe him as a modern day proponent of the sublime.  Eliasson's practice consisted of creating works where immaterial sensations such as temperature, light and air become sculptural elements in which 'viewers' participated.  Eliasson's work actively seeks to engage audiences in a more direct experience of a work or installation which expands upon the more conventional visual encounter. He has stated, 'Exercising the integration of the spectator, or rather, the spectating act itself, as part of the museum's undertaking has shifted the weight from the thing experienced to the experience itself'.(1)

Eliasson's most recent works and installations have engaged very directly with architecture to further explore the experiential dimension of museum spaces. His acute awareness of the role of museums and museum architecture, the collections they display and the manner in which people encounter them has directly influenced his approach to installation and major projects in art museums in Europe and North America.; His evocations of natural phenomena do not attempt to reproduce them so much as re-present them through often simple technical means, with the aim to re-engage audiences with the familiar through an extraordinary shift of context, usually architectural.  The artist has acknowledged what could be perceived as a peripheral work by drawing 'The cubic structural evolution project' into the broader contextual frame of his practice.

'I think the kind of constructive effort in the Lego process is quite unique and maybe you don't have that as directly in other works. One could say that my works in general discuss the notion of reality being constructed, that notions such as "nature" or "science" are models for how we perceive reality. I have always put an effort into exposing the way my work has been constructed, so as to suggest that there are no universal values connected to human experience.  Actually, I would argue that there is no "nature" but only "culture" and that as we experience so called "nature" we also cultivate or constitute it. All these discussions are very closely related to the principle of the Lego buildings; which are "organic" and growing in an evolutionary manner but, nevertheless,  they are always built by "cultivated" hands.'(2)

'The cubic structural evolution project' is an interactive work in which the audience participates in the construction of a collaborative project using white LEGO blocks.  The project was first presented as one of a series of installations at the ARoS Aarhus Kunstmuseum, Denmark, in October 2004.  The project is deliberately designed for younger audiences, although the nature of the simple construction process appeals to a diverse range of museum visitors. The artifice of the experience is paramount in the construction and encounter with his installations and projects.  In 'The cubic structural evolution project', the fascinating illusions created by visitors to the Gallery playfully reveal the way in which subjective experience structures the way we see and make meaning about the world.

This work by Eliasson significantly augments the Gallery's holdings of contemporary international art and provides extensive exhibition opportunities with the existing Collection. The work was exhibited in 'The Nature Machine: Contemporary art, nature + technology', from December 2004 to February 2005 (on loan from the artist), where it was a highlight of the Gallery's summer program.

Essay by David Burnett, Curator, Contemporary International Art, May 2005.

1. Grynsztejn, Madeleine, Birnbaum, Daniel and Speaks, Michael. 'Olafur Eliasson'. Phaidon, New York, 2002, p.127. 2.  Chambers, Nicholas. 'Olafur Eliasson's constructed worlds'.  'Artlines: Contemporary art for contemporary kids' (QAG), no. 3, 2005, p.[15].

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The cubic structural evolution project 2004


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