Olafur Eliasson: Surroundings Surrounded
Exhibition view "Olafur Eliasson"
Thu, May 31, 2001 – Sun, August 26, 2001

What does it mean when there is an artificial rainbow exhibited in a museum? When teenagers are ice-skating on an artificial ice rink. When thundering masses of water create an artificial waterfall in the museum? Is the museum a site of spectacles of nature, an expedition to the wilderness? Does science serve as entertainment? Does art provide new sensuous experiences in the age of science? ...
The Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson, born in 1967, has dedicated his installations to human perception and physical laws and to the conditions of nature. In his work he questions man’s idea of nature and the technical aids and devices we use in order to perceive and measure nature. In the course of history one can observe how different models of perception and of relating to space replaced and necessitated one another, parallel with social, ideological, technical and other changes. In all given physical structures there are relationships in the form of socialization potentials.
For the individual, these models and relations can seem so natural that one can mistakenly assume that they are actual characteristics of our surroundings. These apparently wholly physical experiments with water and light, air and color, often indirectly based on astrophysical and subatomic research and experiments, are therefore in reality also experiments with our models of perception and environment models and hence also with our social structures. Using his »devices for the perception of reality« he creates, with the simplest means possible, the connection between reality, perception and the portrayal of reality. With cultural technologies he restructures natural processes [the waterfall rises instead of falling down]. In this way nature becomes hypothetically a product of civilization. The difference between natural environment and anthropomorphic system is not differentiated towards the inside but towards the outside. The surrounding is not folded inwards but surrounded from the outside. The surrounding becomes the system, surroundings are surrounded. The traditional difference between nature and culture and their limits are called into question.

With this solo exhibition, the ZKM presents the comprehensive work of Eliasson, who participated in the Biennial of Venice in 1999 and whose oeuvre has been shown internationally in the recent years, with a selection of over 30 works - many of which having been created especially for this event.

Exhibitions team

Martin Häberle (technical project management)
Sabine Himmelsbach (project management)

Organization / Institution
ZKM | Medienmuseum

Neue Galerie Graz ; Studio Olafur Eliasson