Generally speaking, artworks on show at museums are not meant to be touched – let alone walked on. But that’s what you are required to do when experiencing Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s main contribution to an exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art north of Copenhagen. The installation represents a gigantic Icelandic landscape of rock and gravel that inhabits the galleries of the museum’s entire South Wing.
Presence, sensation, engagement! The museum is an open, vibrant location that engages both the body and soul – a place where we as visitors must step into character, take an active part and thrust ourselves into the game. These are among the guiding thoughts behind Olafur Eliasson’s first solo exhibition at Louisiana.
The exhibition radically intervenes with the space and architecture of the museum, which is particularly the case with the exhibition’s central work, Riverbed (2014), which brings the institutional character and location of the museum into artistic play, questioning the blurred zone between indoors and outdoors, culture and staged nature.
Olafur Eliasson seeks to involve the audience in his work and calls art a “reality machine”.
“When our senses come into play, it makes us touch reality. We become aware of our presence in the moment,” he says.
He wishes to point to the museum space as being “a physical, bodily process.” The elements are brought into a mix and flow in the hope that “people get a total experience, also because of what they contribute themselves.”
Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition at the Louisiana Museum of Modern Art is site-specific in the sense that it reflects the museum’s unique identity and consists of four parts, each of which represent the theme of a meeting between Eliasson’s art and Louisiana as a specific location in spatial, architectural and institutional terms. What is in focus is movement in relation to the meeting between Eliasson, Louisiana and the visitor.
Riverbed reflects the special relationship between nature, architecture and art characteristic of the location.
A surface of shingles covers the gallery floors through which a stream of water meanders. Eliasson’s artwork is about walking, but it also touches on more fundamental questions regarding the scope that an architectural and institutional framework offers its users. What behaviour does the museum invite; which kinds of conventions and habits do we associate with going to a museum?