Earlier this week, Adrianne and I watched the first episode of the new season of Abstract on the Netflix . For those of you who haven’t seen it, Abstract is a fantastic show about art and design. It follows roughly the same format as something like Chef’s Table — which is also an excellent show — where each episode profiles a specific artist or designer. Last season included Tinker Hatfield, Paula Scher, and Platon among others and this season starts out with someone who I’ve never heard of by name though I have seen his work. Olafur Eliasson is an artist and architect whose large scale works are focused and really dependent on the user or viewer’s experience of them. Many of his works center around light — specifically, the effects and manipulation of light. For example, one of his earlier pieces is called “Beauty” and it was his attempt to create a rainbow by lighting a gentle waterfall of very fine mist. The effect was such that no two people experience exactly the same rainbow, since the color and intensity are based entirely on your viewing angle relative to the mist.
“This is a space totally dependent on you being there,” Olafur says. “When you leave the exhibition, and there’s no-one in the room, there’s also no art.” This idea is really core to Olafur’s art — the Why of his art, if you will. Each piece he makes is a sort of challenge. As he puts it, “do I trust my own eyes and my own capacity to engage in the world?” His work is completely dependent on the spectator. It’s a collaboration –maybe even a conversation – between him as the artist and us as the viewer. Even his episode of Abstract is a collaboration, beginning with Olafur breaking the fourth wall and speaking directly to the camera — to us — as he presents the conditions of our collaboration.
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