I’m walking along a narrow corridor filled with a sweet tasting, opaque fog. I can’t see anything. As I progress, a glaring light transitioning from bright pink to deep orange and a warm yellow envelops me. Indistinguishable silhouettes of other people standing a few steps away from me stop from time to time in what seems to be an attempt at a selfie.
Couples are walking around slowly, holding hands, kissing discreetly with stifled laughter, enjoying a brief moment of (apparent) intimacy inside the colourful indoor clouds. This is not a dream. I’m experiencing one of the most iconic pieces of work by Olafur Eliasson currently exhibited at The Tate Modern in London, as part of his latest exhibition: In Real Life.
The “You blind passenger” (2010) installation is only 38 metres long, but you can barely see 1.5 metres in front of you as you walk down the misty passageway. This makes this spectacular installation the biggest attraction of the exhibition, and the place to impress a date this Autumn - as I quickly found out. Everywhere I turned, I witnessed duos chatting cheerfully and posing next to masterpieces, all for the glory of Instagram likes. The exhibition opened 3 months ago, yet the word is definitely out that In Real Life is a great place to spend quality time with that special someone.
As I continue round the space, recent love birds stand next to each other in religious silence, mesmerised by the scenic vision of a suspended rainbow in fine mist (Beauty, 1993), while long-term couples lie down for hours under the mirrored ceiling, exchanging life stories and the occasional signs of affection. Pairs of lovebirds walk amused at their own reflection inside Your Spiral View (2002) and capture their playful kaleidoscopic projections on the wall (Your Uncertain Shadow, 2010).
Rainbows, artificial fog, strobes and mirrors
The exhibition of 40 artworks spans almost thirty years of the artist’s career, some of them brought to life especially for this exhibition and never seen before. And everywhere I looked, love was in the air. So what makes this grand display so… love-inducing? Maybe it’s the deep universal dimension of Olafur Eliasson’s work, questioning our identities and relationships to nature and the environment. Experiential, visual and theatrical, there’s a magical element to each of his installations that cannot help but spark emotions and connect people to one another.
The 2019 Tate show is a return to the museum where The weather project made him internationally famous in 2013, drawing more than two million people to the Turbine Hall. Olafur Eliasson is particularly known for recreating meteorological and natural phenomena indoors such as rainbows, rains and lava floors inspired by his native Icelandic volcanic landscapes. All of this is part of an “ongoing investigation of how we think about and respond to our environment” describe the curators.
A spacious room at the end is dedicated to his ‘Expanded Studio’ where large panels of collages are meant to represent his studio in Berlin. Samples of articles, striking images and random notes leading to major projects such as Little Sun - a solar-powered hand-held torch built as a social business for people in off-grid areas - are shown here. I couldn’t help but overhear visitors’ conversations switching from careless romantic chatting - everyone was in awe of what they had just seen - to worried commentaries over the current Climate Crisis.
From artificial rainbows and kaleidoscopes to the most pressing issues of our time, head to In Real Life for a snapshot of the 21st century.
Visit Olafur Eliasson, In Real Life at the Tate Modern. Until 5th January 2020.
Open daily 10.00 – 18.00 and until 22.00 on Friday and Saturday