Icelandic-Danish artist Olafur Eliasson has created a multisensory, interactive extravaganza of experiences for his Tate Modern exhibition! Visitors can create crazy colourful shadows, travel through shimmering kaleidoscopic tunnels, wander around fog-filled rooms, and bathe in eerie yellow light. You can even create your own structures. It’s art – but not as you know it! Let’s take a closer look at some of the themes and works in the show…

Olafur Eliasson: In real life is open until 5 January 2020. Best of all, under 12s go free!

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Nature

Olafur loves exploring nature in his artwork. He creates indoor rainbows, constructs waterfalls and installs sculptures made from living lichens.

Reindeer moss from Iceland is woven into wire mesh and mounted on the gallery in Moss wall 1994. When watered, it changes colour, expands, and starts to smell!

Olafur Eliasson, Moss wall 1994Installation view: Tate Modern, London, 2019. Photo: Anders Sune Berg.Courtesy the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles © 1994 Olafur Eliasson

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Geometry

Olafur designs cool geometric structures which reflect light in exciting ways. Your spiral view 2002 is like a giant kaleidoscope you can walk through.

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Olafur Eliasson, Your spiral view 2002. Boros Collection, Berlin. Installation view: Tate Modern, London, 2019. Photo: Anders Sune Berg © 2002 Olafur Eliasson

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Interaction

YOU can get involved at Olafur’s show! Help create a 3-D structure using Zometool construction sets. You can also build your own vision of a future city using white LEGO bricks – with The cubic structural evolution project 2004. This free interactive work takes over the Turbine Hall between 26 July – 18 August. Over the course of the project, two 10-metre-long tables filled with the rubble of LEGO will gradually be transformed into a sprawling cityscape!

Olafur Eliasson, The structural evolution project 2001. Permanent loan Stiftung Hamburger Kunstsammlungen. Photo: Olafur Eliasson© 2001 Olafur Eliasson

It’s hard not to dance in front of Your uncertain shadow (colour) 2010. The artwork casts your shadow in amazing colours.

Olafur Eliasson, Your uncertain shadow (colour) 2010. Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary Collection, Vienna. Photo: María del Pilar García Ayensa/ Studio Olafur Eliasson. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles © 2010 Olafur Eliasson 

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Climate Emergency

The artist cares deeply about climate change. Last year he brought chunks of ice from the Greenland ice sheet to London to raise awareness of our warming planet! In Ice Watch 2014, people were able to touch age-old ice and feel the reality of global warming.

Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing Ice Watch 2018. Supported by Bloomberg. Installation view: Bankside, outside Tate Modern, 2018. Photo: Charlie Forgham Bailey © 2018 Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing

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Ask Olafur!

We put some questions to the intriguing artist…

Portrait of Olafur Eliasson. Photo: Runa Maya Mørk Huber / Studio Olafur Eliasson © 2017 Olafur Eliasson

Hi Olafur! Most galleries don’t let people touch the artwork – but in parts of your exhibition, visitors can help create it! Can you tell us more?
You may not realise it, but every artwork is always waiting for you to finish it – it is nothing if you are not looking at it. Your uncertain shadow (colour) 2010, for example, just looks like a light shining on a wall if no one walks into the space. But as soon as you step into the light you create a lot of different coloured shadows on the wall. And this makes everyone in the room start to move around and even dance with their shadows and with each other.

Sounds fun! Many of your installations feature the colour yellow, with rooms bathed in yellow light. Why do you find this colour so interesting?
The yellow lights I use are actually common street lamps in some countries. Many people are used to seeing them but they don’t realise how yellow they are until they see them indoors, in an art exhibition. It creates a really amazing effect: it reduces what you see to shades of yellow, grey and black. You can also see all of these details that you would not normally see. Then when you step out again, it’s such a shock. I like that people see the world differently in these artworks, and start to think how much what they see depends on the light they see it in.

One of your works features a tunnel full of thick fog. Why do you like to affect people’s senses?
If you step into a space where you cannot see very well, then suddenly your other senses become stronger. You start to hear, smell, and feel things more intensely. You may even think about what you are experiencing while you are experiencing it. A little confusion can make you much more aware.

You are also inspired by nature. Why is it important for you to use nature in your work?
As human beings, we often assume that we are living outside nature. We forget that the table we are sitting at is made of wood and comes from nature, and that the metal chair is made from materials that were dug up from the ground and transformed and shaped. So when I use materials taken from nature you see them in a new light and ask yourself, what is natural?

Do you think art can make a difference when it comes to the climate emergency?
What art can do is inspire people to take action. But I think individuals can only do so much. It’s up to governments and businesses to make the big changes that are needed. I am hopeful when I see how many young people around the world are taking part in climate marches, in the Fridays for Future, demanding that those in power address the climate emergency.

Us, too! You’re half Danish, half Icelandic. How have these countries influenced you?
My interest in light goes back to visiting my grandparents in Iceland as a child. In the town where they lived there was a rule during the 1970s that everyone had to stop using electricity in the evenings to conserve energy. I remember sitting at the window watching as all the lights in town went out. After a few seconds, my eyes would adjust and I could see the sky glowing in the light of the midnight sun. In the summertime in Iceland, the sun almost never sets.

Amazing! What advice would you give to NG KiDS readers who want to be artists?
Children are often taught that there is a right way to make things – but this actually goes against creativity. Many people think that you have to study many years to become qualified to do something, but this is not the case with art. What I always tell students is that they do not have to wait to complete a degree to become an artist. You already are an artist.

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Restaurant takeover!

The kitchen chefs at Olafur Eliasson’s Berlin studio have created a special menu for the Tate Modern’s Terrace Bar, so visitors can enjoy the same vegetarian, organic food that his team eats.

House ferments, Labneh with borage, whipped butter, Roasted red pepper hummus and red pepper dip served with focaccia and rye sourdough, Spiced carrot soup. Served at the Terrace Bar as part of Studio Olafur Eliasson Kitchen’s collaboration with Tate Eats. Photo credit: Alcuin Stevenson / Studio Olafur Eliasson

Win a trip to Berlin!

Win a trip to Olafur’s studio in Berlin. Click here to find out how to enter!

Head to tate.org.uk/eliasson to book tickets and find out more!

Ticket Prices: Under 12s go free. £5 for 12-16s. £5 for 16-25 year olds*. Adult Price: £18 (£17 concessions)
*price is only valid if you’re a Tate Collective member (free to join)

Page banner: Olafur Eliasson, Room for one colour 1997. Installation view: PinchukArtCentre, Kiev, 2011. Photo: Dmitry Baranov. Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles © 1997 Olafur Eliasson
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