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Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative

Earth Perspectives, a new participatory artwork By Olafur Eliasson, as part of Serpentine’s 50th anniversary, invites people to reflect on the co-existence of multiple world views, launched on Earth day: Wednesday 22, April 2020.

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale MagazineToday, ‘the world as we know it’ is a phrase of the past. The current health crisis has brought our societies close to a halt, affecting our economies, our freedoms and even our social ties. On Earth Day, I want to advocate – as on any other day – that we recognise various perspectives and, together, celebrate their co-existence.

Olafur Eliasson

Danish-Icelandic artist

Studio Olafur Eliasson, Berlin

The commission is a response to the Serpentine’s 50th anniversary Back to Earth programme, inviting leading artists, musicians, architects, poets, filmmakers, scientists, thinkers, and designers to propose artworks and projects that are also a call to action in response to the climate emergency. Back to Earth runs throughout the Serpentine’s programmes onsite, offsite, and online in 2020 and beyond.

Olafur Eliasson has created a series of nine images of the Earth, each of which has been abstracted by turning the planet on a different axis. Each image also denotes a particular spot on Earth with a “dot”. If a viewer stares at the dot for about ten seconds and then trains their focus onto a blank surface, an afterimage appears in the complementary colours of Eliasson’s visual – the viewer literally projects a new world view.

The first image was unveiled at 10:00 BST on Instagram with eight further images posted subsequently every hour, each one a different view of the planet. The artwork will also be available for download at olafureliasson.net, serpentine galleries.org and the Bloomberg Connects app.

The work explores how maps, space and the earth itself are all to a certain extent construction, which we all have the power to see from other perspectives, whether individually or collectively.

Olafur Eliasson’s relationship with the Serpentine dates to his commission for the Serpentine Pavilion made with Kjetil Thorsen in 2007 and his participation in the Experiment Marathon that autumn.

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

1. The Earth viewed over the Great Barrier Reef, Australia. The world’s biggest single structure made by living organisms, now dying due to human activity and mass coral bleaching.

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

2. The Earth viewed over the Mariana Trench, Pacific Ocean. The deepest trench on Earth, reaching almost 11,000 meters below sea level. Despite its extremity, both living organisms and human-made plastics have been found at its bottom.

“This is an artwork that makes you into the artist. It is an after-image experiment. I am going to show you some colours and have you produce the real artwork. It is about the planet Earth, imagining the well being of the planet,” says Olafur Eliasson, “We must take the time to empathise with all those struck by the crisis and also seize this opportunity to imagine together the earth that we want to inhabit in the future – in all its wonders and beauty, in the face of the challenges ahead of us.”

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

3. The Earth viewed over Yakutia, in Siberia, Russia. Rising temperatures are thawing permafrost in this remote region, deforming landscapes, releasing large quantities of methane, and disrupting animal migration patterns.

“Today, ‘the world as we know it’ is a phrase of the past. The current health crisis has brought our societies close to a halt, affecting our economies, our freedoms and even our social ties. We must take the time to empathise with all those struck by the crisis and also seize this opportunity to imagine together the earth that we want to inhabit in the future – in all its wonders and beauty, in the face of all the challenges ahead of us.

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

4. The Earth viewed over the Ganges River, India. A sacred waterway granted the same legal rights as a human being by an Indian court in 2017.

Earth perspectives envisions the earth we want to live on together by welcoming multiple perspectives – not only human perspectives but also those of plants, animals, and nature. A glacier’s perspective deviates from that of a human. The same goes for a river. On Earth Day, I want to advocate – as on any other day – that we recognise these various perspectives and, together, celebrate their co-existence.”

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

5. The Earth viewed over the Simien Mountains, Ethiopia. One of the rare places in Africa where snow falls regularly, this range is part of the Ethiopian Highlands, known as the ‘Roof of Africa’.

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

6. The Earth viewed over Chernobyl, in Pripyat, Ukraine. The site of the worst nuclear disaster in history, where rare and endangered species now thrive in the absence of humans.

Hans Ulrich Obrist, Artistic Director and Bettina Korek, Chief Executive, Serpentine Galleries said: “For our 50th-anniversary programme, we have invited artists, thinkers, designers and architects from across the world to create works that respond to the climate emergency. Ecology is an integral component of the Serpentine’s history, and very much of our present, as well, as we now exist in a society adapting to a world changed by the coronavirus. We must look to artists for guidance on how to shape the future and we are honoured that Olafur Eliasson has produced a new work for Back to Earth.”

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

7. The Earth viewed over the Greenland ice sheet. A continent-wide ice sheet produced by falling snow over millions of years, now melting at staggering rates due to human-induced climate change.

“Earth perspectives makes use of a simple optical phenomenon – the afterimage – to create a bridge between the familiar and the unknown. The artwork envisions the earth we want to live on together by welcoming multiple perspectives – not only human perspectives but also those of nature. The same goes for a river. On Earth Day, I want to advocate – as on any other day – that we recognize these various perspectives and, together, celebrate their co-existence,” says the artist.

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

8. The Earth viewed over Ecuador. The first country in the world to recognize Rights of Nature in their Constitution, ratified in 2008. Nature has the ‘right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles’.

Olafur Eliasson’s New Artwork is a Back to Earth Initiative - Scale Magazine

9. The Earth viewed over the South Pole. The pole is at the heart of the virtually uninhabited continent of Antarctica, a vital ice-covered wildlife haven that is under threat from rapid warming and ice loss.

Olafur Eliasson’s art is driven by his interests in perception, movement, embodied experience and feelings of self. He strives to make the concerns of art relevant to society at large. Art, for him, is a crucial means for turning thinking into doing in the world. Eliasson’s works span sculpture, painting, photography, film and installation. Not limited to the confines of the museum and gallery, his practice engages the broader public sphere through architectural projects, interventions in civic space, arts education, policy-making and issues of sustainability and climate change.

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