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Your Uncertain Shadow (colour), 2010 - © Olafur Eliasson

Olafur Eliasson at the Tate Modern

27 August 2019 | Billie Manning

Everything Olafur Eliasson does, he does on a big scale.

This expansive exhibition covers more than 40 years of Eliasson's work - and there's a lot of it, considering he's worked as architect, inventor, sculptor, painter and more. The focus here, though, is largely on his fun, experiential installations and his environmentally-oriented work on glacier deterioration and his home country of Iceland. 
 
Interactivity at this exhibition doesn't just mean 'you can touch this' but full body experiences: a long corridor of blinding, colourful fog which takes several minutes to walk precariously through, a shimmering rainbow-filled wall of mist. As such, this is a great exhibition to take the family along to – kids and adults alike will be entranced by the many sensory delights of the exhibition and the interactive nature of a lot of the installations. 
 
It's not all fun and games though: some more serious, muted pieces can evoke a bit of a grimace: a lone candle burning on a mirror, entitled I grew up in solitude and silence is one of those pieces - rather over-sincere, it's difficult to see what the piece is trying to say to or prompt in viewers.
 
olafur eliasson beauty
'Beauty', 1993 © Olafur Eliasson

Despite the sensory focus of the exhibition, there is, regrettably, one part of the exhibition that is inaccessible for those in a wheelchair, and likely for others with mobility issues, something that was brought to light by Twitter user Ciara O’Connor. O’Connor rightly states that this is extremely disappointing in an exhibition which is so focused on the body and senses of the audience, interactivity and accessibility for the gallery-goer. Tate has since installed a video of the experience alongside the piece.

All of this elemental delight links with Eliasson’s climate-centred work, which draws a long hard look too; his melting ice photo series is striking. The Icelandic Eliasson has a long history of drawing attention to climate change and in particular the melting of Greenland’s glaciers – he once had giant ice blocks shipped to the UK where they slowly melted under the gaze of the Tate’s visitors.
 
It’s this capture of the natural world’s power that Eliasson is really pushing throughout his works. By making us hyperware of our bodies and our senses, he is reminding us that we are we are nature, too – we are all part of one world, that which we must try to save. 
 
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