Olafur Eliasson and the Circulation of Affects and Percepts: In Conversation

The work of Danish-Icelandic artist, Olafur Eliasson is suffused with an internal atmosphere, which profoundly impacts upon all those who experience it. Eliasson creates framed interior spaces that improbably reproduce an array of manufactured weather conditions and wild and moody landscapes. These atmospheric installations prove particularly compelling for interior and architectural designers, as affects and percepts are combined to constantly circulate and create an intimate relay between the artwork and those who enter into contact with it. Through the manipulation of colour, transparency and reflection of light, Eliasson dissolves the material of interior space into the immaterial sensory quality of atmosphere and captures the receptive visitor in this embrace. A tentative theory of affect will be explored here in order to discover how Eliasson undertakes the mutual transformation of space, time and habitation. The immaterial materials of atmosphere that Eliasson manipulates move beyond mere surface effect, opening up new formations of the social. This article draws on ‘Life in Space’ a midsummer forum held on the 22nd June at Studio Olafur Eliasson, a former freight warehouse, which is next to Hamburger Bahnhof,  Berlin’s contemporary art museum. The reoccurring themes of the longest day of the year at Studio Olafur Eliasson included temporality, or the inexorable sensation of the passing of time; the status of reality; the primacy of the object, specifically in relation to the position of the art object in contemporary art, and the medium of the model and maquette; and the perception of colour and light, as exemplified by the phenomenon of photographic reproduction. These themes erupted as a collective conversation that developed openly amongst all the invited participants.

“Olafur Eliasson and the Circulation of Affects and Percepts: In Conversation”, in Julianna Preston, guest ed., Interior Atmospheres: Architectural Design, vol. 78, no. 3, (London: John Wiley and Sons: May/June 2008), pp. 30-35. Peer Reviewed Journal.