- Olafur Eliasson born 1967
- Reindeer moss, wood, wire
- Displayed: 60000 mm
- Purchased with funds provided by the New Carlsberg Foundation 2020
Moss wall 1994 is installation that is made anew each time it is displayed. A grid of chicken wire is attached to the wall and the plant Cladonia rangiferina, commonly known as Reindeer Moss or Lichen, is stuffed into the holes. This moss is purchased from commercial suppliers who source it from Scandinavia and treat it with saline or glycerine, ensuring it is preserved and inflammable. The dimensions of the work vary according to the site, but the moss must cover an entire wall with a small lip extending about a foot onto the floor of the display space. Where possible, visitors may be allowed to touch the work. A statement on the artist’s website about the work reads:
Reindeer moss (Cladonia rangiferina), a lichen native to countries in the northern latitudes including Iceland, is woven into a wire mesh and mounted on the wall of a gallery. As the lichen dries, it shrinks and fades; when the installation is watered, the moss expands, changes colour again, and fills the space with its fragrance.
(https://olafureliasson.net/archive/artwork/WEK101810/moss-wall, accessed 10 July 2020.)
Eliasson first presented Moss wall in 1994 at the Art Cologne art fair. At the time, he was making installations that were pitched against the commercialism of the art world and so Moss wall was deliberately ‘unsaleable’. Now one of the best-known works of Eliasson’s early career, it has featured in almost all of his major solo exhibitions including his 2007–8 retrospective Take your time – which toured to multiple venues in the United States from San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 2007 – and Tate Modern’s exhibition Olafur Eliasson: In real life, where it was installed along the length of a twelve-metre wall.
Moss wall speaks to Eliasson’s interest in disrupting the appearance and experience of gallery architecture, and in dissolving the boundaries dividing interior and exterior environments, either by opening up space or bringing natural materials inside. It also evokes the moss that covers the lava fields found in several locations around Iceland. Having visited Iceland regularly throughout his life to see his grandparents, the country’s unique climate, geology and fauna have impressed themselves upon the artist. This has led him to use materials like lava and glacial ice in some works, and to translate Icelandic waterfalls and riverbeds into sculptures. In bringing natural materials into the gallery space, Eliasson also drew upon a legacy of land art and sculptural history that includes Hans Haacke’s Grass Grows 1967, Robert Smithson’s Non-sites 1968, Walter de Maria’s Earth Room 1977 and Richard Long’s various mud walls.
Madeleine Grynsztejn, Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson, exhibition catalogue, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art 2007.
Olafur Eliasson, Experience, London 2018.
Mark Godfrey, Olafur Eliasson: In real life, exhibition catalogue, Tate Modern, London 2019.
Mark Godfrey and Emma Lewis
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