Press Release

The Unilever Series: Olafur Eliasson The Weather Project

Tate Modern  Turbine Hall
16 October 2003 – 21 March 2004

Tate today unveiled The Weather Project, the fourth commission in The Unilever Series at Tate Modern. Taking our relationship with the weather as a starting point, Danish/Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has used mirrors, light and mist to create an extraordinary sensory environment in the Turbine Hall. This subtle yet dramatic installation radically alters the space as a means of exploring ideas about perception, experience and representation

Eliasson regularly incorporates elements appropriated from nature in his work. By introducing such phenomena into an unexpected setting, such as a gallery, the artist encourages the viewer to pause and reflect upon their understanding and perception of the physical world around them. Whether he installs a new gallery floor made of volcanic lava or a delicate rainbow into a museum as he has in previous work, Eliasson questions the familiar, the everyday and the divide between nature and culture.

Throughout his career, Eliasson’s installations and interventions have consciously made the viewer central to the work. This is evident in The Weather Project in which a mirror running the length and breadth of the Turbine Hall ceiling allows visitors to see themselves and the immense space around them reflected overhead. At the far end of the Turbine Hall a large yellow arc of light is suspended and reflected in the mirrored ceiling, linking the real space and replicated expanse to create a ‘sun’. Illuminated with mono-frequency lamps the Turbine Hall is transformed into a monochrome landscape. A fine mist permeates the space in different densities and forms patterns throughout the day.

The structure and machinery of Eliasson’s installations are deliberately exposed to the viewer. By making the viewer conscious of the construction, so that they understand the staging behind the installation, Eliasson also makes them conscious of the act of perception, of being caught in a moment of awareness. Similarly in The Weather Project, visitors can walk behind the ‘sun’ to view the substructure and wiring, and those on Level 5 can see above the construction of the mirrored ceiling in the Turbine Hall.

From an early stage in the development of the project, Eliasson decided to take two seemingly disparate, but parallel, systems – the weather and the museum – as a means of investigating how communication and mediation can influence perception. Just as an audience might unquestioningly accept the content of a televised weather forecast, the artist recognises that a viewer’s response to a work of art could likewise be prescribed by the museum. In acknowledging this, Eliasson chose to become involved in the aspects of Tate’s activities which may influence the reception of his work, such as its marketing and education. Throughout The Weather Project, Eliasson has worked closely with staff at Tate conducting interviews and distributing surveys about the weather, all of which are reproduced in the catalogue. An early press release on microclimate research in Turbine Hall challenged both Tate and the media to re-evaluate the flow and reliability of information being issued by the museum. Equally the promotion and advertising of this year’s The Unilever Series is an extension of The Weather Project.

The Unilever Series: Olafur Eliasson is curated by Susan May. The exhibition catalogue is available for £19.99 and includes essays by the artist, Bruno Latour, Doreen Massey and Israel Rosenfield as well as research conducted by the artist.

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