(Shadows travelling on the sea of the day) | Studio Olafur Eliasson

Doha / Qatar / 2022

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سفر الظلال في بحر النهار (Shadows travelling on the sea of the day), 2022 by Olafur Eliasson


Inauguration on 24 October 2022
Northern Heritage sites, Doha, Qatar



ARTISTIC STATEMENT


Shadows travelling on the sea of the day is reached by driving through the rugged desert landscape, northwards from Doha, past Fort Zubarah and the village of Ain Mohammed. You may already glimpse the artwork from afar, situated on the horizon like a small informal settlement or industrial site. When you finally approach the artwork on foot, the uncertainty of what you are in fact seeing may stay with you a little while longer. The landscape – a vast, sandy plane dotted with desert plants, traces of animals, and rock formations – extends around you for many kilometres in all directions. Perhaps the shimmering line of the horizon is the artwork’s outer limit.


Yet it is not only you who have journeyed to meet up with the artwork. Its cool, hospitable shadows travel slowly across the sandy ground during the day and more rapidly at dusk and dawn. Above you, in the ceilings fitted with large mirrors, you may also – with the right amount of patience – detect these cyclical journeys.


Looking up, you come to realise that you are, in fact, looking down – at the earth and at yourself. Above and below, sand envelops you, together with anyone else sharing the space. To test what you see, you might extend an arm and wave to yourself or wiggle a foot while looking at your reflection. It is a kind of reality check of your connectedness to the ground. You are at once standing firmly on the sand and hanging, head down, from a ground that is far above you. You will probably switch back and forth between a first-person perspective and a destabilising, third- person point of view of yourself. This oscillation of the gaze, together with the movement of your body, amplifies your sense of presence, while the curving structures seem to vanish into the surroundings, dematerialising and becoming landscape.


If you look at the clusters of sculptural elements unfolding left and right, you may notice a quite extraordinary effect: the array of mirrors connects and perfects what is physically distinct and partial. The mirrors each reflect their own semicircular support, completing them into perfect circles. The neighbouring mirrors reflect the steel structures as well, creating a sea of interconnections. Reflection becomes virtual composition, changing as you move. What you perceive – an entanglement of landscape, sprawling sculptural elements, and visitors – seems hyperreal while still completely grounded.


I hope you will become sensitised to the surroundings as you meander beneath the shady mirrors. Walking slowly – without the protection of a fast-moving, airconditioned vehicle – you may be able to take in a landscape that is not barren and empty but comprises desert animals, plants, and human beings; stories, traditions, and cultural artefacts; wind, glaring sunlight, thick air, and shimmering heat; semicircles and rings; traces and tracks; and curiosity, fatigue, and wonder. Shadows travelling on the sea of the day is a celebration of all that is here; of everything moving through the space at the time of your visit, of your presence within this naturalcultural landscape. It is an invitation to resync with the planet.


CONTEXT STATEMENT


Over the course of my working life as an artist, I have always been a strong believer in collaboration and dialogue. I have approached diverging points of view – or even potential conflicts – in two ways: through direct conversations with my collaborators and through my artworks and the particular kind of reflection and dialogue that art especially can enable. I believe that art offers a rare opportunity for people from a wide range of backgrounds to share a space while acknowledging differences of opinion and of values.


For me, working in Qatar has meant entering into a context where I am confronted with values that are different from my own – sometimes radically so. I adamantly believe in the right of everyone to express themselves freely, in particular with regard to their gender and sexual orientation, and I am a strong believer in upholding human rights, as outlined by the UN. Entering into a work collaboration in a context like Qatar, I am careful, as an outsider and as a European, about how I can best support these values, aware as I am of the legacy of European colonialism. This is where I believe art can act as a conduit for dialogue and for listening. I hope that the creative collaborations that I am currently nurturing on site in Qatar – and the embodied experiences and space for self-reflection that I strive to offer in my art – will provide alternative, productive means for us to meet each other across communities and cultures, both now and in the longer term. And I hope that they will lead to further opportunities for more intensive collaborations on addressing some of the urgencies that we face today.


Qatar, like all countries, is threatened by the consequences of climate change, including rising sea levels and increased temperatures. As such, it is a signatory of the Paris Agreement and, in 2021, signed the Global Methane Pledge to reduce methane emissions by 30% in 2030. Responding to the challenges of climate change requires an unprecedented level of international cooperation. It is my conviction that art and cultural projects such as my own can help cultivate the necessary transcultural understanding to tackle this enormous task.


When it comes to responding to something like the climate emergency, art, unlike activism, is often slow and circuitous. It offers multilayered spaces of wonder, questioning, and critical reflection. Yet I think art does help many people around the world to conjure up alternative perspectives and to imagine new narratives for how we can successfully co-exist on earth in a more sustainable way. Shadows travelling on the sea of the day will provide, I hope, a space for visitors to resync with the planet and may prompt conversations about climate action on a local scale. Rooted in my own experiences trying to make my studio practice more sustainable – improving waste management, reducing travel, and tracking carbon footprints – I look forward to continuing the ongoing dialogue about climate action with the teams at Qatar Museums, extending this to my upcoming exhibition at the National Museum of Qatar in spring 2023. 


(Olafur Eliasson)

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Caption for the images


Olafur Eliasson
سفر الظلال في بحر النهار (Shadows travelling on the sea of the day), 2022
Steel, fibreglass, glass mirrors
4.53 x 10.51 x 10.51 metre | ø 8.2 metre | ø 8.2 metre
Installation view: Northern Heritage sites, Doha, Qatar, 2022
Photo: Iwan Baan
Courtesy of the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York / Los Angeles
© 2022 Olafur Eliasson

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    سفر الظلال في بحر النهار (Shadows travelling on the sea of the day), 2022 by Olafur Eliasson Inauguration on 24 October 2022Northern Heritage sites, Doha, Qatar ARTISTIC STATEMENT Shadows travelling on the sea of the day is reached by driving through the rugged desert landscape, northwards from Doha, past Fort Zubarah and the village of Ain Mohammed. You may already glimpse the artwork from afar, situated on the horizon like a small informal settlement or industrial site. When you finally...

    Project details
    • Year 2022
    • Work finished in 2022
    • Status Completed works
    • Type Exhibition Design
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