Olafur Eliasson and Serpentine Galleries celebrate Earth Day

On Earth Day 2020, Olafur Eliasson launches Earth Perspectives, a series of artworks presented by Serpentine Galleries to mark the 50th anniversary of project ‘Back to Earth’.

by Shraddha Nair Published on : Apr 22, 2020

Today, April 22, is Earth Day, and in this year 2020 we are celebrating it in a novel way. Living in the time of an unprecedented pandemic, we are seeing humans retreat to their homes and habitats around the world and the Earth celebrating the absence of the daily disturbance, which comes with the lack of bustling society.

On this day, one which we could not have possibly imagined would play out in this manner, Serpentine Galleries present Olafur Eliasson’s Earth Perspectives. The series of nine images is a commission in response to Serpentine’s ‘Back To Earth’ programme, which is curated to celebrate the gallery’s 50th anniversary. ‘Back To Earth’ invites leading artists, musicians, architects poets, filmmakers, scientists, designers and thinkers to bring to the table their proposals for projects that serve as a call to action in response to the ongoing climate change emergency.

The Earth as viewed from above the Ganges River in India, one of nine-part series by Olafur Eliasson | Earth Perspectives | Olafur Eliasson | STIRworld
The Earth as viewed from above the Ganges River in India, one of nine-part series by Olafur Eliasson Image Credit: Courtesy of Olafur Eliasson and Serpentine Galleries

Earth Perspectives is a visually simple yet conceptually layered artwork, which relies on a basic optical exercise and viewer participation to be understood. The images are two-dimensional renders of Earth itself, seen as if viewed from outer space. Every image also denotes a particular location on Earth with a black dot. The viewer is invited to participate in the artwork by staring at the dot for about 10 seconds before shifting focus to a blank surface where the after image appears in colours complementary to Eliasson’s visual metaphorically creating a ‘new world’.

Olafur Eliasson spoke to Hans-Ulrich Obrist in a live stream on Instagram today on the occasion of Earth Day 2020, about his work Earth Perspectives, while also discussing his other ongoing projects and upcoming shows. In the live stream, Eliasson also discussed the intentions behind the artwork, speaking to Obrist about his approach to the work which sees the eye as a tool, or an objectively functioning instrument, and the brain as one which constructs reality for us. Reality is, in fact, relative to our engagement,” says Eliasson as he talks about how we must all recognise that we are in control of the way we perceive things. He emphasises on the fact that Earth Perspectives is open source and says, “You are the artist!”, encouraging the viewers to download and share the works and experiment with the simple optical exercises in their own stay-at-home, quarantine spaces.

The Earth as viewed from above the South Pole, one of nine-part series by Olafur Eliasson | Earth Perspectives | Olafur Eliasson | STIRworld
The Earth as viewed from above the South Pole, one of nine-part series by Olafur Eliasson Image Credit: Courtesy of Olafur Eliasson and Serpentine Galleries

Eliasson is currently working on a number of upcoming shows and projects, including his first digital artwork in the form of a creative application for children from the ages of five to fifteen. Given that his relationship with Serpentine is one which dates back to 2007, the Instagram live stream was an engaging watch with both artist and curator holding the other in high esteem.

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About Author

Shraddha Nair

Shraddha Nair

Nair is a writer and curator based in Bengaluru, India. Her curatorial practice is a method by which she negotiates with and navigates the complexities of human behaviour, an interest which flows into her writing as well. She believes that art and collective experience hold immense capacity in the cultivation and development of action and emotion.

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