Reconsideration of the rules and the ways of experiencing

Hudson River Greenway (The Space In Which The Artwork Is Shown And The Space Itself) ©MAIERMOUL
Hudson River Greenway (The Space In Which The Artwork Is Shown And The Space Itself) ©MAIERMOUL

The show, Chaque matin je me sens differént, chaque soir je me sens le même, had a huge impact on my work. I did not just create the artworks; I also made every architectural decision: the thickness of the walls, the placement of the doors, the sequence of rooms, and the like.

Since then, it has become normal for me to design everything associated with an exhibition. There is no longer a clear boundary between the space in which the artwork is shown and the space itself. From then on space, architecture, and artwork all became different sides of the same thing.

The danger with rituals is that they are, by definition, repetitive, which means they are also predictable. I wonder if the ritualization of exhibitions is a result of the failure of the communicative system around art. Do museums actively cultivate the reconsideration of the rules and the ways of experiencing art? Do they not just leave that to the artists? I would place a great part of the responsibility on the institutions and their failure to innovatively handle their audiences.

People come to the museum with the expectation that they are going to take an experience away with them, that they are going to leave again having consumed something. The message of the museum is, “come to us and you will get something out of it,” because this is the commercial way of communicating an experience. Yet it would be much more rewarding to convince people that when they enter a museum, they are there to give something. Furthermore we — artists and museums — should take something from people. It is such a rewarding experience for people to come to a museum and feel that they are actually considered so important that they can contribute by giving.

-Olafur Eliasson, conversation with Hans Ulrich Obrist in Olafur Eliasson: Contact