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Olafur Eliasson on art and science


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The fall issue of Art Practical was unveiled today. The theme of the issue is “Art, Science, and Wonder,” and along with several other intriguing pieces there is a conversation with Olafur Eliasson about why, as an artist, he is so interested in science. Here’s a snippet:

Often the typical mistake that you encounter at conferences on art and science is that the scientists talk about science and they use art as examples. The art is made into a vehicle for explaining some kind of scientific problem. I am not so interested in this approach. I am more interested in how science has allowed us to see the world in different ways. That has to do with the history of science and the critique of the history of science. Because science has also made a number of great mistakes. I am very interested in how society uses science to understand itself and not so interested in how science understands itself – if only because I just don’t understand this. So I am really interested in science as a cultural phenomenon. I am interested when a scientist not only says something about science but says something about the world, because then I can understand what is being discussed…

Of course, as artists, we should not see ourselves as people who work in laboratories. I occasionally, and perhaps mistakenly, call my studio a laboratory, but it is not a laboratory in the mythologised sense of a laboratory separated from the world. The artist studio must not be outside of the world. It must go out into the world. I would like to claim the world as our laboratory and the artist’s studio as reality. Because this is how we increase our sensitivity to the local. You cannot step out of anything; you can step into everything, and that is in your studio. You are in fact real and the world around you is a laboratory that can change.

Image: Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing, Ice Watch, 2014; City Hall Square, Copenhagen. Via Art Practical.