Room for one coulour, 1997. Monofrequency lights, view of installation at the Malmö Konstall, Sweden, 2005.

Olafur Eliasson: Impresario of the Senses

“Take Your Time: Olafur Eliasson” opened on an auspicious morning at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the sun rising as a huge red ball in a hazy sky. The fierce glow, which resulted from wildfires around the Bay Area, bore an uncanny resemblance to Eliasson’s 2003 breakout work at the Tate Modern, The Weather Project. The awe inspired by such natural phenomena, and by Eliasson’s best projects, hinges on knowable magic—proven scientific properties (though often hard for the lay person to explain) that remain uneasily reconciled with everyday experience. Eliasson’s brilliance shines in this chasm between looking and seeing, where wonder springs eternal. That San Francisco sun also seemed to defy time, both a prehistoric relic and a harbinger of the future and global warming. Eliasson’s works, too, function in this temporal synapse: they smack of a certain futurism, but their premises are deeply rooted in the past and, by definition, they exist only in the now. These chiasmatic, artificial environments serve as phenomenological trip-wires or amplifiers in which viewers become acutely aware of their experiences.