Olafur Eliasson, Your natural
denudation inverted, 1999 (installation view)
the Artists: Olafur Eliasson
1: I'm a docent at the Museum. We've
had a delightful time watching your sculpture evolve over the winter. Did
you intend to have icicles form on the trees? Does it bother you that
someone walked on the frozen surface?
I knew that the possibility was there for the icicles to form, but I could
not count on it since I was not sure that it would be cold enough. I have
worked with ice and icicles before, and the quality of the phenomena that
ice can create has for me something to do with the process--that it
changes all the time. So thinking about the piece for the Carnegie it was
important to me that I left the possibility open for this and other kinds
of process--related things to happen, and through that support a more
individual experience of the piece.
No walking on the ice does not bother me at all--it might not be
totally safe--but actually walking on it is just another way of
experiencing the piece. The fact that the piece plays on the experience of
it through the window, rather than being outside, is a comment on how we
are used to experience through filters, and how seemingly normal it occurs
to look at this kind of water and steam garden through a window as if it
was a picture we looked at through a glass frame. The fact that somebody
might walk on the ice--or in the water for that matter--clashes with the
looking through the windows, and suddenly the windows become a border
between inside and outside rather than a large movie screen.
2: Did you create this work only to be
shown at the Carnegie Museum of Art, or could it be installed elsewhere?
I did this specially for the courtyard of the Carnegie, and installing it
elsewhere is possible but then it is an other piece for me. I anyway
believe that it is another piece for every day that passes and for every
person that sees it. Since I am interested in the experience and questions
that the piece evokes, the actual piece as such becomes more like a
machine creating the phenomena that I want it to create. So you could say
the work is actually not so much the piece in the courtyard but just as
much the people looking at it, and maybe most of all what happens between
the person looking at it and the so-called "machine". So
installing it elsewhere would never be the same situation and therefore
never the same piece.
work is very inviting-did you ever consider allowing visitors to
physically interact with Your natural denudation inverted? What
inspired the title?
mentioned this in the first answer (1) so yes interacting is as always
something that I think about. Which is why I have kept the water surface
accessible from outside if somebody wanted to touch it or so.
The title came from thinking about what is it that I am actually doing
- and for me it was something about simulating some sort of geothermal
activity - like a hot spring or so. I came across the word
"denudation" looking for how we measure the tectonic shifting or
movement (growth) of mountains and the word denudation seemed to be what
geologically is referred to when it comes to the minor changes of
mountains that occur from tectonic activity. So playing with that meaning
of "denudation," I just made it very simple and said that
geothermal activity is where the tectonic plates of the globe are
meeting--I liked that thinking about the curatorial ideas of the show--and
since my "hot spring" is artificially made I say natural
denudation inverted--meaning unnatural denudation--and then finally I
wanted to stress that the inverted is an idea only exists inside the
spectator’s mind and therefore I decided to say "Your natural
denudation inverted." Pointing out that "your" experience
is central rather than my ideas about it.
4: Why did you
choose to incorporate the geyser-like steam in your work?
steam was one of many ideas I considered and through a lot of thinking,
talking to the excellent technical staff of the show, and the curator I
slowly developed the idea of trying to take some element already existing
in the house and exposing it. The fact that the museum is steam heated was
interesting. Knowing that in Iceland houses are heated with the energy
derived from hot springs, I thought it could be interesting commenting on
the idea of what a museum is and reversing the situation and creating a
hot spring from the heating of the house. That was simmering in my mind
until I saw the great steam columns behind the museum and I thought that
if I could take that very same steam and make an artificial hot spring
situation I had a good base for an idea to develop further. And like I
said the crew greatly managed a way of hooking up a pipe to the heating
system of the museum, and if you look closely at the piece you can see a
large pipe coming out over a wall running to my piece. This way I could
use the geyser as a simulated natural phenomena merely made from
cultivated museum steam and therefore questions of relations between
culture and nature--which interests me personally as my model for
researching how we relate to our surroundings.
5: Did you
consider the smokestacks near the museum that one can see while viewing
I mention in answering question (4) the smokestacks where crucial for the
development of the idea for the piece, and yes I am very happy that you
can see the smokestacks far away when looking at the piece from inside. It
is important for me to see the origin of the work--not to hide anything or
to try turning it into magic. That way people when seeing the smokestacks
might make the connection that the piece is made from the heating system
of the museum.
Eliasson's CI:99/00 page
of the Week Calendar