I like to believe that the main part of my work lies in the experience of it.
And the thing that is exhibited or displayed?
It’s rather just a kind of machine.
An experience machine?
And if nobody sees the machine?
Then there is no experience and therefore no work – and I would be a mechanic instead of an artist. Although I don’t distinguish too much these days. An artist can be many things – an entrepreneur, policymaker, activist, researcher, a gardener of sorts.
The Artist Interviews Himself, 1995/2015
Originally sent as a fax to Christiane Schneider, 5 December 1995, by Olafur Eliasson, and expanded in January 2015
Do art and experience go hand in hand?
Even attempting to answer this question would instantly put me into a totally predefined way of thinking.
Ha! The young artist speaking. A lot has happened to the concept of experience during the last de cade. It’s been hijacked by the experience indus try, commercialized, packaged, and offered for sale and consumption. We artists need to reclaim it by showing trust in the viewers and in the users of art. Experience doesn’t simply arrive from outside; it’s a meeting up of interior and exterior.
…Giving people access to data most often leaves them feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, not empowered and poised for action. This is where art can make a difference. Art does not show people what to do, yet engaging with a good work of art can connect you to your senses, body, and mind. It can make the world felt. And this felt feeling may spur thinking, engagement, and even action.
…Engaging with art is not simply a solitary event. The arts and culture represent one of the few areas in our society where people can come together to share an experience even if they see the world in radically different ways. The important thing is not that we agree about the experience that we share, but that we consider it worthwhile sharing an experience at all. In art and other forms of cultural expression, disagreement is accepted and embraced as an essential ingredient. In this sense, the community created by arts and culture is potentially a great source of inspiration for politicians and activists who work to transcend the polarizing populism and stigmatization of other people, positions, and world views that is sadly so endemic in public discourse today.
Blog post from January 23rd, 2016 by Olafur Eliasson as part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and The World Economic Forum to mark the Forum’s Annual Meeting 2016 (in Davos-Klosters, Switzerland, Jan. 20-23)