The weather

Olafur Eliasson The Weather Project (photo: coda)

Olafur Eliasson The Weather Project (photo: coda)

Hiking on the fjords of Norway earlier this summer I was reminded of how powerful the weather is. This sounds like a boring, flat statement for us living in the cities. There is, however, a great power in being at the mercy of the weather. Being away from where the weather matters, I believe, is one of the causes of our existential problems. It is comforting to submit yourself to the weather. A higher power without complex metaphysics.

Here are a few photos from the Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson’s exhibition in London’s Tate Modern 2003. Titled The Weather Project, the installation meditates on our relationship with the weather.  All of us have a relationship to the weather; it is powerful, it is universal and it affects us. Eliasson managed to create a space and an atmosphere that touched our common human denominator of being exposed to the weather.  The people visiting the exhibition could connect with each other through experience; the experience they had there and then as well as the multitude of weather-related experiences they had ever had.

The huge Turbine Hall was dominated by a “sun” and mist with a mirror on the ceiling. The installation shifted from moment to moment. The mist formed small cloudlike structures that altered the scene bit by bit. There, in the exhibition hall, as well as in real life,  the weather acts as a great object to meditate the nature of change on. Everything changes from moment  to moment. The impermanence of every moment is reflected on the constant change in weather.   I think it’s such a shame we don’t really observe this amidst our lives in the cities any longer. It’s a shame we need to be reminded of it like this, sublimed in an art installation.

I find it interesting how us modern people have castrated the weather and placed it among trivial things. Rain is nothing more than the need to bring an umbrella along. Sunshine at least may mean a pleasant barbeque dinner with friends, but not really too much more. Even talking about the weather is considered  superficial, pointless. There is something interesting in our denial of the weather that reminds me of our denial of our mortality. (Which I’ve written about in a post called an experiment).

Perhaps our illusion of ruling the planet and choosing our fates, our desire for all sorts  “freedom” has “liberated” us from both our mortality and the weather. Other things we are “liberated” from feature the possibility of the unpredictable affecting our carefully timed lives (as illustrated by our need to obtain insurance policies for everything), the impermanence of our selves, as well as depending on our wit for survival. Hmm I see I should elaborate and give justification for the last sentences, but I’m just gonna leave it at that. A tickling thought in the brain.

There are a myriad of people complaining about the modern world. What to do, then? How to live an unmodern life and still live in the modern one? I don’t know the answer, but I’m going camping again next week. This time, up to the arctic circle.

The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern (Photo: Simiant)

The Weather Project in the Turbine Hall at Tate Modern (Photo: Simiant)


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