Olafur EliassonDanish-Icelandic Artist
Intellectually stimulating notions about community.
French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty posits perception as a holistic experience of the senses: our bodies take it all in, not just color, or texture, or space. Danish-born artist Olafur Eliasson expands upon this concept by exploring ideas about experience, perception, mediation and representation. Eliasson introduces basic natural elements -- water, light, temperature -- into artificial surroundings, be it a public space or a museum, to encourage viewers to reflect upon their perceptual experiences. The intellectually stimulating results function not only as artworks, but also as social commentary stressing the importance of shared interaction and making viewers aware of themselves as part of a community. For example, Waterfalls, four kinetic structures placed around the New York City waterfront in 2008, reminded the denizens of Manhattan that they lived on an island, a point that's surprisingly easy to overlook in everyday life. Apart from his ability to enchant viewers and make them notice what had previously been taken for granted, Eliasson's transparent simplicity and unflappable presence makes him one of the most accessible creators of contemporary art.