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Green light: An artistic workshop by Olafur Eliasson opens in Venice
Olafur Eliasson: Green light – An artistic workshop. In collaboration with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia VIVA ARTE VIVA, 2017. Photo: Damir Zizic.

VENICE.- Olafur Eliasson, in collaboration with Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, brings Green light – An artistic workshop to the 57 th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia Viva Arte Viva (May 13–November 26, 2017), curated by Christine Macel.

Growing out of the communal ideals of the artist’s studio, Green light – An artistic workshop is thought of as a welcoming act. Eliasson’s studio in Berlin plays an important role in his practice. The team includes craftsmen, specialized technicians, architects, archivists, art historians, designers, film-makers, cooks, and administrators. Eliasson and the studio also work with structural engineers, city planners, and landscape architects on larger projects, and the artist has cooperated worldwide with cultural practitioners, policymakers, and scientists on projects that often have an activist or environmentalist aspect to them.

Green light – An artistic workshop is conceived in response to the present challenges arising from mass displacement and migration and encourages civic engagement. In the ongoing series of Green light workshops hosted by various institutions around the world, asylum seekers, refugees, and members of the public construct Green light lamps and take part in an accompanying educational program conceived by TBA21 in close dialogue with Eliasson. Titled Shared learning, the program offers practical training and education – daily language courses, job training, psychological counseling and legal advice, music and video workshops, artists’ interventions, educational seminars, and lectures. The numerous events explore a variety of perspectives on migration, citizenship, statelessness, arrival, memory, and belonging, eliciting exchanges of knowledge, experiences, and values.

At Viva Arte Viva, the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia, forty individuals from a range of countries – including Nigeria, Gambia, Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and China – have signed up as participants to date through nine local partnering NGOs, all based in the municipality of Venice. Divided into two teams, they take part for a maximum of two months in the artistic workshop as well as the extensive Shared learning program, which offers free access to all its activities. The participants lead the daily lamp-building workshops, acting as hosts in the Green light space and engaging with the biennale visitors.

Located in the Central Pavilion, Green light is a space of individual and collective “world-making” that emerges from practical workshop activities and spreads out into society at large. By presenting a multilayered concept of hospitality that encompasses a wide variety of people – an artist, his studio, the participants, partnering NGOs, the visitors, etc. – Green light tests alternative models of community.

“Green light is an act of welcoming, addressed both to those who have fled hardship and instability in their home countries and to the residents of the cities receiving them. I am very pleased to be able to present the project at the Biennale Arte 2017. To me, going to the Biennale has always been about going deeper into reality, not about exiting reality. Mass displacement and migration are core challenges in the world today, affecting millions of people around the globe. Green light displays a modest strategy for addressing the challenges and responsibilities arising from the current situation and shines a light on the value of collaborative work and thinking.” —Olafur Eliasson

The crystalline Green light lamp, designed by Olafur Eliasson, is a polyhedral unit fitted with a small green-tinted LED. Made predominantly from recycled and sustainable materials and designed to be stackable, the modules can function either alone as single objects or be assembled into a variety of architectural and sculptural configurations that attest to the collective nature of their production.

At the Central Pavilion, the Green light space is divided into three zones: a landscape of tables defines the space where the lamps are assembled; a semienclosed seating arrangement acts as an amphitheater, where lectures, classes, and seminars are held; and couches and chairs form a lounge, where participants can take a break or socialize.

Eliasson designed the Green light tables and shelves specifically for the workshop at the 57th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia. The forms are based on the geometry of the Green light module, reflecting the idea that Green light is a scalable project that can be applied and adapted to other contexts. Models distributed about the space were created as part of the studio’s investigation of the geometry behind Green light, including two stainless steel lamps hanging from the ceiling, titled Cubic crystals, 2015.

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