Tanya Bonakdar Gallery is currently presenting Olafur Eliasson: The speed of your attention, the first solo exhibition dedicated to Eliasson at the gallery’s recently inaugurated Los Angeles location. The phrase “the speed of your attention” was introduced to Eliasson by Joe Dumit, an anthropologist at UC Davis who conducted a movement experiment during a workshop at Eliasson’s Berlin studio this summer. Dumit learned the phrase from Nita Little—one of the pioneers of contact improvisation, a contemporary dance technique in which movements arise through contact between two or more dancers—in the form of the instruction to “move at the speed of your attention.”
The show features a broad range of Eliasson’s works, moving from delicate, intricately twisting arrangements of glass and light to subtle renderings of natural and artificially-rendered phenomena on paper, on through to dazzling full-room installations, masterfully utilizing the spacious expanses of Bonakdar’s new exhibition space. Of particular note is Straight Back (2018), an intricate geometric arrangement of panels around a central, spherical object that cases reflected light in all directions, a hypnotic arrangement that calls to mind the optical masterstrokes of the minimalists in conjunction with a distinct sense of optimistic futurism espoused by the Zero Group.
This sense of optimism, one drawing on the presence of potential worlds, is here turned inwards in Eliasson’s practice, honing this spirit through a use of natural colors and subtle iconographies of natural structures (cells, horizon lines, etc) that seem to offer a new perspective. Works like Dream Memorial (2018), for instance, recall the glowing body of his installation at the Tate Modern a decade ago, the arcing bands of light and color presenting a boundless natural energy and spirit that is difficult to ignore.
A comparison to the Zero Group is an accurate one, a similar idea of reaching out from our position as thinking humans to experience new worlds and perspectives through science and creativity, but Eliasson also looks into the human spirit, and our specific position on this planet to inform his work. Rather than push outwards into the boundless depths of outer space as a symbol of renewal and unlimited possibility, Eliasson would rather turn his focus to the world around us, casting our surroundings in a gentle, surrealist rearrangement that encourages us to dig into the natural world to find new ways of thinking, living and interacting with it. Perhaps with that perspective, he seems to emphasize, we might find a new way of saving the planet, and our future on it, in the face of climate change and natural disaster.
The show closes December 22nd.
— D. Creahan
Olafur Eliasson: The Speed of Your Attention [Exhibition Site]