Fifteen years ago the weather in London changed quite substantially. This strange phenomenon lasted almost six months but has not been seen since. It was a time when London’s populace and visitors to London came to embrace the sun as it made its closest ever approach to Earth – and surprise, surprise, not one person ever got burnt to a cinder despite their closest yet proximity to the sun itself. And no-one needed sun-cream either!
The phenomenon in fact was no less than Olafur Eliasson’s Weather Project. A massive crowd puller and one that’s still talked with admiration. It was the fourth commission of the Unilever Series (the first work in that series was Louise Bourgeois’ three huge steel towers and giant spider built specially for the Tate.)
Take the controls for the heart of the Sun.
The Weather Project ran for 23 weeks from October 2003 to March 2004 and by this time, early January 2004, Eliasson’s fantastic work would have been roughly half way through its stint. It was a huge uplifter for many people especially as these were the winter months – anywhere with the Sun shining was invariably going to be a huge draw especially if people did not need to travel far to find it!
It was certainly a favourite work of art for many people, including me. In fact many of us often wonder why the Tate has never brought it back for a new commission – it would be hugely successful!
Despite the fantastic feeling conveyed by the Weather Project it was largely an illusion although Eliasson says it wasn’t intended to be such. The artificial sun was not even whole – it was actually half a circle.
Immediately above this an artificial ceiling was built the length of the turbine hall to create a mirror like effect of the people below. This mirror also reflected the bottom half of the artificial sun and gave everyone the impression it was indeed a whole circle.
Looking up to the mirror like ceiling.
The ceiling consisted of about 20 huge panels of highly reflective material (a very thin and highly polished aluminium) which came from Germany. It was impossible to find any company wishing to install the special ceiling thus Eliasson and his staff had to undertake the difficult task.
Looking towards Eliasson’s masterpiece…
Eliasson says the Weather Project was created because the British are so obsessed with it. “All countries talk about the weather, but the British really take ownership of it.” Source: Guardian
Speaking on a You Tube video Eliasson mentions the space around the Weather Project was in fact a collective one – everyone in the Turbine Hall was co-producing the work – amplifying the artist’s work and making it more interesting.
Eliasson says of this: “The reason is obviously not because of the relationship between the institution and the weather, but for me it’s the relationship between the institution and society. Fundamentally the work is about people, passing information back and forth, at every stage spreading into the next chain, so that a sort of human nuclear reaction is taking place.” Source: Tate
And looking back towards the rear of the Turbine Hall.
In terms of connotations with the weather itself Eliasson’s work was about “turning the Turbine Hall into a ‘microclimate’, Eliasson is hoping to create a metaphor for the relationship between the museum, the viewer and society. The weather, he says, ‘has a great potential for creating community, but it can also be intensely individual: enjoying a single raindrop or cloud. It holds all that.'” Source: Telegraph.
The sun with a bit of mist.
The far side of the sun – powered by 200 low-sodium mono-frequency lamps.
“What surprised me was how people became very physically explicit. I pictured them looking up with their eyes, but they were lying down, rolling around and waving. One person brought an inflatable canoe. There were yoga classes that came, and weird poetry cults doing doomsday events. When President Bush visited London some people arranged themselves on the floor to spell “Bush go home” as a protest – to do that in reverse so it read in the mirror is actually pretty difficult. I liked how the whole thing became about connecting your brain and your body. That I did not foresee.” Source: Guardian.
Much better than a day trip to Brighton – not only that the weather forecast for the Tate was 100% reliable!
Eliasson says “We also had a BBC weatherman set up a little studio and do the forecast from the Tate every day for a week. He’d do the forecast with my sun behind it and then at the end say: ‘And here at the Tate the sun is still shining.’ Within a week, millions of people had seen the work on TV.” Source: Guardian.
There was a fantastic and much photographed aspect of the work through the staircase of the Turbine Hall….
A perspective somewhat like the previous – only this time nearer the top of the stairs.
Of the reality of the Weather Project itself, Eliasson says, “People mistakenly think they can step out of society and into museums as if there is a threshold which they can step over and be in some kind of dream world. But in a way, it’s no different from being in any other thought-producing place, even a shopping mall.” Source: Telegraph.
People formed various shapes, stars, even the words ‘Bush go home.’ The controversial US president was in London for talks at the time.
Le soleil triomphe!
You’ve no doubt seen the pictures of the Weather Project with hordes of people crowded around or sunning beneath the artificial sun. But have you seen pictures with absolutely no-one there… Nope? Okay here are some pics I took in early March 2004 with absolutely no-one about. I arrived at the gallery just as it had opened and there was not a single soul to be seen – a great photo opportunity if anything!
I bet you’re probably thinking I’m somehow cheating by taking a certain perspective looking towards the Sun, keeping people out of sight with clever angles…. in fact I wasnt.
Absolutely no-one in sight at the Weather project! It was an enormous phase transition for me as I’d been so used to seeing hundreds of people present.
As I said, no one about! Absolutely fantastic to see the Weather Project in its raw form.
Eliasson insisted the crowds were an important part of the exhibition. I found it absolutely stunning with nobody around.
Someone did eventually emerge into the Turbine Hall!
What happened to the Weather Project itself? Its been kept in cardboard boxes in Eliasson’s home basement ever since the exhibition ended in 2004.