Studio Olafur Eliasson: Contemporary Art Network

Subject: Art
Pages: 52
Words: 14068
Reading time:
52 min
Study level: PhD


The notion of the contemporary artist’s studio may be perceived in several different ways: as a place, where the artist works, as a group of people who operate with the artist or under his or her guidance to produce the artworks, or as the brand on the art market. The traditional idea of the artist who works alone can be seen in Pollock whose mind was dominated by abstract expressionist ideas. Abstract painting was certainly artwork of a single artist. Hans Namuth’s images of Pollock, engrossed in his monochrome paintings, clearly described the traditional artist concept. This concept is concerned with the assumption that, while indulging in the creative process, the artist strives to achieve self-actualization as an individual. Moreover, he or she aims for nothing less than trying to impose its highly subjective aesthetic vision on things/ideas on spectators, which in turn explains why the notion of the conventional art is being often regarded as synonymous with the notion of ‘passion’.[1] Namuth’s photos of Pollock exemplify this point perfectly well, as they do emanate the strong spirit of passion while presenting the mentioned artist working on his abstractionist paintings.

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The great artist in Pollock is now changed by many contemporary artists who tend to organize studios acting as companies. These studios work for the production of art, maintain the communication between the artist, his or her team, and the art network, and on behalf of the artist, contribute to the dissemination, discussion, documentation, activation, promotion, collection of his/her art. In its turn, this effectively alters the semiotic significance of the notion of art, as something that can be no longer seen being solely concerned with the artist’s agenda to achieve the state of ‘self-individuation’ (Jungian term). The reason for this is quite apparent – the very emergence of the term ‘collaborative art’ (or ‘studio art’) created the objective preconditions for the term in question to be increasingly perceived as reflective of the concerned artists’ strive to benefit from allowing the audiences to actively participate in ensuring the high aesthetic value of the gazed-upon art pieces. [2]

The history of art is interspersed with presentations of artists’ studios encompassing groups of people producing art under the artist’s leadership. Some well-known artists’ studios from the past include those of Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606 – 1669), Sir Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640), George Frederick Watts (1817–1904),[3] Sir John Everett Millais (1829–1896), Frederic, Baron Leighton (1830 – 1896), to name only a few. Rembrandt’s large studio for example was a meeting place for many young artists from Leiden, including Gérard Dou (1613-1675). Rembrandt’s pupils acted as his assistants and started their careers as artists in his studio,[4] but the figure of the master artist was central in the studio and the art production process.

In the nineteenth century, the aristocracy began to diminish following the French Revolution, and the once separated patron and artist began to unite. That century marked the end of [what historians called] the Ancien Régime and the class of aristocracy after the French Revolution collapsed. In this period, some especially established artists acted like noble patrons of the cultural sphere; for instance, Hans Makart (1840-1884) in Vienna and Wilhelm Lenbach (1836-1904) in Munich may be called the ‘princes’ of their time. They built luxury villas, collected art, and took in collectors and visitors in studios made to appear like palaces. [5] Public interest in the art studios as centers of intellectual and cultural spheres of social life tended to grow.

The theory of ‘alienated labor’ by Karl Marx comes in rather helpful when it comes to discussing the discursive significance of the developments in question. The reason for this is that, once assessed through the theory’s conceptual lenses, the emergence of ‘patronized art’ in the 19th century points out to the fact that the process of creating art can no longer be discussed being solely concerned with the workings of one’s creative genius and that, as time goes on, it attains the subtleties of a commercial pursuit, the ultimate goal of which is the generation of commercial profit. [6]

In full accordance with Marx’s theory, just about any modern art studio can be conceptualized as the place where physical labor and complete production cycles are visible. Everyone works to make the ‘machine’ create a product. The artist and the workers collaborate to make the machine work. The machine exploits or the artist exploits the machine whose main parts are the workers. Alienated labor means the worker is compared to a machine commanded to work for the owner of the factory (the artist). The laborer only works to eat like a machine that needs oil. Years on, in the studios of such artists as Henri Matisse, the process of collaboration in the making of art continued.

Nevertheless, until recently the modern studio used to be seen as the place of artistic creation where the focus stayed on the individual artist, in the sense that the affiliated assistants were not considered the process’s actual contributors. After all, their role was strictly concerned with helping the ‘patron artist to actualize his or her own highly personal creative vision.

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However, this process changed drastically in the 1960s when Andy Warhol introduced his studio known as “The Factory”. Further innovations were introduced in the new studio concept, where artists and assistants work on a particular project or art. Eliasson, for his part, consults with architects and technology people, applies his ideas, and together they make art. To some degree, the inner workings of Studio Olafur Eliasson, which is at the center of this research, resemble The Factory, but as will be seen, the art creation process here is more structured and well organized. Studio Olafur Eliasson is a workplace for a collaborative team composed of artists, designers, architects, technology consultants, and other members who provide ideas about art to create certain projects.

This paper will provide an in-depth analysis of the Studio Olafur Eliasson, where everyone works for a common goal, and at times with no particular project in mind. The artists and workers operate like experimenters in a laboratory with Eliasson acting as a client to a team of professionals who provide him with ideas from their respective fields. The work of the Studio Olafur Eliasson is the fusion of different people’s ideas and thoughts, education, beliefs, tradition, that combine different creators, designers, and scientists. They all come together in their desire to make ideas material. [7]

The Berlin-based Studio Olafur Eliasson is an area where people are urged to create something which has not been seen before, something that was only perceived through the mind and has not been yet materialized. If someone does not have an artist’s mind yet, he or she becomes an artist. “Why?” The mind, the originator of the thought (or thoughts) is irked, motivated, or triggered to think and be creative in the process. That is, contrary to the conventional (objectivist) provisions of what art is all about, the very functioning of the Studio Olafur Eliasson validates the idea that there are a number of the phenomenological[8] subtleties to just about any creative process – something that has not been realized through the initial phases of the process of the term ‘collaborative art’ becoming conceptually legitimate. After all, this Studio’s continual existence implies that the aesthetic value of an art piece is not being quite as reflective of the artist’s ability to premeditate it, as much as it is being extrapolative of whatever happened to be the extent of this piece’s consistency with the currently predominant socio-cultural discourse. [9]

The studio seems to stimulate the artist in us as it allows visitors to view and inspect how artwork and installations are planned, conceived, and materialized. Most of these installations, however, are temporary and can only be viewed for posterity through video recorders or tapes. Past artworks, like paintings, of great ‘single’ artists like Michael Angelo and Pollock, are lasting.

The Studio is a combination of all kinds of creators. Architects, under the supervision of Sebastian Behmann, work in a gallery as if they are in a laboratory. Another Icelandic architect, Elnar Thorsteinn’s art and geometric models in cardboard, paper, and plastic have inspired Eliasson. Thorsteinn and Eliasson had worked together on a project, a pavilion built-in 1996. A workshop in the Studio functioned as a test room for optical effects in which technology experts were trying to find out the effects of varying shades of white light on man’s perceptions. The Studio also has an archive manager in the person of Biljana Joksimovic, who manages files of the numerous projects since the mid-1990s and voluminous catalogs and publications. Specialists from various areas of thinking and creativity form a formidable ‘transdisciplinary team,’ to borrow the term from Alex Coles. [10] Eliasson’s studio is therefore not just about making art, but also about using science, architecture, communication, and technology to prompt people to experience the powerful aesthetic emotions in the manner that it has never been done before. [11] Whereas, the representations of conventional art are best discussed as ‘objects’, the ones created in the Studio Olafur Eliasson are the systemically interconnected ‘processes’, and it is specifically the qualitative aspects of the relationship between the systemic elements within these processes and not the actual quality of these elements per se, which define the overall aesthetic significance of just about every Eliasson’s installation. This, in turn, makes Eliasson’s artfully consistent with the discourse of post-modernity/post-Fordism, which is being commonly referred to as such that promotes the idea that the overall quality of a particular thermodynamically functioning system (such as a society or the group of artists, for example), is so much more than merely the sum of the qualities of this system’s integral parts. [12] After all, the responsibilities of the artist’s collaborators within the Studio’s setting are not as much concerned with helping Eliasson to materialize his artistic visions, as much as they have to do with researching different methods for ensuring the systemic integrity of Eliasson’s installations, as the microcosms of their own.

This dissertation will use case studies and literature review to define the concept of the contemporary artist’s studio and how art is produced in the age of globalization and high technology.

Essays and articles, peer-reviewed journals, books and significant reading materials on art theory will be some of the sources, but two books that are important main sources are The Murmuring of the Artistic Multitude: Global Art, Politics and Post-Fordism, by Pascal Gielen, and the essay and interviews by Philip Ursprung at the book Studio Olafur Eliasson: An Encyclopedia.

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The book by Pascal Gielen will help in analyzing the notion of the artist’s studio and in examining the global art economy with its post-Fordian production methods, flexible working hours, collaborative and immaterial exploitation. On the other hand, the book Studio Olafur Eliasson: An Encyclopedia will help explore the evolution of the studio, from Eliasson’s childhood days in Iceland up to the time he set up the modest studio and its transformation into a ‘factory,’ with the help of a transdisciplinary team composed of architects, graphic and web designers, researchers, film-makers, and craftsmen. The rationale for choosing in favor of this specific methodology is that the mentioned materials do contain several insights in support of one of the main ideas that are to be promoted in this dissertation – by being exposed to Eliasson’s art, people should be able to gain a better understanding of what will account for the discursively sound format of the artistic pursuits in the future.

The primary aim of this paper is to provide an in-depth analysis of the Studio Olafur Eliasson that will include the background and concept of the contemporary studio and the role of artists in the studio.

The objectives are: to find the position of the artist’s studio in the contemporary art network; to comprehend the roles of the artist within the studio; to understand the perception of the studio within the academic art society and the art market; to explain the importance of the artist’s studio in a wider context (social, political, scientific, technological commercial, etc.); and, to find out how the artist’s studio can contribute to the knowledge production and wider dissemination of contemporary art. These objectives are to be fulfilled not merely by the mean of analyzing how the Studio Olafur Eliasson operates, but also through assessing this Studio’s discursive significance within the conceptual framework of the notion of ‘modern art.

The Studio Olafur Eliasson will also be compared with some other enterprise-like studios, such as Andy Warhol’s ‘The Factory,’ Takashi Murakami’s ‘Kaikai Kiki,’ Damien Hirst’s studio – something that should confirm the methodological/conceptual validity of the term ‘collaborative art’ even further.

Theoretical Insights into the emergence of the artist’s studio concept

Knowledge production

For us to be able to make a qualitative inquiry into what may be deemed as the aesthetic implications of Eliasson’s art, it needs to be mentioned that unlike what is being the case with the functioning of classical art studios, the contribution of Eliasson’s Studio towards the development of modern art, as an abstract notion, is being concerned with the so-called ‘knowledge production’ process. To illustrate what is being meant by that, we can refer to Hans Namuth’s photos of Pollock – even though the element of collaboration did play an important role in the process of the concerned art-works being created, it did not define the semiotic quintessence of the messages, conveyed by these works. In this respect, the Studio Olafur Eliasson is much different – in it, a group of workers comprised of Eliasson himself, architects, designers, and workers contribute their skills and ideas to create knowledge. Art is created through ideas and imagination and physical labor that can be seen in any industry where designers and people with special skills work together to create a designed environment or something conceptualized through teamwork. Since cultural knowledge can be described as ‘the sum of ideas that emanate out of production and analysis of visual culture’[1], art can indeed be defined as a form of knowledge production. [2] Knowledge can be produced through artistic research, observation of the outer world, communication, discussion. Some methods involve the production of investigative artworks, for example, documentary films or archival work at the art studios. Other methods may involve writing a doctoral dissertation about an artist’s work. Various forms of artworks, like sculpture, film, dance, and installation that investigate various aspects of reality, produce knowledge, as well. [3] This simply could not be otherwise, because while being exposed to the works of conventional art, the audiences do experience the expansion of their intellectual horizons – this is what makes art objectively valuable, in the first place. After all, just about every art piece is either explicitly or implicitly reflective of humanity’s cultural legacy, as a whole. Yet, it is namely ‘collaborative art’ which contributes to the accumulation of aesthetic knowledge more than does any other artistic format – all because, as it will be illustrated in regards to Eliasson’s installations, the actual value of the collaborative artistic projects is usually assessed in conjunction with these projects’ ability to allow spectators to attain new insights into the surrounding physical reality.

Painters, sculptors, scientists, filmmakers produce knowledge when they work on their art. As an example author Billy Ehn, of Umea University, worked on ethnology to develop less traditional methods for ethnographic research wherein they combined several ethnographic materials (like observations, conversations, surveys, reports, films, and others) to find any important fact about life. [4] Ehn needs the assistance of other artists and scientists to create art. Likewise, Damien Hirst’s massive studio demonstrates the artist’s interest in science and the need for a transdisciplinary team to produce his kind of art. It seems artists can no anymore work alone on producing art. They need other artists as art’s aim and purpose have been extended to other disciplines.

Immaterial Labour

Contemporary art is not only a form of knowledge production but also a form of immaterial labor. However, most visual artists produce finished material products. Manual Castells, theorizing on production and work in the information age, indicated that societies undergo a constant structural transformation, and because of this ‘new spatial forms and processes are currently emerging.’[5] Society is made up of flows on capital, information, technology, organizational interaction, images, sounds, and symbols. [6] Flows are the people’s way of expressing the different processes controlling some aspects of economic, political, and symbolic life. In other words, the material support of the present processes in our societies will be the group of elements supporting such flows and making them occur at the same time. The artist’s studio in this context is an intersection of various flows that facilitates the process of immaterial products’ development and their transformation into visually material form. The abstract form of the space of flows can be better understood by looking at its content. In the information society, the space of flows is comprised of three layers. The first layer points to the electronic exchanges, e.g. micro-electronics-based devices, telecommunications, computer processing, broadcasting systems, and high-speed transportation. These form the material basis, or support, for the processes and are strategically crucial in the network society. Castells says that it is a spatial form in the organization of the merchant society or of the industrial society. In the network, every place is dependent on the others, and ‘no place exists by itself’[7]. The technological infrastructure of the network identifies the new space, like the railway’s defined economic places. The technological infrastructure is the network of flows. The next layer of the space of flows is comprised of nodes and hubs. The space of flows has been placed, but the structure is theoretical. An example of this is the network of decision-making systems of the global economy, for example, those working in the financial system. The next layer is about the spatial organization of the ‘dominant, managerial elites,’ and not the classes that hold the supervisions in the space.

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Castells explains, ‘The theory of the space of flows starts from the implicit assumption that societies are asymmetrically organized around the dominant interests specific to each social structure.’[8] The spatial of flows is dominant and conceived, decided, and implemented by social actors. The dominant elite is comprised of the ‘technocratic-financial-managerial elite’. They are those that occupy the leading positions in our societies. The dominant elites can disorganize groups in society, the majority which has only partial interests, ‘represented only within the framework of the fulfillment of the dominant interests’[9].

The production process in Eliasson’s Studio is like the Fordist system for manufacturing automobiles, and this is done in the name of art. A Studio is a place for artists and workers that is similar to capitalist production, an example of how art is produced in a globalized art world. Much of Studio Eliasson’s art and exhibitions are influenced by globalization. The art world which then referred to only the community of artists, collectors, curators, dealers, and critics, now includes the globalized economy and production, and ‘concentrates cultural capital, ceaselessly opens up new markets, and guarantees high prices for a stable portfolio of big-name artists’[10]. Eliasson’s Studio occupies a much larger space because it wants to present the world with many larger projects and exhibitions.

Globalization aims at expansion and prefers smooth, seamless spaces, continuous territories without borders. According to Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, there are alternatives to the smooth space, and one of these is ‘friction,’ which has to do with slowing down a process, or, without competition, no economic development could start. This is what Castells termed the ‘segmentation and disorganization of the masses. [11] The ‘segmentation of masses’ results in the process of more and more people choosing to adopt the ego-centric (individualistic) lifestyles. This, however, does not prove beneficial in the long-term – being highly societal, people naturally strive to attain a much higher level of existence than that of the materialistically minded Western consumers – something that is being reflected by these people’s fascination with the ideas of perceptual/cognitive ‘holism’, out of which derives the religion-philosophy Buddhism.[12] The above-mentioned helps to explain the phenomenon of the apparent popularity of Eliasson’s art-works with people – being concerned with emphasizing the aesthetic aspects of the ‘fluidity’ of material objects/substances, his installations are fully consistent with the ‘holistic’ anxieties in today’s Westerners.[13] Thus, it will be appropriate to suggest that Eliasson’s art is indeed deeply influenced by globalisation, in the sense of being attuned with the unconscious longings of people that live in Capitalist societies – even despite the fact that many of the concerned individuals appear to be obsessed with consumption, as the actual purpose of their existence. The artist uses transdisciplinarity to express the need for environmental focus and concerns.

On one hand, Eliasson’s Studio is a workplace like any other factory where people are engaged in production. There may be too much work in Eliasson’s Studio, considering the massive installations and exhibitions, the machinery, and the laborers involved as they are important in the art exhibition process. But on the other hand, immaterial labor in Studio Olafur Eliasson allows every participant to collaborate, find the stronger form of the ideas’ expression through communication and teamwork.

New forms of work and new forms of labor occur not only in the present century but in the centuries past. According to Lazzarato, work can be defined in how it is organized and the power it produces[14]. Immaterial labor refers to two different features of labor: one which refers to ‘informational content’ of the product, which relates to how this product is manufactured that involves technology, and including the vertical and horizontal structure of the company that produces the product. About the cultural aspect of the product, immaterial labor is about the way the product should be made about cultural and artistic features, consumer demands, fashion, taste, and perception of the public. Until the seventies, this used to be the power of the general masses, but now it belongs to what is called ‘mass intellectuality,’ or that which refers to the intellectuals and their influence in society. Yet, it is namely this kind of individuals, in whom the ‘holistic’ anxieties appear to be especially strong – something that can be illustrated, in regards to the sheer measure of these people’s environmental awareness, for example. This is the reason why the art pieces produced in the Studio Olafur Eliasson appear to be heavily engaged with the notion of transformation, as something that has the value of a ‘thing in itself. For example his large-scale installation ‘Your black horizon’ (2005) made for the Venice Biennial encourage exploration of the horizon, allowing people to see their distinctive horizon (see figures 1 and 2 for ‘Your black horizon’ in appendix). This is a collaborative work: Eliasson created the idea of the art piece and architect David Adjaye designed the installation first on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni in Venice. Then it was moved to the Croatian island of Lopud in 2007. A horizontal ray of light projected onto the walls of the darkened pavilion corresponds to the intensity and color of the sunlight outside the installation, creating the artificial intensified horizon line to be observed from alternative distances, which is not possible with the natural horizon line, that is always remote from the spectator. Thus, the immaterial labor of the artist and the architect helped to transform the natural process into a social observation experience.

Collaborative Knowledge Production

As it was mentioned earlier, in the art world nowadays, knowledge production is often made through a collaboration between different actors in various disciplines. For example, artists collaborate with architects, designers, choreographers, scientists, researchers, technology people, and other creative minds to work on projects, to discover other essential properties or characteristics of art.

Artists collaborate not only for the sake of knowledge production, rather be able to materialize their ideas. In the post-Fordist flexible economy, arts and culture industries depend on numerous short-term contracts and an extremely contingent workforce. [15] Few artists make a living solely from selling work. Most of them survive by securing a grant, working in art-related jobs, teaching, working in the commercial sphere – something that is being fully consistent with the idea that the realities of modern living presuppose the ever higher degree of people’s social integration. In that sense, collaborative knowledge production in the form of an artist’s studio is a way to make living out of art in today’s economy.

The Artist’s Studio

Many contemporary studios are workplaces of artists and assistants and those involved in the art production. [16] This work collaboration of several people from various fields is not something new. In Rembrandt’s time, the studio was also comprised of artists, craftsmen, or students of art. Rembrandt’s studio was a meeting place for students who later became his assistants. [17]

In the age of the internet and information revolution, art is conceptualized differently, although with some similarities such as those in Rembrandt’s time. Nowadays, the artist and designers are both craftsmen and entrepreneurs. In the past, business was in the hands of the art patron, but now the artist has to survive by himself/herself. Artists have to work full time; they do not wait for inspiration but have to work because they have to earn for themselves and their families. They create but they also experiment because they want to discover something. Experimenting means finding new mediums, styles, and even new methods of creating art and producing knowledge.

Olafur Eliasson is one of the artists, who show that a combination of skill, creativity, and expertise will provide what the world needs. The Studio has a creative and productive atmosphere. One situation can be described here how Eliasson’s Studio is so different from the others. On one working day, artist Daniel Legon was finding out the effects of the color white and gathering all possible pigments common on the market. He was helping Eliasson who was in the process of finding how the once-rich range of pigments had changed because of changes in the economy in the twentieth century. History tells that before 1900, pigments were abundant but there are now very much fewer.

The primary focus of this dissertation is Studio Olafur Eliasson. This study will discuss how the Studio operates, who works in the Studio, and how Eliasson works as an artist, director, and producer with a team of artists, architects, designers, technology people, and so on. Eliasson, as can be viewed in the next pages of this dissertation, has in most of his works revealed how the exhibitions were done, including the role of his many collaborators who came from many disciplines.

The role of artist’s studio in the knowledge production process

A studio is a place where products of the mind are conceived and planned. A different experience is expected once we enter a studio. This experience can leave a ‘long-term impression’.[18] Guðbrandsdóttir expresses what philosophers have espoused: ‘To truly live is to feel and experience’.[19] The role of art, and thus the role of the studio, is to lead to this experience. How can art contribute to getting new experience, that provides new knowledge? If this is new knowledge, is this predetermined, or can the mind determine what it is?

In the Olafur Eliasson Studio, art is used to create new knowledge, or art stimulates the knowledge production process. In a large well-lit space, there are projects, some are finished but some are still in the experimental stage. Instruments and technology are used to help in the creation of art and design. In one area, installations will be tested and dismantled. Other discoveries focus on geometric shapes, parts of facades, and various prototypes. A visitor experiences a different experience each time he/she gets in the Studio. [20]

The artist is not under pressure to think, imagine and create art that may lead to new knowledge. Rather, the Studio is relaxed, professional, and productive. [21] Creativity can come out of the artist, and knowledge production is underway.

Eliasson likes to explore the changing perception of time, and how it can be used productively. His artworks deconstruct natural cycles, such as the hours of the day, in the form of an eternal sunrise/sunset sequence. Sundown is seen double, like the Double sunset (1999), which shows how our relationship with both time and space cannot be ascertained, culturally conditioned, and how there are always new and different ways of approaching them.

Eliasson seems to explore the past and future through his works, i.e. expectations and recollections. However, when connected to the past his works provide no meaning. He also does not produce linear processes but prefers slow transitions between different states. He is fond of the verb present participle, which he uses in the titles of many of his works, e.g. Seeing yourself sensing (2001).

Ellison’s art is concerned with promoting the idea that the ‘whole is larger than the sum of its parts. To exemplify the validity of this suggestion, we can refer to the artist’s 2012 installation The weather project, the major components of which are the artificial ‘Sun’, made of many red-colored light bulbs, the large mirror, and the clouds of vapor, meant be perceived as a naturally occurring mist. One’s brief exposure to these elements does not do the trick. It is only when people get to gaze at the concerned combination for some time that they end realizing that the mentioned elements represent so much more than merely the different states of physical matter.

A very significant issue is whether, through art, we can more clearly understand certain phenomena which can be understood for a certain period.

According to Ursprung: Eliasson’s art is relevant because it is in the right place at the right time, directing our gaze to a historical process that for a brief moment becomes visible; secondly, because it always reaches out beyond itself. Eliasson also works to reach the boundaries of knowledge. [22]

As stated, he is not so much of a brush artist, but his art is larger than life because of the gigantic installations. Although they are some kind of derivative of other art, his is original. The problem is some of his art momentarily live, meaning they exist for only a short time.

The practical implementation of the artist’s studio concept

Andy Warhol

To grasp the legacy of the Studio Olafur Eliasson it is useful to look back and research in detail the activity of common studios of the past and present time. It is worth starting with Andy Warhol’s Factory that appeared in 1949 when Warhol and a former Carnegie classmate Philip Pearlstein lived in a rented room near Chelsea loft. They shared the room with Franziska Boas, an anthropologist, dancer, and educator. Boas was herself a committed activist for social justice. The loft into which Warhol and Pearlstein moved had been applied with theatrical presence by Boas. The scene of the loft was reflected in Warhol’s Silver Factory on 47th Street, which became a combination of working, leisure, and employment. There was the increasing interest in the interlock of acting in ‘real life’ and ‘on stage’.[1]

Warhol’s Silver Factory was a combination of social dramas of life and stage drama and performance, which were mostly the themes in the so-called Factory experiments with real-life and filmed performances. Due to financial difficulties and for some personal reasons, Warhol and Pearlstein were evicted from the loft, and Boas was also forced to move from New York. Warhol came to settle into an apartment on the Upper East Side that was rented by a ballet dancer, Victor Reilly of Ballet Theatre, which was later renamed American Ballet Theater. [2] Gilbertson has these remarkable comments: “With his works mimicking, but significantly not wholly adopting, a production process of art more like the Fordist system for manufacturing automobiles and the Taylorist system for disciplining the body of the worker, Warhol, and his collaborators were seemingly invested in gaining access to new kinds of subjectivities and exploring new senses of engaged intimacies with other creative bodies and viewers.”[3] Warhol was already a successful commercial artist before he started the Factory. He knew about the problems in the labor force [when he fought his way to the top] and became famous to a certain extent because of The Factory. [4] In a loft, Warhol famously worked with filmmaker Gerard Malanga, movie actors such as Edie Sedgwick, musicians like The Velvet Underground, and was visited by critics, collectors, and curators such as Henry Geldzahler. Ursprung commented that The Factory was like the ‘city that never sleeps. Warhol’s studio was a ‘factory, stage, party room, gallery, and apartment all rolled into one – a world unto itself’.[5] The Factory was not only the place for art production, but also the breeding ground for ideas, where the artist surrounded himself with a community that contributed to the creative process: fellow artists, musicians, socialites, drug addicts, drag queens, actors, and many others. Later some of them came to be known as ‘Warhol’s Superstars’, so the artist was the main, but not the only figure to get the credit for the results of The Factory’s functioning.

Several scholars have noted that Warhol and several other artists of the 1960s attempted to erase ‘the romantic model of artistic subjectivity for the possibility of opening up new relationships with artists and their objects.’[6] Warhol and his collaborators worked with new ways and ideas. The Romantic artist was slowly dispelled. Warhol, like the artists in the 1960s, was preoccupied with making their work influence their audience. Warhol started the collaborative studio enterprise, working with artists and assistants in making art. Unlike Pollock who worked alone, Warhol used to always work with his collaborators.

These days, famous artists pressured by fame and the innumerable activities of artist life, have to find capable assistants who must themselves be qualified artists. As Aidin suggested, successful artists are like movie actors who must hire a personal assistant to handle public relations, fill the pages of their biography, and set their busy schedules correctly. [7] As a film star’s PA, the role necessitates correct judgment, diplomacy, and high effectiveness. This assistant can have great opportunities and become famous someday. [8]

Some people outside of the artist’s world are surprised to know that contemporary art is sometimes often made not by the hands of a single artist, but by assistants and collaborators, with the role of technology in this respect being rather substantial. The role of assistants in art production is made incomprehensible within the context of both art and economic development. According to Peterson, assistants are like workers who are under the category of employment laws and the social safety net. [9] Inside the Factory, the artist challenges the idea of the body as ‘authentic,’ ‘mine,’ or ‘self-possessed’ and asks new kinds of social and aesthetic spaces, spaces that challenge femininity to refigure it. [10]

While Warhol’s work indicates a fascination with the idea of the body as a productive metaphor and as potentially expandable, his work often shows sustained attention to how gender constraints individual physical bodies in representational and material social spaces. Even as Warhol indicates the possibility of thinking through the relationships of the body to gender differences, the results of his relationships with Sedgwick suggest ‘that some gendered positions in the 1960s were sometimes inescapable, that the historical weight of certain conventions and rules were too entrenched and could not be discarded entirely, stepped out of, or meaningfully transformed.’[11]

Edie Sedwick, one of the Warhol’s Superstars, contributed to Warhol’s Factory with her affinity for dancing, not for formal dance or avant-garde experimentation with dance, but for the free-form dancing, she adopted as an integral element of her style and as a means of drawing attention to her undeniably magnetic presence. Thus, in the Beauty series, where Sedwick was the main figure, Warhol’s project asks us to think about individuality differently, to allow the potentiality for ’otherness’ to exist within, as well as alongside the individual. With Warhol’s serial experiment, the identity of the person is revealed as not closed, autonomous, or impermeable, not secured by an unreceptive inner mind or a self-controlling body. Individuality and uniqueness are shown in Warhol’s experiment as determined by interactions with other bodies, both present, and past, ‘such that identity is exposed as indefinite and mutable, emanating from heterogeneity via patterns of relationality that themselves have their histories.’[12] What it means is that Warhol may be referred to as the actual legitimizer of the idea that the very process of creating ‘collaborative art’ is being simultaneously characterized by both: the absence of the ‘controlling authority and by the process’s apparent intelligibleness. [13] In this respect, a good parallel can be drawn between the functioning of an ant-colony, on one hand, and the functioning of the artist’s studio that specializes in producing ‘collaborative art’, on the other.

Takashi Murakami’s ‘Kaikai Kiki’

‘Kaikai Kiki’, a studio founded by an established Japanese artist Takashi Murakami (1963), effectively combines business and art. In its Tokyo building, about fifty artists (mostly Japanese) work to produce artworks and art-related concepts. In its New York branch, more than twenty artists work for a common goal. [14]

Kaikai Kiki has several established Japanese artists working in the studio: Aya Takano, China Aoshima, Rei Sato, and others. They all work in different styles and techniques, creating the multifaceted oeuvre of Kaikai Kiki. Most of Kaikai Kiki products are comic characters and Japanese anime. Apart from famous artists, there are also many young Japanese artists working under Murakami’s tutelage and guidance. The youngest in the team is Akane Koide (1991), who joined the KaiKai Kiki at the age of fifteen. This happened at Geisai, the art event organized by Murakami’s studio.

Geisai is a combination of the art competition and an art fair, where artists act as creators and dealers at the same time. Thus, the studio realizes its mission – to help young Japanese artists improve their work and guide them until they mature in their practice. Murakami helps them not only in production but also in distribution and sales. The studio provides great help to the young artists whose artworks are exposed in domestic and international exhibitions. The young artists are encouraged to excel in their art but they also do collaborative work to produce art, artistic merchandise, and animation. [15]

As a creative enterprise, KaiKai Kiki has multiple collaborations with the commercial world. For example, in partnership with Louis Vuitton, which is known for its luxury handbags, clothes, and other luxury items, there was created a capsule collection of scarves, handbags, and costume jewelry. Takashi Murakami owns the trademark and gets the credit and honor from all the works including the collaborative works of his assistants comprised of several Japanese artists.

Apart from luxury goods production, there was a strong immaterial component in the collaboration: a series of animated films Superflat love and an exhibition ‘© MURAKAMI’ that was on from April, 5 till July 13, 2008, in Brooklyn museum that showed ninety works of “Editioned Canvasses” of the Monogramouflage series. For the period of the exhibition, Louis Vuitton shop was opened in the museum. [16] Murakami commented on that unusual intervention of the commerce into art institution space: “The shop project is not a part of the exhibition; rather it is the heart of the exhibition itself. It holds at once the aspects that fuse, reunite, and then recombine the concept of the readymade. The Louis Vuitton project brings to life a wonderful new world.”[17] Like Warhol’s Factory, Murakami mixed art with business. Warhol started the notion that to be good at business is a work of art itself. This business idea is somehow followed by other artists, like Damien Hirst who once commented that Warhol brought money into art.[18]

Another illustration of the cooperation with the brand is Murakami’s collaborative work with Naoki Takizawa, the creator of Issey Miyake. In 2000, they produced a series of collaborative works, the Kaikai Kiki/Issey Miyake series. Together with other artists, they provided art-inspired clothing, that was not only presented in the boutiques of Issey Miyake but also displayed in several galleries and exhibitions. Other collaborative work with other artists includes Chiho Aoshima, whose digital images were layered with photographer Patrick Demarchelier’s pictures. Murakami also collaborated with Japanese pop bands, Yuzu and Kissell. He then provided animation pictures at Yuzu’s concerts. Murakami produced designs in the band’s album covers and also designed their stage sets during the band’s live presentations. [19] This once again brings to mind the earlier mentioned notion of ‘fluidity’, which tend to characterize the perceptual subtleties of ‘collaborative art’, in general – the functioning of ‘Kaikai Kiki’ helps to blur the difference between commerce and art, within the collaborative artistic settings.

Murakami also performs the role of curator, in which he challenges the traditional concept of history and culture. He gave a 3-part exhibition to museums in the U.S. and Europe, in which he introduced Japanese art, along with Japanese artists, animators, and cartoonists. Through his installation ‘Little Boy,’ he provided his interpretation of Japanese history, using a political explanation of the atomic bomb. The Little Boy is a collaborative work. His goal is to promote Japanese art to the world but he also wants the world to rethink Japan. Murakami is in collaboration with a group of young artists. He teaches them but also gives them opportunities through a close artist-to-artist interaction, which is what some other collaborative modern artists are doing, in Japan and most of the art world. (An example of Murakami’s work is shown in figure 3 in the appendix.)

Damien Hirst’s Studio

Like other contemporary artists, British artist Damien Hirst works with other artists. Many of his works were outsourced from so-called ‘assistants’. About half of his works were produced in three series of almost identical works, such as ‘Spots,’ ‘Spins,’ and ‘Butterflies’.[20] There are some differences in the series, as in size and color, but they can be recognized as coming from one source and regarded ‘artistically unoriginal’.[21] Other works have ‘overarching themes’ but they have originality and can be concluded as coming from the original work of the artist.

The artist as an entrepreneur, and thus, a tool of Capitalism is remarkably present in the case of Damien Hirst. On September 2008, on the eve of the financial crisis, Hirst sold his yearly art production for a resounding €144 million at Sotheby’s in London. This act was never attained before by any living artist. The financial crises of 2008 affected the global art market, but not in the long term. The global art market crumbled from more than $5 billion turnovers in 2008 to lower than US$3 billion in 2009. [22] Hirst gets most of the credit and the earnings in millions of dollars from his massive studio but his artworks are a collaboration of various artists, designers, and assistants. In addition to assistants, he also outsources most of his art. Hirst made the very first dot paintings, but most other paintings that were outsourced lost their originality.

Hirst’s studio in the south of London can give us the impression of how massive his output is thanks to the scale of his studio practice. 3,000 works are on display. The West Country studio has an area of 9,000 square meters and has been named ‘Science Gallery and Studio’ because, like Eliasson’s Studio, this studio aims to discover many hidden subjects in science and art by a team of artists and designers. The Designscape sits on this 9,000 square meter area built for art production (Science Production Studios 2012).

The studio has a place for dead animals, preserved by chemicals, even if Hirst calls his massive place environmentally friendly. Hirst is interested in any type of anatomy, animal or human, but in his works, there are only a few with an inclination to science. Hirst has been inspired by the collection and displays in the Natural History Museum in London, thus, he has devoted his new studio to science. [23]

The Studio Olafur Eliasson

The Studio Olafur Eliasson was set up in Berlin in 1995. Eliasson chose to centre his activities in this city because of the large spaces for his projects and the presence of well-known artists.1 There are construction sites, warehouses, industrial companies, and haulage business, but there is also on the other side, the main railway station, the Federal Chancellery and Reichstag building. A contemporary art museum is just nearby.

The Studio Eliasson works as a team, with each member having a role in the creation of the art. The ninety-member team is comprised of creative people, i.e. designers, skilled technicians, professionals and architects, researchers of history, web developers and designers, film directors, cooks, and many others. These multi-disciplinary group works with their primary artist, Eliasson, who also acts as manager, producer, director.

Eliasson’s Studio demonstrates how things have changed since the time of Andy Warhol. Contemporary art is presented in the age of globalisation, where the ‘artist’s world’ has entered the industrialised world and uses many tools of commercial production.2 Aside from the collaborative knowledge production, the world witnesses large installations and exhibitions and the smaller ones that fascinate art students and the art world. By drawing knowledge and ideas from the other disciplines, art has been revolutionised and is not anymore the same.

Acccording to Ursprung, Eliasson knows how to change and the process of change occur. This knowledge lets him work on art and its accompanying technology, science, and architecture, to satisfy the artistic longing of the art market. Eliasson’s art adapts to the globalised economy and concentrates cultural capital, ceaselessly opens up new markets, and guarantees high prices for a stable portfolio of big-name artists.3 Eliasson likes to work in Berlin because of the big spaces and the presence of well-known artists, and the experimentation in art.4

Eliasson’s Studio from the first glance does not show big difference from other established studios, described above, but Eliasson is much more attached to the research phase of the knowledge production. The Studio is distinct because it ‘underlines the experimental nature of his art and leaves the various stages of the production process exposed to view.’5 Eliasson’s works and style are found in other artists’ techniques but he is one of a few who introduce much inventiveness that can be considered real innovation. To take for example Eliasson’s ‘Remagine’ (2002). Inside a white-walled room, a visitor can clearly see seven spotlights directed to the opposite wall. The spotlights that are controlled by a mechanism and a timer produce a distinct pattern of lights regarded as rectilinear. Shapes are formed, like squares, trapezoids and rectangles, and they create an illusion of depth, as if there is a deep chasm in the wall. It looks like a sculpture of Donald Judd, but is applied with the principles of cubism. The formed figures, or illusion, are held for only fifteen seconds and then they slowly disappear. This work demonstrates the collaboration of the various artists; in fact, each work is important to the resultant art, with accurate measurements and relevant technology applied to it by Eliasson’s team. Eliasson’s ideas could be as important with the others’, but it was his idea, we could say, that prevailed because he got the ‘honour’ and the name for this art. The new studio concept, therefore, is biased to the artist the owner of the studio, as we can see with other artist studios in the past and the present.

Eliasson’s work, ‘Your Strange Certainty Still Kept’ (1996) (see figure 4 in the appendix) deals with experiencing a rainstorm, allows the spectator to use all senses, in which he or she even goes to the extreme. Fear, anxiety, chaos, and internal disorder surround our being. We can analyse a rainstorm by using phenomenology, and by using our various senses.

Eliasson’s aim in the ‘The Waterfall’ (2004) (see figure 5 in appendix) is to show the characteristics of the waterfall using technology. He installs his art (project) in such a way that the viewers can see and understand the mechanism behind the phenomenon.6 Ursprung noted in his interview with Eliasson that the latter’s art has ‘a strong sense of the horizontal’ and that ‘you always let your visitors know where the ground is.’7 Eliasson expounds on gravitation, saying that it influences everything around us. Humans are so used to gravity that we consider walking as a natural thing, but they do not realise that they are always pressured by gravity. Our human body is also affected by gravitation.8 The Studio’s art creation also explores science and the workings of the universe. Art is now combined with the other disciplines, a concept of transdisciplinarity. Hirst explores natural science with his art.

Eliasson on Architecture

Eliasson views his art as an architectural practice, and in saying this, he meant ‘looking ahead and seeing that the knowledge that we have at the Studio allows us to transgress the traditional borders of art.’9

On Colour

Eliasson’s interest in colour stems from how the eye functions and the use of colour to differentiate what we perceive through the eye. The eyes’ function is not purely biological matter. Our view of colour, light, and darkness is not the result of biological make-up but is influenced by how our vision has been cultivated. These opinions refer to upbringing and culture. Eliasson expounds:

Your notion of red may differ from mine. That discrepancy is interesting because it contests the idea of a rationalised vision that’s still predominant today; a way of seeing that has ruled out the notion of difference.10

As the result of color research Eliasson’s Studio constructed the dodecahedron (see figures 6 and 7 in the appendix), with twelve pentagonal panels of the colour effect filter glass. The installation has gaps that provide kaleidoscope views of the interior. The separated pentagons form coloured reflections and shadows. The flower ball has 60 irregular pentagonal divisions, giving various colour within ‘a deconstructed pentagonal hexecontahedron frame,’ which provide observations and kaleidoscope patterns on the adjacent walls,11 in such a manner demonstrating the idea of multitudinous ways to experience the color.

On beauty

The word beauty is historical in origin. The twentieth century concept of beauty, it was frowned upon and regarded as ‘unsure’, but, it was regarded elastic, perfectly suited to describing the work of many contemporary artists and architects. Ursprung refers to beauty as ‘images and situations that make an immediate impact on viewers, captivating them and making them glad to be involved.’12

Eliasson’s series ‘Green river’ (1998- 2000), presented in Tokyo, Los Angeles, Stockholm and some other locations, reflect the idea of the beauty and ‘raises awareness of the spectator’s engagement through disruption of normalcy’ as Michael Abrahamson mentions in his article ‘Chorus and Refrain: Observations Around Two Green Rivers’13. For these site-specific installations Eliasson with his team made the water of the city rivers green by tipping non-toxic colorant into water. The behavioural response of the spectators to the artwork was different: in the environmentally sensitive Stockholm, for example, people were shocked, whereas in Los Angeles they remained totally indifferent.

It is worth saying in this context that Studio’s work values environmentalism. For example, ‘The New York City Waterfalls’ (2008) features an intersection of ‘landscape, art and environmentalism’. An experimental art enterprise, that applies scientific ways, Studio Olafur Eliasson leads us to that path where it is possible to transform passivity and to find a collaborative way of producing ‘opposite of listless inertia’.14 The project realized by the Studio with Gordon Matta-Clark (1943) binds ‘architecture, light, and space to impart ideas of phenomenology, social collaboration, utopianism, and institutional critique.’15

Inside the Studio

Olafur Eliasson has many works to his credit. His well-known installation ‘The Weather Project’ (2003) was a play of mono-frequent light, mist and reflections, that provided a unique audience experience of being in an artificial environment. His version of the waterfalls adorned the New York harbour and the bridge of Brooklyn in 2008, when he constructed a natural process for the installation series The New York City Waterfalls (2008).

Eliasson never works alone.16 Everyone in the studio is connected and acts like an observer who consults and asks questions from others in the Studio.17 Eliasson’s team of architects is headed by Sebastian Behmann. The art historian Caroline Eggel is also one of his assistants. Work processes do not follow plans, say for example deadlines; instead, work is scheduled for a long term. The process means work or project does not aim for a final result, but to produce a dynamic of experimentation, continually creating deviations so that it can be useful for any project in the future. Work does not focus on a particular issue or question, but the team continually ask questions. Eliasson has his deadlines and commissions, but the team continues to work and proceed with an ongoing project, or some changes that should be done for the Studio.

The Studio functions even if there were no actual work to be done. The magazine Take Your Time, published to inform the public about the Studio, fits well in the Studio’s method of working. With the concept of presence, the Eliasson Studio occupies a prominent place in the most recent developments in the history of art. Art has an important function of moving the observer, arousing religious, aesthetic, or political emotions, setting off thought processes and encouraging exploration and discourse.18

It is vital to know the function of the Studio, which is a showplace where art can be seen, and it shapes our idea of how art is used. Artwork cannot be just reduced to objects in an exhibition, but to connect it with production and reception, acts and decisions, trial and error. As indicated elsewhere, Eliasson considers his studio the instrument by which he can produce art. However, he is also constantly looking for a new, bigger studio. Eliasson wants a wider space where he can work on large projects with his assistants and students and conduct more experimentation.19 Berlin was selected as his initial venue for the Studio because of the vast spaces the city could offer.

In Eliasson’s art, an observer becomes immersed and overwhelmed. Sometimes, you see the work as complex but since the construction and the techniques are presented and not hidden, the observer can remark that it is simple. His works tend to seize the space ‘between visibility and invisibility’.20 Visibility means you can feel it, view it, and understand how it is done and constructed. Invisibility is art, first a concept in the mind and imagination of the artist, his co-artists, assistants, and other designers, and becomes admired art when we see it.

Although Eliasson perceives that the Studio is only an instrument to his works of art, in truth, the Studio is work of art itself or work in progress. Ursprung observes that ‘the Studio resembles Eliasson’s exhibitions because they too are frequently part of a whole series of experiments and tests’.21

The architects and engineers work as advisers who provide ideas about technical matters. Eliasson discusses with them on some aspects of architecture and design. There are projects that the team discusses but there are projects that are not planned. Eliasson relies on the team but he is the final decision maker. His ideas prevail but he also respects their ideas and knowledge.

The process in which the artist consulted architects and engineers is something new. Eliasson makes this new process and goes against the process of the artist working independently. The product of the machine was what he called ‘presence… the creating of concrete occurrences, of a “here and now”.’22 He used the term ‘presence’ to mean the ‘communal presence of people, a bond forged in the here and now, and a situation in which all those present are engaged in what can best be described as “paying attention”.’23

Globalised societies tend to focus on the future or the past, be it in areas of politics, commerce, science, or even art because they want to always look for the fulfilment of their goals in the future and reflect on the events of the past. The ‘here and now’ refers to events that make us enjoy more presence. Ursprung asks if this could be the reason many people perceive Eliasson’s work as ‘cutting edge’. Could ‘presence’ be the cause of Eliasson’s successes?

In the exhibition ‘Take Your Time,’ Eliasson featured a ‘360 degrees room for all colours’. It has walls with translucent panels, from behind which colours emanate and grow diffusely, slowly, eerily changing their hues, blending in with, and standing out from each other.24

A hidden process produces the light and colour, a feature that can be considered unusual because Eliasson shows the mechanisms that create his illusions. A simple light show in one sense, though with a prolonged stay inside the room, and the spectacle provokes other sensations. An observer feels as if the colours might express some subliminal emotional state, perhaps by an induction of unaccountable suggestion; or that they invite a trance at once quiescent and dazzling. An observer can have a different feeling in waiting to see what comes next, a bit apprehensive about the other visitors, some of whom settle in while others spin around and quickly leave. The environment relaxes one’s attention and then gathers it, as if on a new armature of awareness. For myself, I felt rather like a molecule skittering around on the surface of another painting.

Eliasson’s work has the abandonment of pictorial elements as brush strokes and thematic depth, and because of this it will seem to be short-sightedness, but others may be able to praise it. According to Leo Steinberg, what puzzles observers is not what is there, but what is not.25 Modern artists today are exploring new media and materials often for their sake.

What some contemporary artists provide instead of subject matter is a question of process: artists view how the act of looking at art is burdened with values and suppositions that they feel should be exposed and investigated. With a certain level of technical skill and a motivation to get at essential elements in experience, such work can offer an art that uses the new media, in such a way that it provides genuine aesthetic value.26

Eliasson’s art also comes with classical art, but it combines a highly wrought sense of technique with a drive to uncover fundamental forces. His art can be approached with a subjective attitude in mind – why does the complex of sensations feel as it does? His machinery, which is mostly based on the complicated use of light and mirrors, looks like old forms of magic and illusion, but without the environment of the carnival. The range of experiences his work provides can run from the playful to the enchanting.27

Some of Eliasson’s works are derivative of other artists’ installations and techniques, but there are those quite distinctively combine inventive elements in a way that supplies genuine innovation. For example, ‘Reimagine’ (2002) displayed in a white-walled room where there are seven suspended spotlights, it is run by a timer and a control mechanism that cast rectilinear patterns on the opposite wall. Squares, rectangles, and trapezoids, tinted in faint brown or grey or allowed to show brightly white, overlap and adjoin one another, creating not only the illusion of depth on the wall but strikingly pleasing combinations in a random and extended order. The figures suggest a video lesson the principles of cubism, or a two-dimensional dematerialized Donald Judd sculpture. Each configuration is held for ten or fifteen seconds before melting or disappearing. Some of the configurations seem to occupy a large space, or it appears there were an opening in the wall, while other figures offer moments of the play and delight that come from the child-like ability to change shapes endlessly.28 While the 360-degree room must be seen from inside the room as the observer opens to it, the kaleidoscopic effect of ‘Reimagine’ is an exteriorized display that draws us in. The placement of the spectator about the work counts as a crucial vector in the experience, and this adds to the sense that Eliasson is indebted to minimalism’s fascination with phenomenology.

In Eliasson’s art, the observer can view with, through, and beyond the mechanical set-ups to some more thoughtful sense of the very problematic of viewership. In a study titled Downcast Eyes (1993), Martin Jay explored how modern artists and thinkers mistrusted the dominance of the visual in our lived experience. This suspicion arose not only from a concern about our susceptibility to deception by visual experience but the slow reaction of the other four senses, which is also somewhat like a melodrama by which modern art’s desire to create a new sense was destined to be frustrated by the regal power of the visible.29 When you move from his “immersive environments” (as the rooms and installation pieces are called), you can also shift from the rectilinear to the horizontal, from the surround of the facility pieces to more traditional images framed and hung on a wall. These are the series of photographs of natural formations that Eliasson uses to explore some of his abiding concerns like space and time, perception and sensation.30

Outside the Studio

Olafur Eliasson often collaborates with artists outside the Studio. An example of a collaboration is the contemporary ballet ‘Three Codes’ (2015), where Olafur Eliasson works together with choreographer Wayne McGregor and composer Jamie XX to create a show inspired by the book ‘Tree of Codes’ by Jonathan Safran Foer. Olafur Eliasson created the whole range of visual images forming an environment for the ballet during the two years’ process of preparation of the artwork. It could hardly be possible without the help of his Studio colleagues: 3D designers, graphics, and technicians. The staff and designers are a complex team, with the design and development comprised of several people headed by Sebastian Behmann and Rehea D’Silva, exhibitions and production led by Caroline Eggel, and Anna Engberg-Pedersen for the research and communication work.31

The Tree of Codes was conceived and planned for a collaborative work of art production, involving the masterful talent in ballet production, choreography and direction of Wayne McGregor. Olafur Eliasson’s visual concept completed the art work. Other collaborators include composer Jamie xx, the Paris Opera Ballet, institutions, media enterprises and practitioners, and a lot more.32

Crompton33 described this collaboration. She wrote a brief background for the art work, saying that Jonathan Safran Foer who conceived Tree of Codes, worked on it by manipulating another work of art, the book The Street of Crocodiles, written by Bruno Schultz.

Foer made a new work out of the book by cutting holes in the paper and emphasising words and phrases to provide new meanings. Foer used scissors and produced a different kind of book. In finding for the title of his new book, he just snipped some letters from the original title, to createTree of Codes.34 A new work came out of the cut pages that became an admired artwork.

Bruno Schultz was a Polish writer who was killed by the Nazis during the war. McGregor came to know Schultz’s work through a stage adaptation of the book made by Simon McBurney for Theatre de Complicité, which was an experimental theatre.35 McGregor became more excited about the book after reading Safran Foer’s Tree of Codes.

McGregor described the book as ‘a dancing book,’ ‘very physical and very graphic.’36 Manchester International Festival’s Artistic Director, Alex Poots, asked McGregor about his plans of a new project, and the latter immediately responded that he liked to work on The Tree of Codes. McGregor had the idea of working with Olafur Eliasson ever since working with the former in the yellow sun, The Weather, which provided the backdrop for a show by Merce Cunningham at Tate Modern in 2003. Cunningham did splendid work by dividing the vast turbine hall into three dance spaces, as he directed the dance floor from his wheelchair. McGregor gave his deepest admiration as he conceptualised a future project with Olafur. In the events that followed, Eliasson shared with Safran Foer his expertise of creating sophisticated effects from simple tools: some amazing effect was produced with the use of water and a fan.37 McGregor had long wanted to work with artists, especially with Eliasson who was once a street dancer himself. With the arrival of Jamie xx, the composer, the result was an unforgettable production of The Tree of Codes.38 This collaborative work is an important knowledge production to picture how art is produced in the age of globalisation and technology.

Eliasson has succeeded in stirring the curiosity of industrialists, scientists, and entrepreneurs, like those in the fashion industry. Many have commissioned projects for him and this means they support his experiments.

Industry has shown interest on Eliasson’s projects, as his projects have to do with science and technology. His projects can be made into real and complex systems and can also be presented in visual form. His art can be transformed into real products because, unlike other art, Eliasson’s is not abstract and intangible. His art articulates the world around us, the ‘design’ that we are in.39

Eliasson’s art is focused directly at the viewer, asking for a response. His works are aimed at the individual observer and the wider public. Paintings or photographs are a different form of art because they ask the observer a definite viewing position. His installations provide viewing for the general public to enjoy, and not only for a few people.

At the Studio, the atmosphere allows one to be creative and everyone has a chance to be so. For example, an artist can enhance creativity and knowledge. On one occasion, artist Daniel Lergon experimented to find out all the elements and characteristics of the colour white. Before 1900, various pigments were abundant, but most of them are gone.

Eliasson has been in demand not only in the art circle but other disciplines. Many are seeking his services to collaborate with him and employ his skill and talent. The Studio has occupied a prominent place in the most recent developments in the history of art.40

The question now is: how does Eliasson’s collaborative studio affect his image in the art network? Eliasson’s work has been praised and this has raised his stature to a higher level as an influential artist.

Eliasson’s Studio now occupies a prominent place in the history of art. The Studio has allowed us to see the world through the various senses. It is crucial that we know the history of art and where it is going. With Eliasson’s art exhibitions, we tend to have the feeling where art is heading. The Studio shapes our thoughts of how art functions. It is an instrument for art, but an insight into the everyday life of the art world shows that, far from being an anachronism, studios are an integral part of the production process. A studio with assistants, architects and engineers, and large facilities is essential to many of today’s active and traditional artists.

Museum audiences will eventually become familiar with art that relies on technology and the range of media available in the post-industrial world. This acceptance may already be complete in large sections of the public who frequent museums and galleries. The differences, however, between such art – now available in a vast array of different forms and providing many aesthetic approaches – and other parts of three dimensional sculpture are, to borrow the term from Molesworth, stupendous. However, like many of the other differences that absorb separate parts of the general public, this gap often defeats our communicative skills. Eliasson will be one those thrown in the fray. Meanwhile, he now has a place in the art world, assured that his work provides what viewers will require to take it in.

The reception of Eliasson’s work raises a number of issues. His large installation at the Tate Museum in London, ‘The weather project,’ made him one of those overnight successes who arrived after years of dedicated work. May people who did not have interest in contemporary art or involved with new media were shock and, in the words of Molesworth, knocked out, by seeing the giant sun-like yellow disk set into a one hundred foot high room, covered with fog and light effects. Those people spent time to examine the mechanics that brought about the effects and resulted in the yellow sun. Eliasson is still young, a little over forty years old, and he will have many things about art to discover and continue. He has commercial projects still waiting, for example, an artistic design of BMW, a commission to design various aspects of the Hirschhorn Museum in Washington D.C., and an architectural firm that will operate at his Berlin studio, with many assistants to help in the projects. His standing in the art world is already in place, such that he will be a major influence in the area of ‘post-painterly’ media.41

The roles of the artist in the Olafur Eliasson Studio


The artist as creator is quite philosophical and requires a broad understanding of the subject. It is not only rational but also involves existentialist connotations. Eliasson’s Studio is concerned with knowledge production. This is immaterial labor in that it relates to how art or knowledge is created. Immaterial labor is about the way the product is made about the cultural and artistic features and consumer demands. While the Studio is knowledge production, it produces products and provides services like the industry, as in capitalist production. As stated in the first chapter, Eliasson’s Studio is an example of how art is produced in a globalized world. The art world now includes the globalized economy and ‘concentrates cultural capital, ceaselessly opens up new markets, and guarantees high prices for a stable portfolio of big-name artists’.[1]

In one of Eliasson’s exhibitions in Switzerland, The Body as Brain: Projekt Sammlung,[2] Eliasson showed a very simple idea by diverting the stream flowing around the outside of the museum to run through the building. It was simple to think but the realization of it was rather difficult. The water ran through the inside of the museum, but Eliasson let the water run its natural course through the internal space, doing the external space part and installation of the museum. Eliasson made it so simple that the viewers could learn something from it. The machine in the Studio makes the parts move, but it was there to create something, ‘to cast new light on its environment, and to push the boundaries of knowledge. [3]

In his exhibits, one is exposed to an overwhelming amount of installation art. In an age of publicity and inflation and empty theatricality, most art observers and the majority of the people may think that these are all part of a big marketing gimmick. Many of Eliasson’s works have a sliding sense of scale, and the usual measurement for installation art, ‘dimensions variable,’ needs reflection as well.

Eliasson shows that he adjusts his mechanisms to fit the specific rooms, but the features can make space itself seem compliant. Some observers see Eliasson as working with time and light, but others are equally justified in regarding his work as dealing with time and space, or space and light. He draws on the tradition of the new and adopts techniques from installation art, process art, Minimalism, Op Art, and other explorative work. Eliasson operates inside a tradition that besides being contemporary, he also tries other techniques. [4]


Ellison’s team of architects and designers create various works of art, produce shows and exhibitions, and make Eliasson’s art a lasting legacy, either in digital or print form. They make use of the skills of structural engineers and other highly skilled individuals and work with other designers, workers, scientists, and professionals throughout the world. Events sponsored by the studio include artistic and intellectual seminars regarding art and even scientific exchanges not within the confines of the art world. [5]

Eliasson consults them and acts as a client, but he also gives his opinion and his decision matters most in the finished product. He provides lectures to students and assistants and speaks in forums for artists and designers. He is one of the TED speakers with his topic on art, architecture, and science.


Shown between the fall of 2003 and the spring of 2004 at Tate Modern, London, The Weather Project, which is one of Eliasson’s masterpieces, has impressed many patrons even Eliasson’s co-artists. The project brought machinery into the hall, with mirrors up in the ceiling. He installed fog machines, spreading a fine mist surrounding the interior, with a big sun casting its light through the mist. A visitor’s first impression would leave him unexpected even for moments. Eliasson had clearly shown the illusion and the trick he had created for the visitors, but you need more time to explore the connections. According to Ursprung, photography was necessary to make things clear and view them over and over. The Weather Project was one of the most talked about in the art circle, in which Eliasson explained his ideas in many roundtable discussions. [6]

It was in The Weather Project that Eliasson received worldwide acclaim, extending his fame beyond the borders of the art world. The exhibition was successful due in part to Eliasson’s Berlin Studio. At first, he pre-fabricated the whole thing in the Berlin Studio before he installed it at Tate Modern in London. It means that Eliasson was in complete control. Now, Eliasson has penetrated the architectural field, through the structure and operation of the Studio. The Studio has become an efficient machine, which is not only used for experiments but provides flexibility to answer to Eliasson’s busy schedule.

It has been recorded that about two million visitors have viewed The Weather Project (see figures 8a and 8b), therefore many are now wanting to collaborate with him. Architects, artists, and the media are seeking his opinion and collaboration. Ursprung has said that this trend is one of the features of globalization, a tendency ‘to personalize facts’.[7]


Eliasson accompanied his art with some form of explanations, like the anthology, ‘Olafur Eliasson: Surroundings Surrounded, Essays on Space and Science,’ which is a long collection of his art about space and science. The book is a theoretical explanation of his art, although it is not a key to the understanding of his art. The anthology aims to strengthen the effect of his art and the supporting fields, like architecture, science, and politics. Eliasson’s writings are referred to as crystalline and ‘not texts but texture’.[8]

The Studio’s results are ‘not a one-man show; they do not take place in the creator’s imagination. They are jointly collective undertakings, joint ventures. [9] However, Eliasson validates the results.

In The blind pavilion, exhibited for the 2003 Venice Biennale, Eliasson treats the relation between architecture and nature, or ‘landscape’ in a stylish approach. This is a collective work but most of the features came from him. He used the architects’ knowledge in creating the pavilion.

The pavilion was shown like a kaleidoscope, which alternately reflected the viewer’s mirror image and, in some places, opened outwards. However, the openings were different from those usually found in pavilions in the Giardini, whose natural surroundings are organized, domesticated, and accessible, like a picture in a frame. In this scene, the effect was similar to a complication. The image of nature was broken and the observer remained the observer, not in control. Rather, the observer seemed to be at its mercy. Usually, Biennale pavilions are designed to promote interaction between the exhibits and the surrounding nature of the Giardini.

However, with the help of the architects, they pushed it away and reduced it to a mere image. Eliasson deliberately distanced and distorted the pavilion to make it look like a cultural product. The pavilion contained nine works. The work, Colour spectrum kaleidoscope, made the pavilion’s exterior into a pattern of colors. The antigravity cone was comprised of a hexagonal wooden structure through visitors could look down into a water tank, where a strobe light flashed to reveal a little fountain suspended in space. [10]

The brand for the art market

Artists used to work for an art market, and not for individual patrons. Artists would like to make their job appeal to artistic and appreciative customers and to be recognized that their products are different from other products. [11] To attain this goal, artists work with various stakeholders to acquire an appealing and vibrant distinctiveness that would motivate customers to purchase and be loyal to their brand.

Art dealers try to mediate between the artist and the customers and contribute significantly to the artist’s reputation. These two may survey exhibition opportunities and find ways to create a public image that will motivate customers into admiring the artist’s work. Artists are like actors looking for individual and group goals. Profit maximization is only one of the objectives in the artist’s mind; his career is of utmost importance. [12]

To acquire a much-needed reputation and gain a wider audience, artists must have enough knowledge of these three elements: the market and the culture of the intended segment, the support system (which refers to the different constituencies), and their competitors. [13] Successful artists can create powerful brands. [14] However, as artists try to promote their brands, they create a complex, multi-featured public image that is different from a product name. [15]

Names carry with them the culture of their maker and the milieu of these brands. Artists must read and adjust to the culture in which is marketing. Some scholars indicate that the socio-cultural meaning of a brand is its most valuable characteristic. [16] Brands acquire iconicity by making powerful myths that allow consumers to resolve cultural contradictions and anxieties. Many names come out to have achieved iconic figures through happenstance. [17] Brands achieve high status in society and become a cultural figure when their meanings reverberate in the market, either through personal, cultural, or organizational context. Cultural Resonance emphasizes the level ‘to which claimed brand meanings reflect, reinforce and shape meanings from the collective social space that links consumers to others in a shared language and interpretation of experience.’[18]

In Eliasson’s time, art has been produced in a globalized world. Art has extended across the industrialized world, in commercial centers in London, Australia, North and South America, and in the Middle East. Almost every year and in many places, artists open new biennials, establish new artist exchange programs, and build new museums. [19]

‘Little Sun,’ a small solar-powered light, was launched at the World Economic Forum in 2012. Little Sun provides a practical, affordable, and safe source of artificial light to some of the 1.6 billion people worldwide who live with electricity. Little Sun makes light for living, learning, and earning. It creates business opportunities in off-grid regions that generate profits for everyone involved, in all stages of production, distribution, retail, and use. [20]

Communication facilitator/collaborator

The old cliché states, ‘Communication is an art,’ or the phrase that goes ‘the art of communication.’ Since communication is an art, it follows that artists should be good communicators.

Language and communication are critical to the creation of art. When it comes to theatre, dance, and music, the artist must know effective communication. [21] Dancers and performers must have regular consultation during rehearsals.

Writers, theatre actors, painters, sculptors, visual artists – all these create art and communicate in the process of creating art. Through art, they are effective communicators because what they create is communication itself. Their aim and mission are to communicate. Successful artists are effective communicators, but ordinary artists also communicate effectively. [22] There is no difference in the sense that this is the role of the artist, to facilitate communication. However, we can state further that successful artists are more efficient than ordinary artists. Successful ones are those who have enhanced the role of art in knowledge production. Successful artists are those whose work we quickly understand and admire for its beauty and message. Lucky ones may not be famous and those popular may not be successful.

In art, the communication process involves the artist, the medium that is art, and the audience to whom the artist wants to communicate. Communication is effective if the audience to whom the message is directed readily accepts understands and admires the message of the artist through the medium, the art (e.g. painting).

In ‘Your Mobile Expectations,’ Eliasson introduces an intricate way of making a BMW art creation. The body of the car was replaced with ice and how this was done was shown to the world. The car was covered with ice, reduced to a freezing temperature, and then sprayed with water. The viewer has to enter a specially-designed refrigerated room and see the racing car whose outer shell has been transformed into ice. ‘Your mobile expectations’ is part of BMW’s art car series, planned for three years and participated by designers and engineers. [23]

Artist as Entrepreneur

As mentioned elsewhere, artists are risk-takers. They have to take risks if they want to succeed in a highly competitive ‘business’. As risk-takers, they believe in themselves and are in control of their faculties and decisions. In short, they are risk-taking entrepreneurs.

The entrepreneur is directly involved in the market, buying and selling, promoting, and making contact with customers. The entrepreneur is part of the supply and demand of products the chain of supply passes through him.

Joseph Schumpeter describes the entrepreneur as significant in the economic advancement and business life of any country. [24]

The artist must have ample knowledge of entrepreneurship to make his studio work for the long term. Entrepreneurs know how to quickly solve business problems. [25]

Artists’ flexibility is essential in managing a business. Some processes in business are ambiguous and difficult to deal with by inexperienced managers. Ambiguity and creativity are prominent traits of artists. Some studies showed that artists have tolerance for ambiguity. [26] All this means that those who are tolerant of ambiguity are likely to be creative. Studies in Germany showed the correlation between the two traits and also shown in the study by Wolfram and Prez.

Artists who are known to be creative resist inflexible, formulaic approaches, and are brave enough to choose situations filled with risk and possible negative aspects. Another study reported that people with a positive outlook know how to accept ambiguous situations. [27]

Another important trait that entrepreneurs should have is risk-taking behavior. Human beings are born to accept and deal with risks. Everyday life is filled with risks, and business is much more prone to risks.

The collectivity project is Eliasson’s meeting with architects and businessmen. Eliasson met with leading architecture firms, create designs using Lego bricks in which everyone could participate and play. Big-name firms participated in the project held in High Line, Manhattan. Eliasson wanted to show that the masses and the corporate world can still collaborate to create work art. However, this is immaterial labor. Fordism tailored mass production, the nationally regulated economy, and work and time for leisure. Post-Fordism refers to the disintegration of the mass production process. Modern capitalism is influenced and shaped by information technology and ‘networked, globalized production.’[28]


Artists have to adapt continuously to the changing world. Eliasson’s Studio, particularly its structure and its competence to expand very quickly can tell the art world how his Studio understands the changing environment of art and the process of change. This capacity permits Eliasson to fill the art world’s need for exhibitions and new projects. Eliasson’s Studio has adjusted itself to globalization and the global economy. The art world has to continue to open up to new markets and assure more artistic work by talented artists and even those coming from new talents. [29] Given the earlier mentioned insights into the functioning of the Olafur Eliasson Studio, it will be thoroughly logical to conclude that there is indeed much rationale in expecting the popularity of ‘collaborative art’ to remain on a rise – something that has been predetermined by the fact that the qualitative aspects of modern living continue to influence the essence of the art-creating processes to an ever-larger extent.



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Web sources

About Studio Olafur, 2015.

Aidin, Rose, Brush with Fame (2003).

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Damien Hirst’s New Studio Complex is called “Science” (2013).

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Schiavi, Isabelle, Liquid Landscapes: Olafur Eliasson’s Constructions of Nature (London: Sotheby’s Institute of Art, 2004)


Your black horizon
Figure 1. ‘Your black horizon’ (2005), Venice Biennial. Inside the pavilion.
Your black horizon
Figure 1: ‘Your black horizon’ (2005), Venice Biennial. Outside the pavilion.
Takashi Murakami’s art
Figure 3. Takashi Murakami’s art
Eliasson’s ‘Your Strange Certainty Still Kept’
Figure 4. Eliasson’s ‘Your Strange Certainty Still Kept’
The Waterfall
Figure 5. The Waterfall
Dodecahedron lamp.
Figure 6. Dodecahedron lamp. Figure 7. Flower ball
Sun picture
Figures 8a and 8b


  1. Ursprung, p. 13.
  2. Terry Smith and Saloni Mathur, ‘Contemporary Art: World Currents in Transition beyond Globalization’, Contemporaneity, 3 (2014), pp. 163-173 (p. 170).
  3. Ursprung, p. 13.
  4. Ibid.
  5. Ibid.
  6. Ursprung, p. 167.
  7. Ursprung, p. 161.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ursprung, p. 49.
  10. Ursprung, p. 93.
  11. Ursprung, p. 94.
  12. Ursprung, p. 16.
  13. Christopher Knight, ‘The spectacle subverted; Olafur Eliasson’s San Francisco Exhibition Transforms Museum Observation into Participation’, Los Angeles Times, 12 Septemper 2007, p. 11.
  14. Knight, p. 12.
  15. Laura Richard Janku, ‘The Annarchitectures of Matta-Clark and Eliasson’, ArtUS, 21 (2008), 18-21 (p. 18).
  16. Ursprung, p. 11.
  17. Ibid.
  18. Ursprung, p. 11.
  19. Ibid.
  20. Kristín Guðbrandsdóttir, Between Visibility and Invisibility: A Place Where New Experiences are Created (Washington, D.C.: Corcoran College of Art + Design, 2011), p. 16.
  21. Ursprung, p. 11.
  22. Ibid.
  23. Ibid.
  24. Molesworth, Charles, ‘Olafur Eliasson and the Charge of Time’, Salamagundi, 160/161 (2010), pp. 42-52 (p. 42).
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Ibid.
  29. Ibid.
  30. Ibid, p. 46.
  31. About Studio Olafur. Web.
  32. Manchester International Festival, Tree of Codes: A Contemporary Ballet (2015) (a booklet).
  33. Sarah Crompton, Three’s Company (Manchester: Manchester International Festival, 2015), p. 7.
  34. MicheL Faber, Tree of Codes by Jonathan Safran Foer- Review (2010). Web.
  35. Crompton, p. 7.
  36. Ibid.
  37. Ibid.
  38. Ibid.
  39. Isabelle Schiavi, Liquid Landscapes: Olafur Eliasson’s Constructions of Nature (London: Sotheby’s Institute of Art, 2004), p. 15.
  40. Ursprung, p. 11.
  41. Denise Doyle, ‘Art, Virtual Worlds and the Emergent Imagination’, Leonardo, 48.3 (2015), pp. 244-250 (p. 249).