Activities Art

Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life 2019 exhibition review at the Tate

An interactive, beautifully mesmerising exhibition that can help start conversations around the state of the planet, synergy between humans and their environment and of course climate change.

Olafur Eliasson makes the subject of climate change beautiful. He manages to make it approachable and interesting, which is ideal for introducing little ones to this topic. Exploring the world as a two year old is an exciting feat – and the Tate exhibit gives a new perspective to the imaginative mind of a growing toddler.

The exhibition brings together nearly 40 works, most of which haven’t been seen in the UK before, including some that have been created specifically for Olafur Eliasson: In Real Life.

The exhibition begins as soon as you get out of the elevator on the second floor with gleaming yellow neon lights lining the walkway, making you feel like you walked off the Simpsons set. 

Once inside we were instantly attracted to the sweet smelling Reindeer moss in a creamy ivory colour with water running underneath. It was both beautifully calming, we touched, we smelled and were bewildered by this great wall made of moss indoors.

As we continue toddling along the exhibition our world is turned upside down by a large glass sphere. Look up and you’ll feel a little off balance as your reflection stares down back at you. Disturbing but great fun. The toddler jumped a few times to make sure the person staring from the ceiling was in fact his own doppelganger.

And you could almost miss this artwork where drops of rain meander down the window and look misplaced against the backdrop of London tourists eating melting ice-cream in the July sunshine. ‘Look mummy! Rain!” the toddler looks confused and delighted at the same time. A simple installation with many a connotation. 

There’s a kaleidoscope gleaming like an icy sculpture through which we can walk through and see our slightly wonky, misplaced featured faces staring back at us. At the far end there is The Little Sun project, a smaller installation inspired by the huge hypnotic sun that Eliasson had in the Turbine Hall in 2003. Oh how I wish my boy could experience that! 

But he delights in the glow emanating off the installation as little shapes of colour make our faces bright with hues of yellow, green and blue. 

As it’s opening day, it feels like the whole of London has turned up to see the exhibition which works well for ‘Your Uncertain Shadow’ where reflections of our silhouettes are mirrored on the wall in five overlapping pastel shades. Perhaps a comment on our lasting impression on the planet?

Next up is Your Blind Passenger which is sublimely Instagramable. A tunnel of luminescent sugar based sweet fog that blinds and confuses you as pass through it. 

This is followed by Beauty where Eliasson plays God and creates his own beautiful version of nature as you observe sprays of water and possibly the odd rainbow. The room is serene, dark and quiet. Only the sounds of water manage to penetrate the stillness (and in our case an over excited toddler wanting to touch the spray and show me the rainbow!)

The final of room of the exhibition is perfect for toddlers as they can get creative and build with all sorts of shapes that have been inspired from the natural world. The young Londoner’s youngest team member highly enjoyed this part of our visit.

Beyond the walls of the paid for exhibition there are other areas of the Tate where Eliasson has left his mark. From the luminous red glow of the corridor leading you inside and making visitors looks a deathly shade of yellow, to the rotating fan that greets you as you exit the exhibition and finally the Waterfall sculpture at the back of the Tate in the Terrace Bar. If at this point you fancy a snack you can enjoy a specially curated meal (by Eliasson) whilst you enjoy the murmur of water (and possibly some sprays) from the metallic structure.

Kids of all ages will love the interactive nature of this experience so go and visit, experience it and take lots of pictures.