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Olafur Eliasson Plays with Two Tons of Lego Bricks

'The Collectivity Project' invites you to build your own city on the High Line.

The last time Olafur Eliasson staged a show in New York City, he built four cascading waterfalls on the banks of the East River. This summer the ambitious artist, whose environmental installations, including Green river and The weather project, the giant LED sun he created for Tate Modern, explores duration and the ever-changing environment of the city in his latest installation of The collectivity project.

Eliasson's participatory project brings over two tons of white Lego bricks to New York's High Line in an effort to reimagine the cityscape. “The collectivity project is a less-known project by Olafur, but one that fits incredibly well with the values and mission of Friends of the High Line,” High Line Art’s Director and Curator Cecilia Alemani tells The Creators Project. “It is a collaborative project that is realized and completed by the public, it’s got deep architectural root and encourages people to believe in big and sometimes impossible dreams,” adds Alemani, who also just curated the 2015 Frieze Projects New York.

Olafur Eliasson, The collectivity project, 2015. Part of Panorama, a High Line Commission. On view May 29 – September 30, 2015. Photo by Timothy Schenck. Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

Starting with Lego brick structures of skyscrapers built by firms that include OMA New York and Renzo Piano, who built the newly opened Whitney Museum of American Art that now sits at the southern tip of the High Line, the installation invites the public to use the initial buildings as a point of departure to build and rebuild the structures in their own image, considering the spaces they live, work, and play.

Olafur Eliasson, The collectivity project, 2015. Part of Panorama, a High Line Commission. On view May 29 – September 30, 2015. Photo by Timothy Schenck. Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

Olafur Eliasson, The collectivity project, 2015. Part of Panorama, a High Line Commission. On view May 29 – September 30, 2015. Photo by Timothy Schenck. Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

By taking into consideration the collective desires of the participants, the cityscape will come to embody the cooperative spirit of the installation and the artist's desire to explore the ideas of social and environmental sustainability surrounding the notion of a utopian city. “I think some [participants] will take inspiration from the surrounding cityscape, which changes basically every day, to envision their own alternative version of this part of the city,” says Alemani. “Others will build imaginary projects that will depart completely from the current architectural trends to insert a futuristic vision of our cities.”

Olafur Eliasson, The collectivity project, 2005. Installation view at the National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, 2006. Photo by Andreas Eggersten. Courtesy the artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; and Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York. 

Eliasson’s collectivity project is presented as a part of the Panorama series of installations that make up the High Line Art’s summer group show. Panorama includes works by nine artists, including Kris Martin’s Altar, Yutaka Sone’s Little Manhattan, and Rashid Johnson’s Blocks. What stands out about Elliasson’s project is that “The collectivity project is a much more modest installation in terms of scale compared to the Waterfalls,” notes Alemani. “But because of its participatory nature, it will touch upon the very essence of art—engaging with the audience and creating a space for conversation, discussion and exchange.”

Olafur Eliasson, The collectivity project, 2015. Part of Panorama, a High Line Commission. On view May 29 – September 30, 2015. Photo by Timothy Schenck. Courtesy of Friends of the High Line.

Olafur Eliasson’s The Collectivity Project is on view at the 30th street entrance of the High Line through September 30, as part of High Line Art’s Panorama exhibition.

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