Art & Technology

Olafur Eliasson brings the Northern Lights or a blazing sun into your bedroom

The artist is releasing his first collection of augmented reality digital objects through the Acute Art app

Olafur Eliasson, WUNDERKAMMER (2020, detail)

Just as confinement might start to wear thin for many art lovers after two months of pandemic-imposed isolation measures, Olafur Eliasson arrives with a constellation of wondrous and playful works rendered in augmented reality (AR). Known for his immersive installations and sculptures that evoke natural phenomena, the Berlin-based artist is now bringing the outdoors into people’s apartments. A radiant sun, a cloud emitting rain, the ethereal Northern Lights and a bashful puffin are among the 10 objects in his collection “Wunderkammer” that can be downloaded on the Acute Art app starting 14 May.

“You can put a rainbow over your sofa or bed,” says Eliasson, describing how the hyper-real, three-dimensional digital objects can be seen and placed around your personal space using a mobile device, and then photographed and shared. Come too close and the puffin will get scared or the ladybug will take flight. “There's a bit of interactivity that you can play around with,” he says. “Being in a lock-down can be quite stressing and this could be a way to find the miracles within the apartment where you are.”

Interest in augmented reality was a natural fit for Eliasson, who has long engaged with new technologies and perceptual possibilities, according to Daniel Birnbaum, the director of Acute Art, which invites well known artists to collaborate on projects in AR and virtual reality. After the coronavirus crisis began, Eliasson and Birnbaum decided to gather the artist’s experiments in AR and offer them as a gift, largely for free (the ladybug and a compass can be purchased for €2 for a 30-day period). They intend to add to the collection in the coming weeks.

“For people who have never done this before, it will simply be a shockingly realistic rendering of things that aren't there,” Birnbaum says. “Virtual and physical worlds are woven into each other in rather mystifying ways.”