Green light, Austria

Consisting of a workshop and learning platform surrounding the making of lamp modules, Olafur Eliasson’s Green light endeavour combines light, art and community to challenge the current state of uncertainty amongst refugees and the European societies that welcome them.

Following the success of the exhibition OLAFUR ELIASSON: BAROQUE BAROQUE, organised by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) and the Belvedere at the Winter Palace of Prince Eugene of Savoy in Vienna, TBA21 announced Green light – a new socially conscious endeavor by Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson at TBA21–Augarten in Vienna, Austria, running from 12 March – 15 June 2016.

Conceived by Eliasson as a metaphorical green light for refugees and migrants in Austria and beyond, the project testifies to the agency of contemporary art and its potential to initiate processes of civic transformation. Green light consists of an artistic workshop and learning platform surrounding the making of lamp modules designed by Eliasson. The lamps are assembled on-site from materials and components that are made available at TBA21–Augarten. In addition to Augarten’s regular audience, young refugees, migrants, and university students were invited to take part in this process of collaborative artistic practice and learning, giving rise to a space of exchange and encounter for contributors from a range of linguistic, social, geographic, and educational backgrounds.

The Green light project responds to a situation of great uncertainty, both for refugees, who are often caught up in legal and political limbo, and for the European societies that welcome them. Through its communal fabrication, Green light constitutes a dynamic space that elicits various forms of participation to migrate to other locations and contexts to initiate different specific engagements. By collapsing the categories of production and reception, performer and audience, art and social action, the project aims to open up the contested terrain between art and society, probing the question of what constitutes the ‘public’ and negotiating a field of difference and similarity.

Eliasson commented: “It is my hope that Green light will shine light on some of the challenges and responsibilities arising from the current refugee crisis in Europe and throughout the world. The project is an act of welcoming, addressed both to those who have fled hardship and instability in their home countries and to the residents of Vienna. It invites them to take part in the construction of something of value through a playful, creative process. Working together in an artistic context, in dialogue with the regular visitors of the Augarten, participants build both a modular light and a communal environment, in which difference is not only accepted but embraced. Green light attempts to question the values of similarity and otherness in our society and to help shape our feelings of identity and togetherness.”

The crystalline Green light lamps are polyhedral units fitted with small, green-tinted light fixtures. Made predominantly from recycled and sustainable materials and designed to be stackable, the modules can function either as single objects or be assembled into a variety of architectural configurations. At TBA21–Augarten, the lamps form a steadily expanding environment in the exhibition space that carries the narratives of its making.

The Green light lamps are for sale on-site at Augarten, online, and through selected partners, allowing everyone to shine a light of inclusion and openness at home. Proceeds from the sales support the Green light project, TBA21’s partner organisations Red Cross Vienna, Caritas, and Georg Danzer Haus, as well as other initiatives helping refugees in Austria.

Over the course of the three-month Green light project, the participants and students will partake in a multifaceted curriculum of shared learning initiated by TBA21.

An evolving sculptural environment made from hundreds of modular Green light lamps will accommodate a multidirectional weekly program. Within the framework of this program, artists, thinkers, students, refugees, migrants, and collaborating organisations are invited to host and to be part of a series of workshops, seminars, performances, screenings, lectures, and artistic interventions responding to socio- and geopolitical, cultural, and personal issues and narratives of migration and arrival through collaborative creative activities and critical discourse.

This participatory platform engages with practitioners from diverse educational and professional backgrounds and tests ways in which artists and organisations can be deeply invested in political and social models of transformation, and thus the production of kinship, civic engagement, and sharing. Creating a space of exchange and encounter, this integral part of Green light tackles issues that matter to each of us.

The weekly program at Augarten is composed of a variety of initiatives and activities within a flexible educational structure that fosters engagement from all participants, those enrolled in the program, university students from Vienna, as well as visitors.

The program features films by artists such as Marine Hugonnier, Omer Fast, Walid Raad, Christof Schlingensief, Sean Snyder and many others. Workshops, interventions, and lectures by Olafur Eliasson and Displaced (the project of Department of Social Design of University of Applied Arts Vienna with Department of Architecture and Urban Planning of Technical University Vienna), Johannes Porsch, David Rych, Mario García-Torres, as well as lectures and discussion rounds with Matti Bunzl, Raimund Haindorfer, Oliver Rathkolb, and many others.

Pic: María del Pilar García Ayensa / Studio Olafur Eliasson