Olafur Eliasson: Sometimes the river is the bridge: Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo

June 9 - September 27, 2020
Installation Views
Press release

“I am holding a small power station in my hand with sunshine I brought from Berlin to Japan,” said Olafur Eliasson at the Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT) in April 2019, as he illuminated his surroundings using a Little Sun lamp – a solar-powered mobile light he created to provide clean, affordable energy to those without access to electricity.


MOT is pleased to announce Eliasson’s solo exhibition Olafur Eliasson: Sometimes the river is the bridge, the Danish-Icelandic artist’s first exhibition in Japan in ten years. Eliasson is highly regarded for his efforts to advance sustainable development through his art, and this is reflected in the exhibition title. Sometimes the river is the bridge is about a fundamental shift in perspective that allows us to see that which is not obvious, the invisible. In the face of the collapse of our planetary boundaries, there is an urgent need to redesign the systems in which we live, to re-engineer the future. For that to happen, we need to reconsider fundamentally how we see everything. Up until now, we have organized our present based on the past; we now need to shape our present according to what we want from the future. The potential of this perspective shift is that it can help us reconsider the traditional idea of progress.”, the artist states. His interests in renewable energy and climate action form an integral part of the exhibition. Since the early 1990s, Eliasson (b. 1967) has built up a wide-ranging artistic practice that spans the fields of photography, sculpture, drawing, installation, design, and architecture. Sometimes the river is the bridge features a representative selection of his works, many of which have never been seen before in Japan. This includes early and recent installations that use natural materials; sculptures that reflect Eliasson’s long-held interest in light and geometry; photographic series; drawings and watercolours; and documentation of several of the artist’s interventions in public space. As a child Eliasson spent a considerable amount of time in Iceland, which led to his ongoing project of documenting the landscapes and natural phenomena there. His photographic work “The glacier melt series 1999/2019” (2019) makes tangible the shrinking of Iceland’s glaciers over the last 20 years. Influenced by our complex relationship to nature, Eliasson’s installations often use natural phenomena – such as light, water and mist – to heighten our understanding of the way we perceive and co-produce the world around us. At MOT, visitors are invited to view the artist’s earliest work in the exhibition, “Beauty” (1993), where a rainbow emerges in a darkened space. A major installation created specifically for the exhibition will utilize the cavernous space of MOT’s atrium. The activities of Studio Olafur Eliasson (SOE) are not limited to the production of artworks. Ideas and projects are developed through daily experimentation, collaboration and research. Sometimes the river is the bridge will integrate some of this process into the exhibition through a display of the studio’s recent research into new sustainable and biodegradable materials as well as recycling techniques. The accompanying catalogue features a curatorial essay by Yuko Hasegawa, Artistic Director of the MOT, and conversations between Olafur Eliasson and philosopher Timothy Morton.