Qatar continues to transform its spaces into a public museum with a massive new installation by artist Olafur Eliasson. Situated in the desert outside of Al Zubarah and Ain Mohammed heritage sites in Doha, Shadows travelling on the sea of the day was commissioned 10 years ago and took four years to produce. It features 20 mirrored circle shelters that both provide respite from the Sun and also ask visitors to ponder their place in nature.
“Shadows travelling on the sea of the day, 2022, is an invitation to resync with the planet,” shares the artist. “It is a celebration of everything being in and moving through the desert site north of Doha at the time of your visit—animals, plants, and human beings; stories, traditions, and cultural artifacts; wind, sunlight, air, and shimmering heat.”
Visitors are invited to move below the shelters and find that, when they look up, they not only see their own reflection but also the sand. In this way, the Earth is enveloping and all-encompassing—something that humans cannot escape. And this reflection asks people to question their own place on Earth—as they view their feet planted firmly on the ground.
“The mirrors connect and perfect what is physically distinct and partial, linking the actual surroundings with the reflected space and creating a sea of interconnections,” Eliasson continues. “The oscillation of your gaze, together with the movement of your body, may amplify your sense of presence, while the curving structures seem to dematerialize, becoming natural cultural landscape.”
Eliasson's installation is one of several that Qatar Museums has recently unveiled as part of its push to transform Qatar's public space in anticipation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup Qatar, taking place November 20–December 18, 2022. Over 1.5 million visitors are expected to flood Doha for the event and Qatar is preparing by making a big statement about its role in the contemporary art world.
Though Eliasson admits that his installation has no artistic connection to the event, he was driven to participate by his belief that Qatar is a country open to speaking about sustainability. This principle is close to the Icelandic-Dutch artist's heart. In fact, in 2019 he was appointed as Goodwill Ambassador by the United Nations Development Programme to advocate for action on climate change and sustainable development goals.
For Shadows travelling on the sea of the day, Eliasson is working with an external company to verify its carbon footprint. His studio has also allocated funds from the budget to support local environmental groups that actively preserve Qatar's landscape.
“I hope that the creative collaborations that I am currently nurturing on-site in Qatar will provide means for people to meet each other across communities and cultures,” he shares. “The climate crisis requires collective action and an unprecedented level of international cooperation. It is my modest belief that art can help cultivate the necessary transcultural understanding to tackle this enormous task.”
Olafur Eliasson unveiled a massive installation in the desert north of Doha.
The 20 mirrored circle shelters invite visitors to “resync with the planet.”