Today I experienced Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson's "RIVERBED" installation at the Queensland Gallery of Modern Art. It was equally impressive as it was somewhat ominous and disturbing.

It’s hard to appreciate the scale of the installation from the image, but it was gigantic. Filled with a gradually inclining slope covered with smooth boulders and rocks. A river trickles through the middle of it.

When looking at the flowing riverbed, it was easy to quickly feel you were in the wilderness. But gazing upwards, the clinical, crisp white walls and fluorescent light bulbs was an unsettling juxtaposition.

I have no idea what the artist’s intent was, (it was initially assembled in 2014), but given recent environmental disasters and the visceral, looming sense of existential dread most of us feel, this instillation hit me pretty hard.

Our country is on fire, and experiencing unprecedented drought, whilst we have a climate change denying government unwilling to make any meaningful policy change. To see a body of moving water within the confines of an art gallery felt so eerie.

If good art is meant to move, this one succeeded immeasurably. One has to wonder what it’ll take for others to be moved. 🥀


 Olafur Eliasson, Denmark/Iceland b.1967 / Riverbed 2014 installed at the Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane 2019 / Water, rock (volcanic stones [blue basalt, basalt, lava], other stones, gravel, sand), wood, steel, plastic sheeting, hose, pumps / Courtesy: The artist; neugerriemschneider, Berlin; Tanya Bonakdar Gallery, New York/Los Angeles


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