Mashed Popetatoes & Horse D’oeuvres

Note from the Editor: “The Artifact” is not your conventional news source—mainly because it is not a news source at all. What this weekly Sunday article provides is a platform where world events are juxtaposed with works of art, finding reflections and similarities in the often-frictional relationship between the “real world” and the “art world.” It is the case that most works of art, abstract or representative, tend to imitate life or an aspect of it. The Artifact, complementarily, seeks to find life situations that imitate works of art already made. This is our first issue!

The Russian Meteor Project

Olafur Eliasson truly outdid himself this time with what appears to be his most ambitious project to date. Known for his large-scale installations and sculptures in which he utilizes elemental materials such as air, water, light and temperature, his latest “Russian Meteor Project” achieves what art rarely accomplishes under the best of scenarios: the shattering of our comfort bubble and an insight into the vastness and complexity of that which surrounds us. ??The ephemeral intervention was, without previous announcement, deployed on the morning of Friday, February 15, 2013 over the Urals in Russia. The happening was strategically documented from various perspectives:

Through video documentation, reminiscent of the movies “Crash” & “Amores Perros,” Eliasson structures a narrative from various perspectives that ultimately intertwine at one collision point, presumably affecting all parties involved. By documenting the event from the inside of moving vehicles, we take a few symbols under consideration: the use of cars as a sign of our time, the speed at which information in our post-industrial, internet-driven society travels and the comforting “mechanical womb” in which we move amidst the banality of our daily lives (the radio soundtracks inside the vehicles bring the feel of the mundane to a delightful climax).  

Yet, the last sequence in the video leaves us at an uncomfortable spot. The road in which the cars are traveling strategically carries the shape of an Ichthys, two intersecting arcs that resemble a fish––a symbol that is colloquially known as “sign of the fish” or “Jesus fish.” ??Eliasson seems to appease both Christian believers and non-believers here (something extremely challenging to do when art blends with religion). To the believer, the meteor might appear as an obvious symbol of the end of times and a warning following the generally perceived degradation of our present-day society. To the non-believers, however, the Russian Meteor Project seems to say something else: that we live our lives in the comfort zone of our beliefs, ideals and perceptions—often feeling entrapped by them, all the while the entire universe revolves around us. To the non-believer, the Russian Meteor Project serves as a reminder of how fragile we really are as a species. It metaphorically coincides with our orbit, shatters into our atmosphere and leaves us with the realization that we’re all in this together––as the dinosaurs once were.