Olafur Eliasson, The Green Light Project

What if refugees were embraced and celebrated? Through creative workshops, Studio Olafur Eliasson invites migrants and local citizens to bring new light into the world together.

Studio Olafur Eliasson is headed by Danish-Icelandic artist Eliasson, who uses natural elements (like light, water, fog) and makeshift technical devices to transform museum galleries and public areas into immersive environments. Eliasson ardently believes in the power of art to help us see and question our assumptions, thereby raising our consciousness to create a better world emotionally, socially and politically. For Eliasson and the 90 people working at his studio, art is not just about decorating the world, but about taking responsibility. “People underestimate how robust art is,” he explains. “If we don’t believe that creativity as a language can be as powerful as the language of the politicians, we would be very sad — and I would have failed. I am convinced that creativity is a fierce weapon.”

Initially conceived as metaphorical green light for refugees and migrants in Austria, The Green Light Project testifies to the agency of contemporary art and its potential to initiate processes of civic transformation. Using the fundamental idea of the workshop as a place to come together, talk to one another and make something together, Eliasson invited refugees and the local community to build lights he had designed from sustainable materials.

The workshop hosted lectures, German classes and communal cooking sessions, creating a context where people who had suffered great adversity could make friends, laugh, dance, eat and play music together, bringing new light to the world. While the lamp has a metaphoric resonance, green lighting migration, Eliasson looks on the project as a model and a methodology that can be taken to other places. A collaborative artistic practice and space for learning and exchange that unites people from a range of backgrounds. The finished lights are available for purchase to support refugees around the world.

Photo Credit: Studio Eliasson