Olafur Eliasson’s installation, humbly titled “Riverbed,” covers the entire South Wing of Denmark’s Louisiana Museum of Modern Art. The Danish-Icelandic artist did a similar work in 2008 where he covered the floor with lava-rock rubble, but the rooms used weren’t entirely cleared out, giving the space more of a “dirty floor” effect. That rubble floor is also very similar to Walter De Maria’s 1977 “New York Earth Room”—which is still exhibited, and is literally just a dirt floor covering a few rooms in a museum.
With “Riverbed,” it’s the harsh contrast of the sterile (fluorescent lighting, blinding white walls), against the organic (remarkably natural-looking floor), that makes for an uncanny ambiance. Viewers are encouraged to wander the landscape and interact with the environment, crawling through low entrances to other portions of the exhibit and possibly getting their shoes a little soggy. Little explanation is given for the exhibit, but I’d argue the vibe is distinctly portentous, hinting at a bleak future where nature is scarce, or has to be synthesized by man in order to be experienced safely.