Symmetry and reflection define Olafur Eliasson’s desert installation in Qatar

Danish-Icelandic artist Olafur Eliasson has created an installation called Shadows Traveling on the Sea of ​​the Day during the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar, consisting of twenty circular structures.

Eliasson’s installation, created in collaboration with Qatar Museums, joins over 100 commissioned artworks that have been installed across Qatar and will be on display across the country throughout the tournament.

The installation near the UNESCO World Heritage site of Al Zubarah in north-west Qatar was designed to “shed light on the importance of heritage”.

Shadows Traveling on the Sea of ​​the Day is an installation near Al Zubarah

“Shadows Traveling on the Sea of ​​the Day, 2022 is an invitation to re-sync with the planet,” explained Eliasson.

“It’s a celebration of what was at the time of your visit and was moving through the desert region north of Doha – animals, plants and people; stories, traditions and cultural artifacts; Wind, sunlight, air and shimmering heat,” he continued.

“The installation of these important works of art brings to light the importance of the nearby historic sites of Qatar, which Qatar Museums is responsible for preserving and protecting,” added Qatar Museums.

A depiction of people walking through an installation in a desert
Some structures have mirrored roofs that reflect the desert sands

Visitors can navigate the steel and fiberglass rings and stand under the shelters where they can see their own reflection in mirror panels on the underside of their roofs. The mirrors also reflect the surrounding sandy desert.

“When you arrive at the installation and look at the mirrored undersides, you will find that you are actually looking down – at the earth and at yourself,” Qatar Museums said.

“Shadows Traveling on the Sea of ​​the Day continues the Danish-Icelandic artist’s longstanding exploration of the interplay between human perception and the natural world.”

Hollow ring structures and protected structures
The installation consists of twenty rings

Eliasson arranged 10 of the covered shelters in the center of the installation so that, when viewed from above, they resemble a symmetrical five-pointed star face—reminiscent of the patterns found in medieval Islamic designs.

Other structures were formed from two rings joined together or simple single rings fixed to the ground.

“The principles behind such patterns were recently discovered by mathematicians in the West and may have influenced some of the intricate designs found in Islamic cultures since the Middle Ages,” Qatar Museums explained.

According to Eliasson, the installation created “a sea of ​​connections” – hence the name Shadows Traveling on the Sea of ​​the Day – between individuals and the landscape.

“Sand envelops you above and below, along with everyone else sharing the space,” he said. “It’s kind of a reality check of your connection to the ground,” Eliasson added.

“The mirrors connect and perfect what is physically distinct and partial, connecting the actual environment with the reflected space, creating a sea of ​​connections.”

An installation by Olafur Eliasson at sunset
It was designed by Olafur Eliasson in collaboration with Qatar Museums

Qatar has invested heavily in its artistic program to attract visitors to the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which runs until December 18. Dezeen has collected 10 cultural buildings that were completed ahead of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Meanwhile, architectural photographer Iwan Baan photographed a selection of public artworks on display across the Middle East by artists and designers including Faye Toogood and Richard Serra.

The country has been widely criticized for its human rights record and the conditions faced by migrant workers in the run-up to the World Cup. The Guardian reported that 6,500 migrant workers have died in the country since it won the right to host the tournament in 2010. According to the football association FIFA, there were only 37 deaths in connection with the construction of the World Cup stadiums.

Shadows Traveling on the Sea of ​​the Day is currently showing in Al Zubara. See the Dezeen Events Guide for an up-to-date list of architecture and design events taking place around the world.

Photograph by Iwan Baan, courtesy of Qatar Museums.

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