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Olafur Eliasson’s Green lights to welcome refugees in Venice and Houston

Proceeds from the sale of the €300 lights, made from recycled materials during the artistic workshops, will help support the project

by Javier Pes  |  20 March 2017
Olafur Eliasson’s Green lights to welcome refugees in Venice and Houston
The lights are made from recycled materials during workshops for refugees. Image: Sandro E.E. Zanzinger/TBA21, © Olafur Eliasson
Green lights designed by Olafur Eliasson will be made during the Venice Biennale by around 60 refugees who live in and around Mestre on the mainland. Proceeds from the sale of the €300 lights, made from recycled materials during the artistic workshops—which involve language courses, film screenings and other activities—go towards supporting the project launched last spring in Vienna by Studio Olafur Eliasson and founding partner TBA21 (Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary). They are working with the Biennale’s organisers and the local government to bring the project to Venice from May until November.

“I do not want it to seem utopian, or like a northern European is telling southern Europeans how to do something,” Eliasson says, adding that Italy, like Greece and Spain, has taken on the main burden of receiving refugees, many from Africa and the Middle East. “[Green light] is a pragmatic response and a cultural strategy,” he says. The Berlin-based, Danish-Icelandic artist believes the initiative could be scaled up to help many more refugees across Europe. “I would love to say to Angela Merkel: ‘Here is a model.’”

The first Green light workshop in the US started in Houston, Texas, on 24 February, to help launch the Moody Center for the Arts at Rice University. Participants from Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria and Cuba are involved, a spokeswoman says.

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