Olafur Eliasson Dances for Peggy Gou

The Danish-Icelandic artist is heavily involved in the electronic music giant’s debut album, from his work appearing on the cover to directing a music video in which they dance and play with mirrors in his studio.

Olafur Eliasson in a still from the “1+1=11” music video by Peggy Gou. Image courtesy of XL Recordings

Olafur Eliasson first discovered breakdancing as a teenager—and realized that moving can change space and how we perceive it. “I was into popping, moving like a robot, and doing the electric boogie,” he says. “Street dance enabled me to explore the space of my body in relation to the world around me.” The Icelandic-Danish artist has since dedicated his career to making art that toys with that notion, from a mist-darkened chamber that illustrates the urgency of reducing air pollution to large-scale light works that dole out mesmerizing, kaleidoscopic visual experiences. His dance floor prowess was lesser known until, as the story goes, he stood up at a restaurant in Berlin and showed his longtime friend, the South Korean electronic music giant Peggy Gou, some impromptu moves.

An unlikely collaboration was born. Eliasson is heavily involved in Gou’s debut album, I Hear You, which arrives on June 6. It begins on the album cover, which pictures a gaze-averted Gou wearing mirrored earpieces angled to reflect her ears in a ring-like pattern—a clever riff on the title. The piece is Eliasson’s Psychoacoustic Empathy Amp (2023), an aural sculpture that explores how the body receives and our brain interprets sound. (Think of it as an aural version of his popular 2011 work Your Plural View, in which viewers place their heads in a construction of mirrors and witness their own reflections.)

“I Hear You” (2024) by Peggy Gou. Image courtesy of XL Recordings

The teamwork continues on album opener “Your Art,” in which Gou reinterprets a poem Eliasson penned about humanity’s obligation to address the climate crisis for a 2022 Time cover story. He also directed the music video for her single “1+1=11,” which is the most mesmerizing of all—it features Eliasson, dressed in a pink velour work suit, showing off impressive dance moves as he glides, spins, and moves like a robot inside his Berlin studio. At times, he appears as a pinkish eight-tone silhouette projection that overlaps and cascades across the wall, mirroring his 2010 work Your Uncertain Shadow, a mainstay of his museum shows. It’s interspersed with footage of him and Gou playing with geometric models, lights, and mirrors.

“Sculpture and dance are both non-verbal languages. Sometimes in order to communicate, you simply have to move,” Eliasson says. “By bringing together dance with colorful shadows, lights, and mirrors, I was able to bring the key interests that have shaped my art into an entirely new context. Working together has been rewarding and a lot of fun!”

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