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A FINE ARTS BOOK FROM OLAFUR ELIASSON

ELIASSON, Olafur. Your House. New York, Library Council of the Museum of Modern Art, 2006.

Oblong folio [28.5 x 44.0 cm], , (454) ff. Bound in original light blue cloth. Binding and leaves pristine as issued, signed by Eliason on the colophon, one of an edition of 225 copies.

$18,500

Conceived by the Danish-Islandic artist Olafur Eliasson (b. 1967) as part of the Contemporary Editions series at the Museum of Modern Art, Your House is one of the more intriguing achievements in 21st-century book arts. The subject of the piece is Eliasson’s house in Denmark, its negative spaces rendered in a cross section through an elaborate laser die-cut process applied to each leaf. Renowned for his large-scale installation art and sculptural projects employing elemental materials, Eliasson is perhaps best known in New York for his elaborate New York City Waterfalls, erected at four locations on the East River in 2008.
The Museum of Modern Art describes this ambitious volume as follows: “Olafur Eliasson’s Your House is an oversize, sculptural volume evoking a passage through a turn-of-the-twentieth-century European house in the Nordic Romantic style—the artist’s own house in Copenhagen, Denmark. The book’s 454 hand-bound leaves (or 908 pages) digitally reproduce a series of vertical cross-sections of the house on a scale of 85:1 (so that each leaf corresponds to 2.2 centimeters of the actual house). In addition, each leaf is individually laser-cut to create negative spaces in the paper, and these apertures, opening on the shifting forms of cut pages to come, cumulatively produce the sensorial illusion of being inside the house. The planar views in the images may make little sense individually: here we may recognize the familiar geometries of a door or window, but elsewhere, the odd slide of a staircase, or a round cellar chamber, only comes together in the collective image made up by sequences of pages seen through the cutouts as one. The result is an intensified sense of space, dimension, and materiality. As we move through the book page by page, or step by step, we seem to feel the sensation of walking through the building, from the front doorway across living rooms, bedrooms, the basement, the attic, the kitchen, and out the garden door.
Your House both exploits the narrative and sequential possibilities of the book form and examines the perceptual and spatial experience of domestic architecture. In addition to its remarkable system of cutouts and images, the book uses a variety of other documentary, optical, exploratory, and presentational techniques. Some passages recall historical prints and books; a dizzying flight of paper stairs, for example, may suggest the paradoxical spaces of Piranesi, or the illusionary perspectives of miniature hand-cut paper theaters from the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. At the same time, this white artwork, both sculptural and architectural, recalls the Purist modernism of Le Corbusier. Your House also “documents” the physical world, drawing on both the technical and the handmade to create an extraordinary, disorienting illusion of an inhabitable, portable home” (moma.org).


* olafurelisson.net; moma.org.

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