The artist’s studio is like the engine room of a ship: a messy place where tools of the trade are strewn about while workers go busily to and fro. A place where the machinery—both human and non—that powers an artwork is located. It’s a home to ideas, a place for discussion and experimentation, and a place where those ideas are constructed into reality. So it’s a hub of activity, a working environment, a place of collaborations—and not just between people but also between people and their machines.
In Olafur Eliasson’s video of his studio in action, Movement Microscope, we get a look into this creative space where movements become an elaborate performance.
On his website Eliasson says that his studio “consists of a team of about 45 from craftsmen and specialized technicians to architects, artists, archivists, and art historians, cooks, and administrators.” These, along with contractors, from structural engineers to scientists, are what make up the people in this work zone.
In Movement Microscope (above) we are given a glimpse into this world, but with added artifice. While some people go about their day-to-day activities—interacting and discussing, others are caught in an exaggerated, slow-motion dance performed with the methodic rhythm and mannerisms of machines. From the very beginning, the movements of people are likened and paralleled with those of machines. For example, two guys dance in synchronicity into the studio while to the side a large drilling apparatus is going about its business.
These performative movements are incongruous to the scenes of people at work and in contrast to the more natural movements of the others. So the video, while being a study on movement, also explores the idea of humans as functional machines and the idea of our daily work activities as a kind of performance—albeit without the exaggerated theatricality of some of these folks.