What We Learn From Art that Challenges Us

Posted on March 4, 2016 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Why should we care about art that makes us think “I don’t get it”?

Danish environmental sculptor Olafur Eliasson, stands in the Turbine Hall at the Tate Modern art museum in London and looks up at his art work entitled "The Weather Project," in this Oct. 15, 2003 file photo. Eliasson has used mirrors, light, sound and mist to create a monochrome space that exposes and confronts the visitor.

For many of us, the world of contemporary art is a confusing one. I very often find myself thoroughly confused after leaving a modern art gallery, and I suspect this is a feeling shared by many of you.

For the artist Olafur Eliasson, “Art has the capacity to verbalize something that you feel but have not yet verbalized yourself.” 1

When I stumbled upon this incredible interview with Eliasson, suddenly my understanding of art that I didn’t “get” took on entirely new meaning. I know, it sounds confusing, but this interview really does leave you looking at art with a fresh sense of understanding…

What makes “good” art is a moving target, but this interview Eliasson reminds me that “good” art is not always the end pursuit of artistic endeavours. Art that makes you look at the world in a different way and question the world we take for granted is powerful.

When we are forced into looking at the world with a new perspective, the way we interact with the world is forced to change. In the case of Eliasson’s work, when we are confronted with how we impact the spaces we are a part of and vice versa, we realize that we are a part of the environments and systems we occupy.

This seemingly simple concept is such an ingrained part of the way we experience the world that it takes a fresh, artistic, shift in perspective to bring back a child-like wonder that makes us stop and go “hmmm…”

I want to leave you with Eliasson’s TED Talk from 2009. After watching the first video, this more in-depth look at the power art has to impact our perception drives home the importance of art as a force that is not must about “decorating the world…it is about taking responsibility.” 3

Via: TED 4


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Stay beautiful & keep laughing!


“Laughter is the shortest distance between two people.”-Victor Borge

Liesl can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV

Liesl Ulrich-Verderber is a camera toting traveler, a global story seeker, and an aspiring—but more often floundering—yogi. She can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV


  1. “Art That Challenges The World | Meet Olafur Eliasson.” YouTube. The Creators Project, 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vds6z9HzgaY>.
  2. “Art That Challenges The World | Meet Olafur Eliasson.” YouTube. The Creators Project, 26 Feb. 2014. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vds6z9HzgaY>.
  3. Eliasson, Olafur. “Playing with Space and Light.” TED.com. TED, Feb. 2009. Web. 02 Mar. 2016. <https://www.ted.com/talks/olafur_eliasson_playing_with_space_and_light?language=en#t-7283>.