Elia: The World’s Most Frustrating Work of Art


I reckon that this dome, here on a windswept
field in Denmark, is the world’s most frustrating work of art. I know that’s a bold claim, so let me explain: this is Elia, designed by an artist called
Ingvar Cronhammar. He’s famous for dark, industrial art, art
that looks like machinery, art that looks alienating and remote. Elia certainly qualifies as all that: it’s been here near the town of Herning, in
Denmark, since 2001. 32 metres high, if you include those chimneys. The steps up to the viewing gallery are uncomfortably
large, it feels like it wasn’t designed for humans. Comparisons to an alien spaceship that’s landed
in the middle of rural Denmark… well, they’re cliché, but standing here,
they feel about right. Something feels wrong about this sculpture. Which is all very impressive, but that’s not
the frustrating part. In the middle, just between those four pillars,
there is a gas burner, and it shoots a massive flame eight metres
in the air, a huge blast of fire. It’s one more ominous, unsettling thing about
this sculpture: it might burst into flame at any moment. But it probably won’t. Because it does that, on average, for just 25 seconds about once every two or
three weeks. At random, decided by a computer. It might be months between eruptions. It might just be a few days. And according to an article in the local news, it won’t go off if the wind is too high, which
is probably is today, or if there are any people too close. Elia’s web site doesn’t tell you when the
flames are going to be, it just archives the time and date of all
the ones that you’ve missed. They keep that up to date just to taunt you,
I guess, I don’t know. And sure, there are a couple of photos or
videos from people online who’ve been lucky. You can go online and see that. But you can also go online and see the Mona
Lisa in much higher resolution than you ever could
in person, in incredible detail. That doesn’t stop people crowding into the
Louvre in Paris to fight with selfie sticks. There is something about being there. So if Elia calls to you, if you want to see
the fire in person, you’re going to have to camp out and watch
it, 24 hours a day, maybe for months. As for me, I’ve got about an hour left until I have to leave to catch my flight. So here’s hoping.

100 thoughts on “Elia: The World’s Most Frustrating Work of Art

  1. It's one of the coolest pieces of art we have… There is no need for frustrating

  2. I live in Denmark. I think it is hilarious how people can't pronounce danish words. It's Herning ! Not Hørning 😂

  3. I actually visited this place as a small child and i can remember it being having a hard time climbing

  4. Could have used this opportunity to stretch the video to 10 minutes. Would have watched 8 minutes of you staring at chimneys

  5. I think it's a bold claim that that is art at all…? And I'm speaking as an artist.

  6. They just shoulda made it so people can insert money and increase chance of burner in next while. More money you insert.. higher the chance

  7. I thought those "chimneys" were lightning rods, designed to draw lightning during thunderstorms.

  8. At 1:05 you show a sign that tells you what it is. It is a over pressure relase station. The gas it lett on fire for saftey reasons. Best regards from the Danish plumber 🙂

  9. "You can go online and see the Mona Lisa at a higher resolution than in person"…
    You understand that "in person" would be seen at an infinte resolution, right?

  10. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the flame looks much like any other flame.

  11. these are one of those things we will leave behind just to confuse the f8ck out of future archeologists

  12. If the site keeps a record of previous times it's gone off, maybe that data could be used to determine some information about the RNG being used? It's probably too complicated to reverse-engineer, but just a thought.

  13. Don’t be frustrated. It can be the purpose of this sculpture to remind us of waiting for a long time in this too busy society.

  14. The “dead whale” of lismore nsw australia, Aka the massive waste of $300,000 which didnt even get put where it was designed to go and which the locals hate.

  15. The aliens will land there, thinking it was setup as a docking pad, only to be fried to a crisp. They toss the gifts they had prepared to lead us to a golden age and pull out the lasers, all because of some silly art.

  16. Imagine waiting for weeks or even months, and then finally hearing the thing go off, but only for there to be no more gas….

  17. Am I the only one that was hoping beyond hope you caught a burst in your video?

  18. This is amazing. It’s like the liquid with the highest viscosity in the world, that takes years for one drop to fall.

  19. I used to live near there. Elia is a huge eyesore. Really makes you hate the local government for wasting money on postmodern idiots like Cronhammar.

  20. Just stand there in the field and start talking to the people watching the thing, waiting for it to go off.
    When they turn around , for any reason, fart really loud.

  21. It is frustrating. I kept wondering, "How much money did that piece of crap cost?"
    There are two types of people in this world. Those who don't see the attraction of modern art and those who are wrong. All of their explanations smack of the Emperor's New Clothes.

  22. If you think that's frustrating you should see some of the old camp spots from WoW and EverQuest.

  23. So as it doesn't go off if someone is near just pay a few people to stand near for a few months. And come and watch afterwards. Not sure how the program works but to maintain the average it shouldn't take long.

  24. Reminds me of the steamboat geyser in Yellowstone. It’s the tallest geyser in the world, over 300 ft when it erupts, but it happens so very sporadically.

  25. I think it gives us an insight on our crave for availability. We wanna see animals? We go to the zoo. We want some information? We google it. We want emotions? We watch a movie. But this art takes us back to the point – which was not long ago! – when things weren't available at arbitrary times. And this non-availability makes it so uncomfortable to us. We can not get control over it. We can not predict it. It is raw and wild and we must accept this as its nature.

  26. I think the need to be there is just a result of people wanting to be interesting. I've heard all sorts of things about what traveling does to you. It also happens to be all the people who complain about climate change and buy the carbon is the key rationality. I rather travel to do something than see something personally.

  27. Ugly, unsightly, meaningless, nihilistic, depressing, lazily made, heralding the decline of culture – that's what modern art is, nothing more, nothing less. please stop…

  28. For anyone interested, the time between two eruptions can approximately be modelled as an Erlang distribution, with a shape parameter k = 2, and a rate parameter lambda = 0.13 (counting in days). This gives an average waiting time between two eruptions of about 16 days.

  29. At the end his wobbling like a bowling pin filled with water at the bottom. 2:09

  30. 2:14 I wonder how long Tom stood with his back to the camera before turning it off.

  31. It’s designed after Auschwitz that’s why some people don’t fill comfortable near it the only ones that do are Nazi

  32. The tongue of the Primal
    Lashes out
    On whims unknown
    And the supplicants
    Await the hour
    Of blazing salvation
    When righteous flames
    Erupt
    From the altar
    To fill the air
    With his warmth

  33. Aww I thought it was going to go off at the end and we would get to hear Tom go "Yesss!" 🙁

  34. I live in denmark and I have been my entire life. I never knew about this thing before now?

  35. Count on the Danes to be eco friendly (ie, the rare and occasional burst of flame)

  36. I live in Herning and study at the university located right next to this. One fateful Friday afternoon i actually saw it light up, for just 2 seconds and then it was gone again.

  37. The part at the end where we get to watch with Tom is a nice touch 🙂

  38. In the Technion university in Haifa, there is a sculpture called "The Obelisk", which was originally intended to be operating and moving, but due to design errors, when it operates it makes sounds that are described by the locals as "the agonized screams of horrified students cramming for a Calculus exam". Nowadays, they only turn it on once a year for a few days.

  39. If you think about it, it looks like a giant screw being put in the ground

  40. You wish to see the Mona Lisa? En garde!
    * we begin to duel with our selfie sticks in the atrium *

  41. I pass this weber grill on my daily commute and have never seen it fire

  42. It should be playing the chorus "you can't always get what you want" by rolling stones and sinc it to shoot the flame right after "but if you try sometimes..you get what you need!"

  43. What a boring video about a boring concept that was made into boring art…

  44. Can we add the blue circle from calgary, Alberta that costed us millions in taxes payer money

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