Recreating a Cloud as Art! Berndnaut Smilde.

http://www.projectprobe.net/probe/6

The sense of wonder and awe that begins the viewers experience of the work by Berndnaut Smilde is quite fantastic and works with transitional spaces. This piece was created by using a smoke machine and carefully monitored humidity and atmosphere. This particular piece was made for Project Probe, a “test lab” that works to “enable artists to create works on scale, that are unthinkable in real life. Check them out, some intriguing pieces have been produced in their “lab.” (http://www.projectprobe.net/probe/about) The interview that Probe conducted with Berndnaut Smilde allows you into the ideas behind his work. I find it particularly relatable in his idea of the ephemeral. Enjoy!

BERNDNAUT IS FASCINATED BY ANYTHING IN BETWEEN. CORRIDORS AND CLOUDS, NOT YET THERE AND NOT YET SOLID. WHAT IF A SCULPTURE WERE TO BE NOTHING BUT THIN AIR, SMOKE OR SCENT? WOULD WE DISCUSS THE MERITS OF ONE CLOUD OVER THE OTHER OR WOULD WE JUST SHUT UP IN AWE.

How different was it to work in the space of Probe compared to other exhibition spaces?

BS:  I usually make a maquette of the space I’m going to work in. A maquette helps me to control and visualize an idea. It provides a clear overview.  Probe itself is a model space, and worked for me in the same way: The manner of working is very direct and functional, and being so close to the subject changes the conception of materials and reality. The space is being emphasized. You create an ideal situation and therefore I think the model can stand for an idea.

Working in Probe provides an additional point of view to exhibition making and that is an almost god-like position in which you have control over everything. I think it is similar to why people like model-train-landscaping. It’s having total power.
What did you want to create in Probe?

BS:  I imagined walking into a museum hall with just empty walls. The place even looked deserted. On the one hand I wanted to create an ominous situation. You could see the cloud as a sign of misfortune. You could also read it as an element out of the Dutch landscape paintings in a physical form in a classical museum hall. At the same time I wanted to make (for once) a very clear image, an almost cliché and cartoon like visualisation of having bad luck: “Indeed, there nothing here and bullocks, it’s starting to rain!”

What obstacles did you run into?

The idea I had was going to be an ephemeral work. It would only exist as a photo. I thought this would work very well with the idea of Probe, as the exhibitions only exist in the form of documentation. I didn’t realize there is in fact a very physical aspect about Probe’s presentation. The 9 different perspectives of documentation make it possible for the spectator to wander around the space and create the opportunity of visiting the exhibition. Therefore with every shoot we had to make a new cloud and keep in account approximately the same lighting and position to create the illusion of physically walking through the space

2 Responses

  1. I think this work by Smilde is inspiring. As an artist I am constantly being inspired by the world around me, including the natural world. The cloud is something we see everyday, but sometimes we ignore its quiet beauty, floating above us until storms form and force us to pay attention to their significant power. To recreate a cloud as art is to shine a new light on the natural phenomenon and to place it indoors adds more intrigue and magic to the piece as a whole. What do we want from art? Personally I want to be amazed and inspired. That is what this work does for me. Not to mention the space depicted in the photograph reminds me of a church with the large arching windows. The vacant room doesn’t feel empty because the light filters in through the glass, filling the space with a natural glow. The white walls remind me of a museum, but they add to the simplistic beauty of the cloud. I would describe the image as pure and serene. My spiritual understanding of the world is reflected in this work. I don’t care to know how he created the cloud, but I do care that he did and how it makes me feel. The not knowing, the mystery of it, is what makes this piece great in my eyes.

  2. “Sometimes we ignore its quiet beauty, floating above us until storms form and force us to pay attention to their significant power.” That’s quite the poetic sentence. Thanks for your reply! I also think that his work is inspiring through the almost magic of it. The way that he controlled the room with such precise detail to be able to not only make the cloud but allow it to have the same surreal nature in it’s floating as a real cloud is very impressive. I think asking what do we want from art is a very real and big question in the contemporary art world. Things seem to be so confusing and all over the place these days that it’s hard to settle down into one idea of what I want. But yes over all I could agree that people want to be amazed and inspired through whatever medium that may come at the viewer though.

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