Surreal Installation Grabs Attention of Avant/Garde Diaries

by Ian Marshall on July 2, 2013 Sponsor

Berndnaut Smilde – Making Clouds from The Avant/Garde Diaries on Vimeo.

With the current popularity of MoMA’s temporary rain room, 2013 seems to be shaping up to be a good year for weather-based art installations. Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde, featured in a new segment from Avant/Garde Diaries, practices his own weather-inspired installation by creating small clouds in interior spaces.

Smilde professes interest in “work that kind of exists in between reality and representation,” echoing a surrealist sentiment that seems perfectly aligned with an installation that brings clouds indoors. His clouds floated into the spotlight when his work was named as one of Time Magazine’s Best Inventions of the Year 2012, where he was compared to René Magritte for his surrealist leanings.

“Clouds can symbolize many things,” reflects Smilde. “They can be something ominous maybe, they can also be bad luck. They can be so many things, depending on the situation.” While the artist’s other personal reflections on clouds in the segment include a childhood memory of a painting of a solitary ship headed out to a dark sea, Smilde’s featured work appears more optimistic at a first glance.

Using a smoke machine to craft temporarily perfect but ultimately ephemeral clouds in interior spaces, Smilde strives for work “questioning inside and outside, temporality, size, and function of materials.” His Avant/Garde short documents one such installation in the Green Room of the Veterans Building in downtown San Francisco. As one of his clouds slowly dissipates on camera into a glowing haze, the contrast between such an iconic natural object and its austere Beaux-Arts setting is delightful, and, as Smilde puts it, a little bit “ominous.”

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