Berndnaut Smilde can control the weather. The Dutch artist can turn a clear sky cloudy — indoors. In his latest project, he’s installed real Nimbus clouds in empty gallery spaces in Amsterdam.
Smilde’s godlike powers come from simple science — he carefully regulates the temperature and humidity of the space, ensuring that conditions are perfect. Then, he sprays a short burst from a fog machine to create a cottony cloud suspended in the middle of the room for just an instant before it collapses.
“I’m interested in the ephemeral aspect of the work,” Smilde said in an e-mail. “It’s there for a brief moment and then the cloud falls apart. It’s about the potential of the idea, but in the end it will never function.”
Smilde’s clouds dissipate so quickly that they exist mainly in photographs. He chooses surreal spaces, such as empty churches or galleries, as his setting. One photo, taken in a room with bright blue walls, is evocative of the painter Rene Magritte’s azure skies and puffy clouds.
“I wanted to make a very clear image, an almost cliché and cartoon like visualisation of having bad luck,” writes Smilde in his artist’s statement.
However, the rare audience that got to see Smilde’s work in person — captured on video for a Dutch Web site, was all smiles.