ARTIST INTERVIEW: BERNDNAUT SMILDE
Story: Anthony Syros
Berndnaut Smilde is a modern day weather wizard. He calls to the clouds and theycome…sort of. By profession, he’s an artist, although his work overlaps into architecture and the sciences.
So rather than create his cloud installations through polyfill stuffing or Photoshop, as we’ve seen before, Smilde goes straight to the source. Using a method he first developed in 2010 for Nimbus, the Dutch artist makes his clouds by combining smoke, moisture and spot lighting to create surreal, indoor heavens.
WTU: What was your inspiration for the Nimbus installations?
Smilde: I always had been fascinated by the Dutch seascape paintings with their impressive skies. The image of a typical Dutch rain cloud inside a space triggered my mind and I imagined walking around in a museum space with just empty walls except for a rain cloud hanging around.
WTU: What do you hope people gain from seeing these Nimbus clouds?
Smilde: For me it was important to create the potential idea of a cloud inside a space. Whether you see it as an ominous or a divine situation, by presenting a cloud out of its natural context it opens the possibility to project lots of ideas on it. I like to see to work as a timeless ephemeral moment.
WTU: Generally, how do the installations work? Is there an audience or showing? Are these projects created solely to be recorded and photographed?
Smilde: I make the clouds using a combination of smoke, moist and the right backlighting. The cloud remains for only a few seconds. The physical aspect is really important but the work in the end only exists as a photograph. The ephemeral aspect of the work is what I’m interested in. It is the short moment in time on a specific location that is represented. The photo functions as a document.
I did an event at Hotel MariaKapel where I made the cloud one time with public. What I liked about this was the idea of providing an unusual collective memory in relation to the space.
WTU: What other installations, art or other work do you do?
Smilde: I make sculptures and installations. I often make site–specific work corresponding to the history or architecture of that space.
WTU: Is there a particular theme or issue that you try to address in your work?
Smilde: I am interested in the moment of friction between construction and deconstruction. This transition state you could see as the subject matter in my work. There is not yet a finished outcome to relate to. It shows traces of history and a future vision.
My work also consists of situations that deal with duality. They question inside and outside, temporality, size, the function of materials and architectural elements. I like it when a work functions in-between reality and representation in a way that it has potential but will never function.
WTU: Are there any other artists or designers that inspire you or that you look up to? What else influences your art?
Smilde: Olafur Eliasson, Werner Herzog, Nick Cave, and Modernistic Architecture.
WTU: Of your work so far, what has been your favorite or most self-impacting project?
Smilde: My recent work, Nimbus II.