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Curated by Katherine Nonemaker

Berndnaut Smilde  

What is your artistic background?  What did you start working with sculpturally?

Starting from painting, I got more and more interested in the physical aspects of material, objects and space it self.

Your earlier sculptures and installations are constructions made from obvious materials (foam, plaster, plastic) that reference obvious material constructions (sheds, cars, walls etc)  as well as the construction materials themselves (ventilators, pipes, cement).  What prompted the switch to manipulating air and vapors instead?

It not a switch, just a part of it. I think the relation between the viewer and the space became more important.

What was your initial inspiration for your Clouds?  How did you feel when your first cloud was born?

The first Nimbus I made in a small scale space for art projects called Probe which is a project of artist collective Suze May Sho. Probe is an exhibition space with walls no higher then 1,10m and a surface of 6m2.  It’s a test lab, an artistic skinner box. It’s small and practical dimensions enables artists, to create works on scale, that are unthinkable in real life. Because you have total control over the space it enables you to create an ideal situation. This is one of the reasons I think a model can stand for an idea. I transformed the exhibition space into my idea of a museum hall in which I wanted to present an ominous situation.

How do you select the environments that your clouds will manifest themselves in?

The locations are important to the context of the work. The spaces I work in are all in some way connected to exhibition spaces and therefor they question the artwork itself as well. The Chapel of ‘HotelMariaKapel’ emphasizes the divine and transient connotations of the work.   Although being an exhibition space, I really like the architecture and the element of time in this 15th century chapel. The architecture also plays an important in Nimbus D’aspremont where the contrast between the original castle and its former use as a military hospital and mental institution is still visible. The spaces you could say function as a plinth for the work.


Unflattened, 2012, Photomural, prism, light, 200x300 cm

Your other work this past year uses prisms and manipulations of light - how do you view science when in juxtaposition with contemporary art?

I am not working with facts in contrast to science. I am working with suggestions and ideas.

The prism fascinates me because it shows the way we see the world arounds us as for colors then. This can be triggered by using an simple Ikea led light. The clouds exists of just smoke,moist and and light. I find it interesting when a work functions in-between reality and representation in a way that it has potential but will never really function. Eventually its determined fail but for a very brief moment you transport the image of a cloud inside a space and start making new connections. The rainbow is also more about the suggestion of a rainbow as a sign of perfection and promise and what will happen if you turn this upside down. Do you start questioning these values differently?


Conditioner, 2007, tubes, plastics, ventilators, antiseptic air, 0,5x0,5x20 m, MOOT Gallery, Nottingham, UK


Conditioner - Slaughterhouse, 2011, tubes, foil, ventilators, antiseptic air, Former abatoir, Ostragehege, Dresden

What do you associate with the “antiseptic air” in your Conditioners?

This clinical air for me associates immediately with hospitals, sickness and death. But on the other hand you know it is clean air. Save from any bacterials. Therefor  when entering the space you start questioning whether it is save here or maybe just save. What happened in this space? or is it trying to protect me?  It is about duality.


Conditioner, 2009, tubes, plastics, ventilators, antiseptic air, 0,5x0,5x43 m

Can you tell us about your 2010 Aerogel project?

In my research on how to make clouds I ran into this magical looking substance called: Aerogel. Its is also known as frozen smoke, consists of 99,8% air and is the lightest solid material on earth. NASA used it for collecting interstellar dust.

You can look right trough it and has a magical blue-ish shine because of the breaking of light.  I placed it onto small models of exhibition spaces.

What I like about this artificial material is that it’s just a little more dense then air, and for me it represents our human urge to compete with nature. For me it is connected to the nimbus works as they share the same idea and both consist of an empty space and air.


Cumulus- Sandradstrasse 12, 2011, Plastic model of the exhibition space, Aerogel, 3,5x7x7 cm


Cumulus - Adlergasse 1, 2011, Plastic model of the exhibition space, Aerogel, 3,5x7x7 cm

Your Askeaton project is great - is the “house” still there?  How did you come up with this idea?

Askeaton is one of the oldest towns in Ireland. In the 1840s, lots of Irish people immigrated to the US. A few people from Askeaton set up a new town in Wisconsin which they also named Askeaton. 

If you look for Askeaton on Google maps you’ll find a streetview of Askeaton, Wisconsin, US.  

The first building you see is a barn. The original town of Askeaton in Ireland had not yet been photographed by Google and didn’t have streetview yet. I was intrigued by the idea that we can’t distinct original from replica, specially on internet.

I constructed a copy of that specific barn in Askeaton US, and placed this facade or ‘prop’ on the most resembling location along the main road in Askeaton Ireland. The idea was that if the Google Photocar will come by, this image would be picked up, and the building will simultaneously exist in both Askeatons.


Until Askeaton has streetview, 2009, Print on wallpaper, wood, 290x800 cm


Until Askeaton has streetview, 2009, Print on wallpaper, wood, 290x800 cm

The house or facade was only on display for two weeks.  

Recently in 2012 I found out Google actually completed this work. I like the idea of transition where an online object is placed in the ‘real world’ where it would be captured and eventually is placed back on the web. It questions realities.

What sorts of shows and projects do we have to look forward to in the future?

I’ve got a busy year ahead of me with shows at SFAC Galleries in San Francisco from February to April, and at Land of Tomorrow in Louisville, Kentucky, also from February to April. In addition to those shows, I am also in the process of collaborating on a film.

28 notes · #Berndnaut Smilde #contemporary sculpture #contemporary art #nimbus #cumulus
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