This must be what it looks like when a whole crowd has a bright idea at once, a sort of group eureka moment visualised. It's the latest iteration of the incandescent CLOUD, an installation made up of thousands of reclaimed light bulbs, created by Caitlind r.c. Brown and Wayne Garrett and currently hanging inside the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis. Dozens of chords droop down from the sculpture overhead, which viewers can play with, turning it off and on partially or entirely. It was shown as part of a multimedia exhibit of cloud-oriented artworks, called Clouds, Temporarily Visible, which includes projections, performances, and paintings by various artists, and will be on display until the end of May.
It all started with an original version of CLOUD, which premiered in Calgary over three years ago. That took ten months of planning and one month of fabrication, and was built with bulbs sourced from the nearby community, museums, a recycling center, and individual donations. It was subsequently stored outdoors under a tarp for a few years, and a new version was built in Moscow which was shown at a dozen festivals across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. The pair also built another one in the style of a moon that lit up in its different phases and designed a custom version for a bar in Chicago.
The one hanging in Minneapolis is the original edition, brought back indoors and lovingly nursed back to life. "This particular piece has been stored outside under a tarp for three years," says Garrett. "You can imagine how it looked when we began refurbishing it! But its bones are still strong, and with some elbow grease and rust paint, we’ve managed to resurrect our forgotten CLOUD." The replaced parts are comprised of local materials from the University of Minnesota, an antique shop, and some condo complexes. Repairs took several weeks and required the help of a couple dozen "beer-lubricated volunteers."
Garrett and Brown don't consider the piece complete until users interact with it, pulling on the cables to turn it off and on either in tandem or at random, creating what they refer to as an "electrical storm."
The US government phased out production of certain types of incandescent bulbs as as the country began switching over to more efficient lighting like halogen incandescents, compact fluorescents, and LEDs. (The piece itself will use a maximum 1.6kW in energy, averaging out at around half of that. Garrett compares its energy consumption to that of an old fashioned toaster.) But people love the age-old original, finding warmth and comfort in its familiarity, and these two artists are no exception.
There’s still hope for the incandescent though, and its days hanging overhead may not have passed just quite yet. Researchers at MIT have found a way to make them more efficient than LEDs. The future looks bright.
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