It is a known human tendency to seek patterns, connections and meanings between facts or objects. Like trying to find familiar shapes on clouds in the sky, humans want to organize their surroundings, apparently made of chaotic randomness. Coming up with the concept of the design for the exhibition “Beauty, Truth, Paradise: Digital Comments on Yearning”, a Digital Media Art Exhibition, were as well an example this tendency. The exercise was linking those words and their possible meanings, as well as thinking on its application to the exhibition design, bringing a more tangible perspective to such subjective matter.
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The words on the Title and Subtitle and its symbolic inner values were the basis for the creation of the Cloud Concept. The concept tries to unify not only the space in the Museum and the Digital Media Artworks, but primarily the two titles and two (different yet connected) symbolisms related to clouds. A more religious view on clouds, as the housing of the divine and its messages was held on “Beauty Truth Paradise”, and the cloud as the synonym for internet and its complexity represents “Digital Commentaries on Yearning”.
The symbolism attached to those ideas have each their own significations, which have been passed along by societies over the course of time, they all carry in themselves specific social and cultural conventions. Emile Durkheim’s concept of Représentations Collectives (1898) analyzes socially generated representations and the importance of basic similar understandings in order to allow efficient communications with one another. It’s the familiarity between these standard conventions and the meaningful use of signs that enable people to communicate and interpret successfully, even if those symbols and meanings are as nebulous as a cloud, ambiguous and transitory.
Stuart Hall also points out the fact that these “shared meanings” are not supposed to be seen as something purely unitary, he says: “In any culture, there is always a great diversity of meanings about any topic, and more than one way of interpreting or representing it. Also, culture is about feelings, attachments and emotions as well as concepts and ideas” (Hall, 1997). the Cloud Concept was the result of one of many possible interpretations for the signs found on the Exhibition’s title “Beauty, Truth, Paradise. Digital Comments on Yearning”. And this text explores the theoretical background of the Cloud Concept.
Count Goblet D’Alviella on “The Migration of Sings” (1983) explains how symbols (focusing on religious ones) have been originated and appropriated in different cultures, depending on its historical, societal and psychological behavior, but in many cases, they continue to share similar meanings, even in the most distant cultures. A cloud is one of these connections between religious symbologies all around. And as religion was also very present on the developments of the arts, the clouds have been strongly represented in the pictorial world too.
Goblet D’alviella describes how the celestial house of the Gods in their different representations was mostly upon the clouds, clouds are the gateway to Paradise, the realm of the divine. The Gods themselves would come down to earth through the clouds to spread their messages, be it a bright cloud with loving messages or punishments such as thunderstorms. These relations between clouds and religions appear all around the world, from Greek Gods to Christian, Northern, Hindu and Buddhist heavenly representations. And through this, the cloud has been long connected to some very specific representations of Paradise, only accessible after divine permission.
Transfiguration (1520) – Raphael
One of the aims of the Cloud Concept is to bring a flair of the celestial clouds in order to inspire the idealistic feeling of a Beautiful Paradise only the True ones are able to see. Heidegger on “The essence of Truth” says that one of the first possible interpretations of Truth is this related to God’s will. To be true, man must use the human intellect to fulfill God’s intentions, to act accordingly to the divine plan of creation: “The intelectus humanus too is an ens creatum. As a capacity bestowed upon man by God, it must satisfy its idea”.
Also in some other kinds of beliefs systems such as the Tarot, the clouds represent the sign of air, which is also in Astrology related to the mind, thoughts, intellect and rationality. Whenever a cloud is seen on a Tarot card, its shape and density evoke a different idea, for example, a bright cloud on a clear sky means peace of mind and optimism, while a stormy sky is confusion and sadness (Sharman-Burke; Greene, 2007).
Examples of Tarot Cards
This interpretation is also similar to the way people feel related to the clouds. Clouds can even affect their moods, such as feeling lazier on cloudy rainy days, vibrant and active when the skies are clearer.
The “Beauty” of Clouds have also been catching people’s eyes, and became a specific interest for artists in many fields, mainly for painters and photographers, coming to the creation of the Cloudscape movement in arts, trying to capture clouds’ unpredictable and changeful nature.
“Broken Sunset in Bagan” (2016), Lis Neves.
This ephemeral quality of the clouds is a very suitable representation of today’s fast-changing times, and it is also another goal for the Cloud design, the different colors and shades that one can capture looking at the clouds.
The “world wide web” is one of the most pertinent aspects of this instantaneous, interconnected, and transitory way of life, and all its storage spaces, connections, and its huge flow of information spreading through the planet, just as any cloud, traveling almost completely free through air, with very little barriers on their way. This complex yet easy tool that the cloud became a basic element on the daily modern life.
One of the firsts references of Clouds draws in association to the Internet (1998), US Patent.
The clouds guard secrets, dreams, desires and, most of all, the “computer cloud” guard memories and so much important information. Nevertheless, there is also the darker side of the online cloud, as well as the stormy clouds. The miscommunications, fake information, the hidden scary secrets on the deep web, or the new methods of bullying and public shaming online are the dangerous and heavy clouds, filled with destructive rain. It is also fundamental to illustrate these heavy and darker sides of the cloud in the exhibition design.
The Cloud Concept, as well as the clouds of the Gods, of the cards of tarot or the internet cloud, has inside it a message sent from above for its visitors: those technological objects saturating the daily lives can and should be seen in different perspectives, in a less passive and more creative approach to technology and art, expanding concepts of arts and media while expanding itself too. Quoting Charlie Gere (2002): “Art made by using and reflecting upon new media and new technologies helps us understand how our lives are being transformed by these very media and technologies”.
Technology and Culture fuse themselves more and more in the fluidity of the present days. Both are expanded through their exchanged processes, the more technology advances, more means of interaction, broadening culture and amplifying the use of technology. Like the encounter of two clouds, Culture and Technology mingle together and spread around.
In the same way as clouds do, the public should also float through “Beauty, Truth, Paradise: Digital Comments on Yearning”: freely, unstoppable, integrating themselves with the art pieces on the museum. This idea of a free and fast moving globalized and technological world is another feeling the exhibition design wants to bring to the surface, exploring the space of the museum in an organic yet organized way, instead of the traditional white and silent room.
Making-Of “Beauty, Truth, Paradise” (2018), Lis Neves.
Of course, the visitors will perceive “Beauty, Truth, Paradise: Digital Comments on Yearning” in different ways, anyhow, they will communicate with it. The meanings of clouds can be very subjective and variating from person to person and time to time, from taking your head to the clouds or having a cloud over your head. And this is the Beauty of the exhibition: “above all, cultural meanings are not only ‘in the head’. They organize and regulate social practices, influence our conduct and consequently have real, practical effects. The emphasis on cultural practices is important. It is participants in a culture who give meaning to people, objects, and events” (Hall, 1997). These are the aspects that give people common ground to play with the exhibition’s possibilities since the concept of clouds won’t ever have one, single, fixed and unchanging meaning.
The Cloud Concept is where all the concepts mentioned before integrating themselves. From “heaven to ground”, “holy and profane”, “virtual to real”, “online to offline”, the Cloud it is trying to communicate something familiar, but this perception can’t be universalized. This subjective representation goes beyond linguistic and cultural barriers, and the most valuable characteristic of this exhibition is that people should bring their own input to it. The cloud is not the limit, the separation point, but the bridge, the link between them.
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