WORK 17 / SOCIETY / CLOUDS

CLOUDS 01/12 Every time I observe a cloud, mostly when it is 30 degrees over the horizon, I attempt to detect a shape. Such a shape detection comes more or less naturally also depending on my propensity to imagine right then. In a cloud I usually detect two or more combined figures such as an eagle pulling a mermaid up from the butts, or a snail on top of a Buddha. Natural shapes are generally quite repetitive as if they seat in my subconscious. Human shapes are also very frequent but artificial shapes are rather rare. I at times see a military tank, or an old car but new technologies or things that characterizes the present era are less common. While it can be very rare that I see a vacuum cleaner in the clouds, I could in fact see a turtle or a monkey. This is particularly interesting and can be a prove that perhaps at the genetic level the more natural shapes are encoded while artificial shapes have to still find their way in. As a matter of fact I am more likely to see a dragon than a robot although I might have experienced more robots watching movies and so on. Similarly for the drawings of ideas and all other annotations made for other parts of the project, the detected shapes are generally transcribed on my smartphone. I do so in Italian to directly link what I see to my subconscious via my mother language (Fig. Example of one detected cloud combining a man hammering a killer whale from below).

CLOUD 02/12 The detection of the shapes observed in clouds is a creative process. Like in my dream and drawing work and other similar instances of the project were imagination is required, the detection of shapes in a cloud is directly reflecting my psychological state. As an example, if I detect a black man beating a naked woman with a stick, I could be right then experiencing some sexual frustrations. Nudity however is not always a sign of my frustration but it can be indeed more of an angelic figure or a figure that is more resembling a posing statue or simply relates to a more primordial type of human figure where clothes are not one. Also if some woman with a big breast appears it can very well be that I have just watched with a commercial portraying such kind of person. In this respect cloud shapes are to some degree also a reflection of shapes that media itself imposes on my subconscious. However these imposition are always transitory. Often in fact I detect the shape of Venus in the clouds. This Venus is an object or a figure I have never came in contact with. I have not even an interest in such a early representation of the female body nor I have studied it and yet as in cave paintings these rather primordial repertoire of what I believe to be shapes etched in our human subconscious keeps on reppearing on the celestial vault in the shape of clouds (Fig. Random shapes of detected clouds ).

CLOUDS 03/12 Every morning, updating chronologically all the parts of my project, I recreate an annotation of a shape detected in a cloud. In order to do so I use a now obsolete version of Sketchup, a 3D program that used to be free for all at the beginning of the project. Over the years I have been able to archive more than 1000 3D models that used to be free on the Internet. Generally, two models are combined three dimensionally, creating a connection without any separation. Once the models are thus combined to recreate the annotation of the shape detected in a cloud, I set a black background and set the textures to “monochrome” white without any sun shading. Doing so I recreate some sort of a cloud which also much resemble an antique marble sculpture. Later, I orbit the resulting model in search for the best perspective from which most important elements of the generated 3D image can be observed. Having found one and having set the zoom the closest to include the resulting image, a screen shot is taken and later resized to a height of 600 pixels and extended to a width of 1250 pixels (Fig. Screenshot of the software I use to combine the 3D shapes. As in other parts of the project making up my rudimentary toolbox I use a very outdated software that is however quite light to handle and give fairly good results for my objective).

CLOUDS 04/12 The collection of shapes observed in clouds throughout a lifetime reveals a Platonic world of ideas comprising of basic elements such as people, animals and objects. I do not detect in clouds any particular shape but quite generic ones such a woman laying. In the shape detection I do however recognize whether this woman is Caucasian or African or Asian and the models I uses to create particular combination do reflect such very generic distinctions. Beside the position of a figure or the type I also record some features such as whether for example, in the case of a woman is elegant or fat. The same applies for animal creatures or for machines such as "auto d'epoca decapottabile" which can be translated to old cabriolet. In this respect 1000 models are sufficient to create all the possible combinations of shapes I detect. Either way in the past decade the use of 3D softwares and libraries of 3D models became less open source; because of that I stopped searching for new models and even if I need one I don't have I create it out of the ones I have (Fig. Screenshot of the shapes observed in clouds. As visible in the commentary written along side the annotations, to some degree I might have travel intensively from one country to another yet no substantial difference can be detected other than perhaps the lack of clouds in certain countries during their dry season).

CLOUDS 05/12 This work is similar to that carried out by Leonardo Da Vinci. The latter trained his imagination by observing clouds while laying in a field. Other creative inventors like the designer Bruno Munari have also suggested this method to train human imagination. In my case detecting shapes in clouds is one of the works I do that might boost my creativity. Already the visual remembering of dreams is per se a rather visual process. What is most creative however is the capacity of fantasizing even in ordinary circumstances without necessarily preparing oneself to do so. I might be with my kids busy pushing them on the stroller with several bags of grocery to bring home but a clouds presenting itself in front of me is always an instant opportunity to detect what I see. What I detect in the end is a highly memorable shape which I can easily retain in my brain until I have time to write it down (Fig. Screenshot showing me seating in a Belgian cafe detecting a cloud and annotating its shape. Often I spot a cloud while being with other people and might have to memorize its shape until I have the time to write it on my phone. At the end of each month these annotations are downloaded to my database also so as not to risk loosing them. Most of the times however the clouds are detected when on the move especially in open natural landscapes which I often explores alone or with my kids).

CLOUDS 06/12 Strangely, also, I have noticed that every time there is a clear sky with scattered clouds, I am myself quite imaginative as if the celestial vault would be a projection of the vault within my own head. This is more is not so much the case the long period of overcast characterizing the winter in Northern countries. Then my ability to be visual can be rather law giving way however to more acoustic type of experiences. In more southern countries this ability can be more present, or rather the weather itself could offer more of these possibility to observe shapes. These shapes however are not necessarily only observed in clouds. While living in China I was fascinated with traditional gardens there and the use of “jiashan”, big lime rocks carved by erosion into shapes stimulating the visitors imagination (Fig. Rendering of how the clouds should be presented in an exhibition context and in the context of the other works. Originally I created animations with all the 3D images of the clouds corresponding to a month scrolling in 30 seconds each left to right. Later I kept the images as such and realized that in the context of the exhibit, the smoke generated by the air-quality reproducing machine and other effects, the rendered 3D images would reacquire the state of not so easily identifiable moving objects thus returning to some extent to become clouds).

CLOUDS 07/12 Originally I was able to view the thumbanails of my 3D model database. In this respect if I had to reconstruct the shape of a cloud depicting a dog standing against a mermaid I would search for the word dog and all the models of dogs I have collected trhough the years would appear. I then checked the thumbnails to see which one matched the most what I needed to recreate. Later however the software I used became obsolete and the thumbnail preview stopped functioning. After attempting many works around to the issues at last I began memorizing the various shapes and the different names I have labeled them with. In order to retrieve a particular shape I then type in the search box of the 3D model directory for a word such as dogs and then open a file often knowing already what it contains. In this respect also when I now look at the clouds I might be already seeing it in accordance with 3D model collection I have almost as if this collection have by now replaced my Platonic world of ideas (Fig. Screenshot of the first part of the 3D models directory I collected over the years. Notice the searching field on the top right used to retrieve specific models. Closing my eyes I can conduct such a search also within my brain and all the various models I have so repetitively used are now vivid models of my own imagination).

CLOUDS 08/12 To begin with I begun using the 3D software Sketchup when many users were sharing their models for free in a purposely created on-line "warehouse”. While these models uploaded by users were rather low quality they suited my purpose; with them I can quickly render the shapes I observe in clouds without having to wait for processing time. I can scale and move the models in relation to one another almost instantly. The only times I cannot do so and get stuck in the processis when I use big high-definition models that are too complex. I then avoid using these models as much as any other model imported from other sources. While these models could better render a shape they are anyway too big to process with my ordinary laptop. I then stick to models that are light but also I avoid those that are made with a low polygon mesh. The latter are indeed very light and easy to work with but too simplistic. In the course of the first years then I was able to download most of the models I needed just on time before the software I use was sold to a third party company and the models. The latter began limiting access to the models to only paying costumers and started censuring all models with nudity and the like (Fig. Screenshot of the on-line warehouse of freely available models which I later dismissed after it became no longer public and free to use).

CLOUDS 09/12 While I use several nudes in my rendering of the shapes I observe in clouds, the very fact that these shapes are stripped of their textures turn the results into classic sculptures. Using ready-made 3d models on one hand also come to reflect the type of models society itself pushes forward, oftentimes lacking the more basic elements that I detect and mostly focusing on machines and technical object I never detect in clouds. The actual elements I do find on-line anyway lack the sort of expression that I would use in making the resulting observed shapes; if I was to sculpt them these shapes would be far more expressive. In this respect if I was to redesign the 3D models I use in my rendering of clouds, at least facial expression would be far more remarkable, as also suggested by the ancient art of memory which suggests to use more violent images to make them more easily memorable (Fig. Image of a cloud with a nude and an animal creature, in this case an eagle. The latter is a rare case of models with an expression I was able to find for free on-line. While all the Internet downloaded models are mostly expressionless, in the editions part of my project I have saved all the 3D files of the more nicely executed ones with the intention of one day perhaps 3D print them in real scale. At one point I did try to do so but too many mistakes were detected and the 3D format I use soon became obsolete).

CLOUDS 10/12 After many years spent trying to find a way to both live with my family while also and realize the project museum in Italy, I at last settled in the Netherlands. As for Dutch 17th century landscape painters devoting great part of the canvas to the sky and the imposing clouds, also I found such a landscape ideal for my project; I became part of it, constantly roaming up and down and along the many dikes offering spectacular views not of distant mountains or hills but always and only of clouds above the thin green strip of flat land. While these clouds can be rather small in the winter time, with the changing of seasons they can become quite impressive. Viewing a Dutch landscape surmounted by clouds I often have the possibility of choosing from many scenes taking place in the sky. I often just pick the one that is right in front of me. As I begin to observe it at times there can be a small obstacle on the way and by the time I am able to fully view it I realize that the scene itself has changed. In this respect within a short period of time the same cloud can itself transform in a totally different scene particularly if there is a wind and/or a storm fomenting in the sky (Fig. Screenshot of a spot just below the Waal river dike where I detected a cloud. Usually not even trees are present in the area further north where I live providing me a straightforward connection to the clouds).

CLOUDS 11/12 Generally speaking the 3D images resulting from the annotation of clouds I observe may not always be so aesthetically appealing. I do try to make use of models that are realistic but at times I have to relay on models that are quite rough. As with other works of this project also with this work I devised a quick way to render it. I have devised a method within my own power, that of a relatively poor artist who is not represented by any commercial gallery nor receives any subsides. Even more so I have no assistants employed to execute my bizarre ideas, a luxury I rather despise. I am far from a 19th century sculptor like Antonio Canova or a 20th century artist like Damien Hirst. Yet unlike these celebrities I have the vantage point of being able to track all the clouds I experience in the landscape and present a 3D execution of all of them rather than only sticking to the perfect and professional realization of a single sculpture taking up much time and resources (Fig. Picture showing me holding my phone prior typing a new shape recognized in a cloud. As in other instances of the project I make a point of always erasing my data from for example the email account I use to transfer the annotations to my database. Interestingly however the tracking of my typing can lead any privacy infringing application to make quite a weird commercial profile of my bizarre imagination).

CLOUDS 12/12 In an ideal exhibition the resulting images of the shapes detected from a cloud, are projected on a tilted trapezoid located high over a wall, the very square wall where the 432 panels depicting the objects I used over my life-time are presented in a calendar fashion. Also for this work as for the installation of the video of public places, I have been inspired Andrea Palladio's Olympic Theater. In order to maintain the image of outdoor classic amphitheater this theater has the ceiling painted with clouds. The tilted trapezoid hosting the projection of clouds is also located at the height I usually spot clouds in my everyday runabouts. Each of the 24 images representing a month production are shown moving from left to right in 30 seconds time resulting into a 12 minutes screening. As for the other presentations of dynamic content, it would take a viewer a whole week to view all the clouds I reproduced in the 36 years span of the project (Fig. Rendering of the ideal exhibition with the surface dedicated for the projection of the 3D images of clouds highlighted in red. Such a surface is right below the RGB light reproducing the weather. In a way then this light come to act like a sun appearing behind the clouds. It is anyway located above all the more worldly data and yet it can get entangles in all of that as much as clouds get often entangled in city landscapes).