Cloud Atlas: Fujiko Nakaya at the Tate Modern

“I try to let nature speak.” – Fujiko Nakaya

The Japanese artist, Fujiko Nakaya had her work displayed on the South Terrace of the Tate Modern, when I was lucky enough to visit the acclaimed gallery on a Sunday. I had shamefully not heard of Nakaya or her work before, however I was instantly inspired by her installation for the BMW Tate Live Exhibition, ‘Ten days Six Nights’, transforming the outside terrace into an immersive fog-scape.

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Fujiko Nakaya has been producing these ‘fog-sculptures’ since the early 1970’s, displaying her installations at the Australian National Gallery, Canberra and the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. However the concept of sculptures formed from a gaseous substance was a proposal first made by Joan Miró in the last few years of his life, found in writings about the possibilities of gas sculptures and four-dimensional painting, (a prospect made reality by the Google Tilt Brush). These concepts were impressively ahead of his time, making Fujiko Nakaya’s work almost an extention of Miró’s ideas, that unfortunately could not be continued further by him, due to his demise in 1983.

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To create this ‘fog-scape’, Nakaya worked with Experiments in Art and Technology, an organisation that connects artists and engineers. This enabled her to develop a system of high-pressure nozzles that create a dense water vapour that appears almost like fog, mist or even clouds. This creates a piece which is constantly changing in structure, movement and size, never constant, always fleeting. The sculpture is accompanied by a sound-and-light-scape by Ryuichi Sakamoto and Dumb Type’s Shiro Takatani. Nakaya’s work blurs the line between nature and technology, showing that conditions which were previously seen as exclusively naturally occurring, can now be artificially produced and to a certain extent controlled.

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The sculpture looked incredible from a distance, contrasting with the rigid structure of the London Landscape which could be seen protruding from behind the billows of fog, constantly changing in direction, forced by the wind. When looking back at the photographs I had taken, I noticed that the images could be compared to those taken of London during the blitz, with the ‘fog’ appearing like smoke, and the silhouettes of young children running through the plumes could be likened to those running from the wreckage of London’s landscape. Although some may regard this comparison as a bit of a stretch, I definitely feel the photographs could allude to that moment in history.

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To experience this installation was incredible for me personally, as it was an environment that I had never been exposed to before, creating a very unfamiliar landscape that I doubt I will ever experience again to that degree. My mind struggled to make sense of my surroundings, as when immersed in the centre of the fog, everywhere you look is two-dimensional white space. This lack of three-dimensionality is something I could barely comprehend. Strangers disappeared entirely into the white abyss, then reappeared moments later, beginning as a ghost-like silhouette, only developing into their human form a few feet from my own eyes.

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Although this piece was extremely exhilarating, (adults and children squealed alike), there was also an aspect of it that was quite frightening. At times it was disorientating, and I completely lost any sense of direction and space, I also found myself alone at a few points, losing my companions due to the lack of visibility. It was only when the nozzles were turned off that control was regained and groups were reunited. However, I think the exhilarating yet frightening aspect was what made the sculpture a success, as the shift in the atmosphere, would in return have an effect on your state of mind, causing a flurry of contrasting emotions.

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The exhibition is on at the Tate Modern from the 24 March to the 2nd of April, see the link below for more details.
24 MARCH – 2 APRIL 2017

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