It’s just a pile of 6,000 old incandescent light bulbs held together with chicken wire, I keep telling myself. But that’s simply not true. Cloud, by Caitlind Brown, is simply captivating.
Inspired by “cartoon-aesthetics, an interest in diffused light, peer-inspiration, and cloud-gazing,” Brown fashioned together this art installation from thousands of old, donated light bulbs, wrapped around 250 working compact fluorescent bulbs. It’s hundreds of pounds of extremely fragile glass, and visitors stand right below, eagerly pulling on its raindrop-like strings. With each tug, a small bit of light flashes, like lightning.
It would be easy to pigeonhole Cloud as an environmental awareness piece. But despite its clear methodologies of recycling and reuse, Brown shies away from these labels, insisting that its material inspirations were “financial, aesthetic, and in the hopes of forging community collaborations.” In reality, Cloud is meant to be an experience that brings people together in its assembly (contributing bulbs) and its actual use (pulling the strings). Yet even that core experiential response morphed into something even the artist didn’t anticipate.
“We were hoping for wonder, curiosity, and excitement,” Brown tells me. “What we didn’t expect was the look of awe on people’s faces as they stood beneath Cloud, trying to figure out how it works.”
Because how Cloud works is really quite simple–the pull-to-light mechanism is entirely traditional, the same interaction model that domestic bulbs have used for years. But when shifted in its context ever so slightly, when scaled to a more epic proportion, that experience clearly becomes novel again. “Something about it’s form and brilliance seems to strike the viewer on a more internal level,” Brown says, “allowing them to loiter happily, mesmerized by the glow of the bulbs above them.”
And no doubt, it helps that Cloud doesn’t come with any chance of rain.