Responding to the domed space of the Bradwolff Projects, through artistic research, artist Hili Greenfeld’s exhibition Tales of the East (2019) turned this decommissioned hospital room into a shrine. Carefully considering the old function of the building as a place of healing, the artist created an installation work that deals with spirituality and wellness; a space of sociability that requires participation and reflection.
In formal terms, the work is composed through a combination of two distinct approaches: modulation and modelling. The modelling method serves for the making of the paintings, the maquette, the clouds and the tiny clay sculpture. Modulation is used as an overall installation method, dictating the positioning of all the elements in the room, such as the clouds, the table of contents, the paintings and so on, which populate the entire space of the gallery, creating an all-encompassing whole. The central domed section of the room is the location of a multitude of small clouds, made of stuffed felt. They resemble tiny pillows, where you could imagine placing your head and relaxing after a long and stressful day at work. As you walk through, your head is literally in the clouds. This particular display is an interactive piece. The viewers are encouraged to write or draw on the clouds, placed initially on a table, and attach them to strings hanging from the ceiling. It is proposed as a ritual and the contents of the messages should relate to suffering or an ailment that you might have experienced in hospital or elsewhere. The artist and the artistic experience providing comfort.
Reminiscent of Yoko Ono’s Wish Trees, these fluffy clouds of pain hanging below the dome can also be interpreted as the rematerialisation of icons from a smartphone or a graphic computer interface. Each cloud, a separate unit of colour, modulated spatially, creating an immersive environment that provides the viewer with an embodied experience of art, in keeping with the sculptural tradition of spatial articulation that emerged as an artistic practice in the 1960s, exemplified by works that engage with architecture in a qualitatively distinct manner. It is a tradition that is traced back to Christian practices, such as Byzantine mosaics as well as the Baroque.
Furthermore, Greenfeld’s cluster of clouds hanging from the ceiling seems to refer directly to data clouds and their reliance on well-structured physical premises –and massive cooling systems– to function. The idea that our digital footprint [our naughty private photos] is stored on thin air and moisture alone is ludicrous. By gathering people’s sufferings in writing and promising relief, Greenfeld’s postdigital clouds are an allegory to the digital clouds of big data and their algorithmic tyranny. No doubt, both sets of clouds, the digital and the artistic, come with strings attached.
[Tales of the East by Hili Greenfeld, Bradwolff Projects, Oetewalerstraat 73, Amsterdam, 29 September – 26 October 2019].