Wednesday, 25 February 2009

HappyCloud @ Tate Modern

An irresistible invite arrived on Tuesday:
Get set to see 2057 pink smiley faced clouds float over London's Southbank... Artist Stuart Semple is preparing to release 2057 smiling clouds in the sky of London.

The Happy Cloud installation aims to be a message of hope and positivism in reaction to the doom and gloom of current events, and is also a reminder of the importance of Art and of the cultural industries in our everyday life.

The 28-year-old says: "I just wanted to make a piece of work that could cheer people up a bit. I've had enough of the doom and gloom in the air and I wanted to show something completely positive floating up in the sky. I am hoping it might put a smile on a few people's faces as they go through their day. I know at times like this it's easy to make creativity a low priority but I want to show on a very human level that an artistic idea might be able to do something important, even for a fleeting moment."
It's not often I'm enticed to get up early, but for this? Absolutely.

I took the RV1 over to Tate Modern from Waterloo, glancing at the sky every so often, eager to spot my first HappyCloud. What would they be like? How big? How visible? How fast moving? How obvious?

But you couldn't see anything out of the ordinary from the bus.

Walking from the road through the gardens behind the Tate, I spotted something. A little like a frisbee, but weirder; lighter, thicker, somehow less aerodynamic than a disc, floating through the sky. There it was: my first HappyCloud.

Once I'd seen one, I realised there were a few of them, three or four, floating, twisting, turning, flopping around in the air above the Thames. I walked up onto the Millenium Bridge to get a better view. It was ace! Each time the team below "released" a cloud, it flew on the (quite strong) wind from the space to the right of the Tate, over the dome of St Paul's and the bridge, floating downstream like a HappyCloud tourist, desperate to survive for long enough to see the whole of that great London panorama it was involved in, to live long enough to travel down past the Gherkin, over Tower Bridge and on to the towers of Canary Wharf.

They floated and twisted around, occasionally revealing their smiley faces, at other times floating tantalisingly flat, like a slow-moving frisbee. But they didn't last long.

Sometimes they passed overhead unformed, missing features, lopsided, solid circles of foam. But a surprising amount were pretty much perfect smiles; when they turned to look at you, they got a few perfect smiles back in return.

What a great, mad, fun, silly thing to organise. Well done, Mr Semple.

I'm currently not able to get the pics and video I took of the HappyClouds off my mobile and onto a computer, but you can check out some great pictures here.

Edit: Londonist has some lovely HappyCloud pictures too.

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