Photo: Brian Burchard

Drifting Clouds

Public commission (2022)
2 jacquardwoven textiles
569 x 685 cm
528 x 500 cm
Digital poem

Commissioned by the Novo Nordisk Foundation
for the Steno Diabetes Center,
Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark
Curated by Poul Erik Tøjner
Textiles produced in collaboration with Kvadrat
Weaver: Kristina D. Aas
Digital poem based on Nanna Debois Buhl’s readaptation
of Nick Montfort’s Taroko Gorge program

Drifting Clouds contains two large woven tapestries with cloud motifs and a screen showing an everchanging, computer-generated cloud poem. The work is a study of the sky above the hospital building; the materiality and movements of the clouds that drift across it.

Among several hundred analog photographs shot on location and developed in the darkroom, two have been transformed to woven textiles in collaboration with the textile company Kvadrat. The aim was not to reproduce the photographs exactly, but rather to embrace the transformations that weaving would add to the work. With a text-generating algorithm, the work’s digital poem is composed of cloud words collected from songs and literature, scientific texts on data clouds and meteorological forecasts. Buhl has fed the algorithm with these words, and with a random principle it continuously generates the poem on the screen.

Drifting Clouds thus explore material and historical connections between the analog and the digital: the photographs were made by combining darkroom processes with digital ones, the translation from photograph to fabric bridged several historical technologies, and the work references the histories of weaving, photography, and computer technology. Clouds are the central motif; their movements generate a circuit that draws connections between human bodies and cloud formations, water droplets and weather systems, daydreams and data streams, past and future, and tie these elements together in a continuous flow of images and words.