Cloud City lets guests take in OKC from a new perspective

Cloud City lets guests take in OKC from a new perspective
David Lauer Photography

See Oklahoma City from a cloud.

An ephemeral outdoor installation introduces the city to Oklahoma Contemporary Arts Center’s skyward future on Thursday. Tomás Saraceno’s Cloud City allows visitors inside 16 interconnected, partially open, reflective and transparent modules in Campbell Art Park adjacent to Oklahoma Contemporary’s planned Automobile Alley location at 11th Street and Broadway Avenue

Jeremiah Matthew Davis, Oklahoma Contemporary artistic director, spoke with Oklahoma Gazette about the large-scale steel and acrylic installation and the auspicious implications Saraceno’s work brings to OKC.

“We chose this installation for its architectural and communal qualities,” Davis said. “Saraceno changes how we look at cityscapes with his art, particularly focusing on how humans move through different spaces.”Saraceno, a native of Argentina, wants guests to actively engage with his art, the city and fellow installation voyagers while glimpsing singular views of OKC. Mirroring Oklahoma’s open landscape, Cloud City summons visitors to project their own meanings onto the artwork. Davis said Cloud City unites people in a miniature world of varying lenses as both a reflection and alteration of its respective setting.

“Interacting with this installation makes things we take for granted like buildings, grass or trees novel, and Oklahoma is the perfect place for Saraceno’s work,” Davis said. “The piece was originally shown in Manhattan on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s roof, but I think Oklahoma’s open skies and flat lands are an ideal match for Cloud City.”

It also spent time on display at Green Box Arts Festival in Green Mountain Falls, Colorado, in 2013.

Participatory artwork draws in crowds for assorted reasons. Some find it artistically challenging while others relish in its ability to amuse. Whatever the motivation, Davis hopes climbing inside the geometric form enables community bonding through perspectival shifts.

“Interactive art changes your perception of the world, and Oklahoma Contemporary is all about inspiring people to actually act on their creativity,” Davis said. “Even if you only go for entertainment purposes, after you leave [Cloud City], your perception of OKC might be different, or we hope even enhanced.”

Just off downtown OKC’s busy Broadway Avenue, Saraceno’s 28-foot installation sits on relatively vacant land, denoting Oklahoma Contemporary’s future growth. Supported by the venue’s $26 million capital campaign, the expanded arts campus is scheduled to open in 2018 on the plot just behind the exhibit.

“To my mind, this installation is a sign of things to come for the OKC arts community,” Davis said. “Oklahoma Contemporary will expnd most of its programming and also increase its partnerships with other local institutions. There are so many avenues of art offered in the city now, and it’s a great time to get involved.”

The city’s visual and metaphorical DNA shifts within and outside the modules comprising Cloud City. It’s an architectural experiment with many literal and symbolic angles stemming from Davis’ artistic trajectory.

“I moved to New York after college, thinking I wouldn’t find a career in the arts in Oklahoma,” Davis said. “I’m glad I was proven wrong. This is truly an energetic, exciting time for OKC, and Oklahoma Contemporary will directly contribute to its growth.”

For four weeks, Cloud City will be open for exploration Thursday and Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday afternoons. Oklahoma Contemporary uses an online ticketing system for reservations. Because of the installation’s size, interior visitors are required to sign a waiver to enter. Visitors can experience the installation from ground level 24 hours a day, organizers said.

“The fact that we’re even having to do an online sign-up for the exhibit is great news,” Davis said. “We already know this will draw big crowds to a developing location in the city.”

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Print headline: New view, Oklahoma Contemporary’s Cloud City exhibit invites guests to experience the city from different and fun perspectives.

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