Cloud of Unknowing

Submitted by Alexandra Carr

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Client

Location: Mickley, Yorkshire, United Kingdom

Project Team

Artist

Alexandra Carr

Commissioner

Sculpt: Artin the Churches

CAD and Installation

Colin Rennie

Technical Support and Installation

Jonathan Ansell

Overview

The Cloud of Unknowing is a fog installation that plays with the boundary of materiality and immateriality. The concept of being ‘courageous enough to surrender one’s mind and ego to the realm of “unknowing”’ is present in many forms of meditation, contemplation and prayer. The piece references a spiritual guide on contemplative prayer from the late Middle Ages and encourages us to move from intellection to experience.

The piece is constructed of panels of perspex that are individually suspended from the ceiling of Mickley church. Each panel is held 4mm apart so as to allow the box to fill with fog and slowly seep out of the edges. The installation is triggered by motion sensors, so as each new viewing takes place, the Cloud of Unknowing comes into being.

Captivated by our quest to know the unknown, see the unseen and exist in the spaces in between, the installation presents a fleeting comprehension of an unreachable place and a state of being, present but not properly understood.

Goals

In commissioning the work, a bold, ambitious and imaginative approach was encouraged, with the intention to address the underutilisation of churches in order that they might be engaged with and received in a different context. In order to achieve this, the notion, process and experience of faith became the central focus, highlighting it as a subjective experience with timeless relevance.

Much like faith, the piece has a sense of presence without definition of form, seeping into its environment. It is ever-changing and elusive, much like our understanding of our place in the cosmos. As we approach comprehension, the edges dissolve away.

Sacred geometry was used to inform the work; multiple beams of converging light implied the ephemeral presence of a sphere, symbolising unity and division, while the cube housing the light and fog, is representative of manifestation and echoes the perception of understanding and illumination as developing form and presence. The two forms in their ever-changing states of presence and absence are in constant tension, signalling that faith cannot be static but in constant evolution and in conversation with greater unknown forces.

Additional Information

Cloud of Unknowing - Perspex, steel, brass, nylon, electronics, fog. 1.1m x 1.1m 1.1m The Cloud of Unknowing was commissioned by Sculpt, a contemporary art trail in the countryside of North Yorkshire. Seven artists responded to seven churches with site-specific work. The project was supported by Arts Council England. The Cloud of Unknowing was longlisted for the Aesthetica Art Prize 2020