What are we looking at when we look at clouds? What do they signify? What can they predict?
Nanna Debois Buhl’s artist’s book Cloud Behavior is a study of clouds—their materiality, their movements, and their historical significance—through photographs and drawings, essays, and interviews.
During summer 2018, Buhl photographed clouds on medium-format film and experimented with the images in the darkroom. The result is a series of cloud photographs ranging from neutral registrations of the clouds to dramatically altered and color-saturated images.
In the book, Buhl’s cloud photographs connect to historical thinking about clouds, to scientific research on cloud behavior, and to the mystical and meteorological contemplation of clouds by Swedish playwright, writer, and artist August Strindberg. In A Blue Book (1907–12), Strindberg believes that he sees cloud formations returning in the same shapes to the same place in the Stockholm sky. He ponders what messages the clouds transmit.
Today, climate researchers study cloud behavior to understand how global warming affects the movements of clouds and how, conversely, the movements of clouds might affect global warming. Strindberg and climate researchers share an interest in reading signs and omens in the clouds—and do so with the aid of photography and other means of visualization.
This connection is unfolded in various ways in the texts of the book: In a text collage by Ida Marie Hede and Nanna Debois Buhl, three fictive characters photograph clouds and speculate about their movements. In their essays, philosopher Dehlia Hannah and literary scholar Andrea Fjordside Pontoppidan connect Nanna Debois Buhl’s cloud studies with philosophical, scientific and literary contemplations of clouds. And in a conversation between physicist Jan Olaf Härter and Nanna Debois Buhl, they discuss thunderclouds and their possible impact on the future climate.
The texts are accompanied by pencil drawings, computer simulations and mythological depictions of clouds. Cloud Behavior thus forms a polyphonic, intertwined narrative of clouds across disciplines and time periods.