Victoria Park, Bristol, UK

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Press Release

From dawn til dusk on Saturday 25th July, artists Heather and Ivan Morison led a crew of volunteers to build a remarkable temporary public artwork for Bristol’s Victoria Park. The pavilion-like timber structure, The Black Cloud, was commissioned by Situations at the University of the West of England, and designed in collaboration with architect graduate Sash Reading. It will act as a meeting point, performance stage and shelter for events and performances during its time in the park over the next four months.

The design is based on the Shabono shelters of Venezuela, which combine an exposed communal zone in the centre with sheltered living space around the periphery, and a permeable threshold into the surrounding jungle. The Black Cloud takes these abstract qualities into a new form with a triangulated timber structure that appears to be animated in its light interaction with the park. The form was resolved by taking a geodesic dome, removing the top and deforming the shape into a structure that provides varying degrees of shelter, height and permeability. The result is a structure of 152 unique triangles that take on the lifelike character of a giant insect. The timber facade, sourced from the artists’ arboretum in Wales, was treated using a Japanese scorching technique, to create a dark, protective shield.

The Shape of Things to Come. Barn-raising the Black Cloud was the first of three events initiated by the artists which involved raising the structure on 25 July, using local volunteer assistance alongside skilled labour. The arrival of the shelter was celebrated through communal feasting and music, reflecting the traditional Finnish talkoot and Amish barn-raising, as well as den-building workshops and story-telling.

The Black Cloud will also be open for use by park visitors, local residents, groups and organisations throughout its temporary residency in the park. Combining a radical architectural intervention and a programme of events and performances which re-imagine our responses to potential economic, social and environmental futures, The Black Cloud is proposed as a pioneering model for commissioning public art in parks.

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