The shortest distance between the Real and the Imaginary is Contemporary Art; its present work is in the constant process of redefining itself, piecing together our current Covid moment plagued by mutating contradictions: lyricism and madness, death and assemblage, rectitude and infamy, chaos and permutations. Nothing is stable, and everything is what it is. A narrative that is nonlinear, evaporating, immaterial, constantly referring back to itself, building widening spirals of reality. No sooner is one cycle done than an aspect of it, past or future, suggests new configurations. The only true way to describe contemporary art right now, under a miscreation unprecedented in our lifetime, would be to invent a term, bathetic, unmoored, dewy, which I’m provisionally calling “Cloudland”.
There’s no difference between the Real and the Imaginary in Cloudland. Cloudland is less thematic than it is the creation of a character. A persona schemed through a collective unconscious in response to our predicament: wisps of cirrus clouds in semi-colons, unpredictable phases of Venus, pink Saturn-luna art reflecting a continuation of the profoundly ambivalent, vaporous and paradoxical nature of the now. Which is to say, art in-between. Between materiality and the ephemeral, transition and sameness, online and offline, honey viscosity and vague in-adhesives, stalemates and stalemates: resilient borderline art-towns scattered beneath Joshua trees and evaporating rosé-cumulus clouds, or stratus or (;)
The Real and the Imaginary converge to become more or less an avatar of Cloudland herself, shoehorning her way into the artworld, dreaming herself into existence. Cloudland’s goal is to distort reality rather than to represent it. It’s an aesthetic of resilient sunlight wine, maybe-predictive Ichimoku clouds, boozy, pastoral foreclosure – a Galileo-shaped inertia embracing free fall and really making something of herself. Cloudlandian aesthetic is badass adaptable; she lives at the interstice of potential exhibitions and internet-cloud vernissage talks, slim pickings, dream-like sleep paralysis and lotto probabilities. Art that makes a profession of vaporising, that is suspicious enough to devise a backup plan rustling up side-plates of Mexican chorizo and homemade Cajun chicken from a queen-sized mattress in Queens. Under skies of Chicken Little, aloof, slippery and vaporous – the unholy trinity – we etch silhouettes of equivalence while continually in flux.
We throw the rules of the Real and Imaginary into the air like confetti.
There’s magnetism in untitled skies that vaporise and reconfigure themselves over and over – from Hiroshige’s haiku clouds (俳句雲) to Vija Celmins’s Latvian nimbus. One truth in Cloudland is its enduring ability to reincarnate, to assemble art and dissent in a time when objects get stuck in a porous Never-Never Land, in a vast Yosemite Cockaigne: an artworld glitch that has anything but defeated us. Cloudland is operative. Art prevails, asking questions, enduring, negotiating, inventing art from the collapse of neutron stars.
Baise-moi, says Cloudland.
Contemporary art is nothing if not resilient. She prevails in every circumstance, producing a coup-de-maître at an hour when object becomes space and space becomes object. Cloudland is a collective protest, creation from purgatory, giving the in-between art-like status: a moody stratosphere for art to transmute and turn that space into an artwork itself. Cloudland appears to be about art but is actually about life. Her future-past retrogrades, miasmal cul-de-sacs and impasses, immediacy and frigid slights have certain implications, so we defiantly montaged the fuck out of it.
Fully dressed with the La Dolce Vita kitten on our head, we wade into Roman water fountains, collect coins tossed backward over shoulders in whimsy and take wishes into our own hands.
We’re so relevant we created an artland from the void.
Estelle Hoy is a writer and art critic based in Berlin. Her most recent book, Pisti, 80 Rue de Belleville was released by After 8 Books (Paris) in 2020 with an introduction by Chris Kraus (author of I Love Dick, Torpor). Her forthcoming book Midsommer, co-authored with Sabrina Tarasoff, will be released by Mousse Publishing (Milan) in 2021.