Amparo Montero Espina

Dear Amparo,

Thank you for your beautiful clouds. For an eight year old you are already a great artist with a camera. All of the slides that you sent are now safely displayed in the archive of Wind Blown Clouds, a small wooden cabinet with glass doors and a back light, so that you can view each slide individually. The archive is in the “Viewing Box” at BALTIC: people look at your beautiful Uruguayan clouds and compare them to the tamer grey English sky outside.

The project is my invitation to the world to help in the task of recording the sky. Even though the invitation has the ambition to involve anyone – or even everyone – it is the particular connections between myself and people like you, people who I have never met, and whose lives I know nothing about, that are the heart of the project.

The project could be considered as scientific research into clouds, but in another way the clouds are just a way to connect people imaginatively. They are a reminder that we all live under the same sky.

Even though the postcard invitations and the web site link reaches many people, it remains a tiny gesture in terms of the world. Now and then a parcel such as yours arrives and the project comes alive, but if lots of slides were to arrive every day then the work of classifying clouds might be all that I had time for.

What is interesting about the contributions is that each person has a different way of interpreting the invitation. Some people send a slide of one small fluffy white cloud, while others send in roiling masses of cumulus. Some send beautiful skyscapes and sunsets, filletes of silver and gold, while others take a clever photograph of clouds reflected in puddles or glass, or of an aeroplane contrail or some other kind of ‘artificial’ cloud.

What I learn from each participation is that people make their own interpretation – the invitation is a window not a frame.

When I started the clouds project in 1999, the idea came from a book that I am very fond of, by the Japanese poet Basho. This describes a long journey the poet made, walking from the capital through the mountains to the islands off the west coast. Basho compares his feeling of needing to make this journey as being drawn like a wind blown cloud. Come Spring anyone can get that feeling.

Another book that was at the back of my mind is by a wonderful artist called Felix Gonzalez-Torres. He made a small book of photographs of the sky, clouds, and birds flying overhead, called Passport. The book was given away free to anyone who wanted a copy. The open sky is the country that Felix belongs to.

Passport also reminds me of the work of another artist from your continent, Eugenio Dittborn, who lived in Chile. Because he could not leave his country Eugenio sent all of his canvases for exhibition carefully folded into small airmail envelopes that he made specially. Now that Email is so common there is something romantic about air mail – all the journeys that the postcard invitations make through the air, and the slides that come back, and the book that travels into the world, and so it goes on.

This is the first volume of wind blown clouds produced by the archive and there will be others, so please, when you are ready, send me some more of your beautiful photographs.

Best wishes,

Alec Finlay
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