Memory Cloud Trafalgar Square
Memory Cloud is a participatory ephemeral light environment that was commissioned by the London Institute of Contemporary Arts and was named one of the top ten international public art projects by the Daily Telegraph. Installed in the city’s Trafalgar Square in October 2008, Memory Cloud was based on smoke signals – one of the oldest forms of visual communication – and for three nights the public was invited to participate by sending text messages that were grafted onto plumes of smoke. Fusing ancient and contemporary forms of communication, Memory Cloud created a dynamic hybrid space that projected personal statements as part of an evolving text, animating the built environment through conversation.
Interaction was facilitated through mobile phones allowing for an open, personal and easily accessible medium for collective participation. This means of communication allowed for conversational forms of interaction
to evolve, transforming the space of Trafalgar Square into an active stage for observation and participation. Over three nights, a total of 1,500 messages were publicly projected.
Memory Cloud examines the systemic interplay between participants, context (Trafalgar Square) and the environment. A network of seven smoke signals created an arena of airborne projection fog that was in a constant state of formation. The materialisation of the project was formed through light as the principal inscription device, articulating infinite variability and seamless transformations in an evolving typographic construction. Messages were continually re-formed as the space of projection was grafted onto atmospheres of shape-shifting volumes of fog. This fog allowed the text to change scales and incarnations along the driftscape of projected light. Accelerating air flow increased rates of dissipation further by transforming the volume and density of the space of projection. The observers’ spatial perception continually pursued dynamic stability through forms of legibility in motion perception.
Memory Cloud evolved following other prototypes installed as public interventions under the name Smoke Signals. The first of these took place in Bentwaters airbase in Suffolk as part of the Faster than Sound festival in 2006. The second, a year later in Bristol, stimulated communication through two distinct spaces – in a public plaza outside the Watershed Media Centre in the heart of the harbour and in the Pro-Cathedral (a derelict parish church), accompanying a performance of Pendulum Music by composer Steve Reich.