June 2, 2011

Artificial Cloud Sculpture - Tulsa, OK

Near the Center of the Universe, that site of spirituality and acoustic ingenuity, is a more depressing historical monument called the "Artificial Cloud" by Robert Haozous. The steel sculpture is a commentary on the destruction of society by technology. The material itself illustrates the destruction. The 72.5 foot sculpture is made of untreated steel that corrodes overtime, allowing the sculpture to fully articulate its message over time.

The long, center section features humans without hands among airplanes and rises to a point with a cloud on top.When I was younger, I though the artificial cloud referred to the atomic bomb. The rising cloud and sky full of planes depicted on the base made me believe the sculpture referred to the devastation wrought by the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. I have since learned the warning had nothing to do with foreign bombings, but rather referred to destruction must closer to home.

The statute actually refers to the effect of technology on American society. The statute represents the history of Native Americans subjugation after their first contact with the west. The human figures without hands are the Native Americans and then the sky filling with airplanes as technology continues to overtake the indigenous way of life. The cloud is the threatened hope for the future.

The lower base of the statute has shackles that are meant to symbolize the shackles placed on Native Americans during the early years of the nation. However, that is not a commonly known fact in Tulsa. Actually, most people think that the shackles are actually rings and supposedly banging them will have supernatural results. There are many urban legends about what clanging the steel rings at a certain time will do and sometimes at night you will see someone ringing them, though for what purpose I don't know.

It is interesting to me that a sculpture so incredibly meaningful does not have a well known meaning in Tulsa. As I said, I believed it referred to the atomic bomb for most of my life, until I recently began doing research on the sculpture for my latest trip to Tulsa. Also that a symbol of subjugation - the shackles - should become part of a silly mystical urban legend. Part of me wonders what the artist would think that even with the technology available to find the true meaning, his commentary on technology itself seems to be largely recognized.

Total Time Traveled: 9 hours
Total Distance Traveled: 522 miles
Soundtrack: "Cue the Theme Music" Playlist


1 comment:

  1. That is absolutely striking. You're right – the choice of steel as the material for the sculpture was definitely used to demonstrate the meaning of the piece. It's so beautiful to see artists work with steel, because it's a very strong but malleable material. To see art evolve from sophisticated marble gargantuans to meaningful steel pieces is stunning, and also stands as a commentary on the advancement of technology.

    -- Kai Tiger