I’m Laughing at Clouds, commissioned by Anglia Ruskin University for the courtyard of the new Young Street Buildings in Cambridge, is an ensemble of nine tactile columns, which detect the heartbeat of participants and convert their systolic readings into a composition of light and sound.
I’m Laughing at Clouds modifies public lighting to make it react to the individual. By touching sensors embedded in the lighting columns, the passerby creates a composition of light and sound. The lampposts are programmed to respond to the human touch and record the frequency of the person’s heartbeat. This data is presented through the illumination of the columns and through samples of children’s voices. Simple sung notes have been recorded from children attending Brunswick Nursery School. As visitors touch the sensors a child’s voice sings a note, then at the point the heartbeat is registered the note follows the rhythm of the heartbeat. Both the illumination and the sound gets progressively softer until they both drift away completely, only to be reignited by the sensor being touched again.
I’m Laughing at Clouds acknowledges it neighbours, the Medical Faculty, the Music Therapy Course and the Nursery, referring to the essence of human life and health, vocal harmonies and childhood.
I’m singing in the rain
Just singing in the rain
What a glorious feeling
I’m happy again
I’m laughing at clouds
So dark up above
The sun’s in my heart
And I’m ready for love
First published in 1929, Singing in the Rain, with lyrics by Arthur Freed and music by Nacio Herb Brown, was first performed by Doris Eaton Travis in the 1929 revue The Hollywood Music Box Revue. The song and dance, performed by Gene Kelly is better known as the centerpiece of the film Singin’ in the Rain, 1952.
The Commission: I’m Laughing at Clouds was commissioned by Anglia Ruskin University for the new Young Street development in Cambridge, designed by Richard Murphy Architects for ARU’s Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education and our Music Therapy Centre. Approximately 80 children from Brunswick Nursery School in Cambridge came into Anglia Ruskin’s Mellish Clark studios during January to sing notes to provide the sounds to be emitted by the column. The sculpture was fabricated by LightLab.
Anglia Ruskin University have three main campuses, in Cambridge, Chelmsford and Peterborough, with around 35,000 students and 1,000 academic staff.
The Artist: Michael Pinsky is a British artist whose international projects have created innovative and challenging works in galleries and public spaces. He has undertaken many residencies that explore issues which shape and influence the use of our public realm. His work has been shown at: TATE Britain; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chengdu; Saatchi Gallery; Victoria and Albert Museum; Institute for Contemporary Art, London; BALTIC, Gateshead; Modern Art Oxford, Cornerhouse, Manchester; Liverpool Biennial, Centre de Création Contemporaine, Tours and the Armory Center of the Arts, Los Angeles.
Dr Michael Pinsky graduated from the Royal College of Art. He has received awards from the RSA, Arts Council England, British Council, Arts and Business, the Wellcome Trust and his exhibition Pontis was shortlisted for the prestigious Gulbenkian Museums Award.