Mexico City-based artist Carlos Amorales’ Black Cloud (2007/2015) immerses spectators in a swarm of 30,000 delicate black moths whose frailty and stilled flight contrasts with the sordidness of their forceful infestation of The Power Plant’s Clerestory.

GUEST CURATOR: CHRISTINE SHAW

The first iteration of The Power Plant’s Clerestory Commission Program, Carlos Amorales' site-specific installation envelopes spectators in a territory that fluctuates between the obscure and the optimistic, the macabre and the alluring, distilling a kind of claustrophobic sensuality. Black Cloud signals Amorales’ propensity toward ambiguous scenarios where the boundaries between beauty and awe, good and evil, calm and calamity are constantly blurred and where imagination is called upon to mediate between multiple interpretations of the work.

Amorales works in a wide variety of media, including video, painting, drawing, sculpture and performance. Since 1998, Amorales has been building his Archivo Líquido (Liquid Archive), a digital archive of vector images—birds, spiders, trees, wolves—taken from books and magazines, downloaded from the internet or shot by the artist himself and transformed into black silhouettes modified through processes of hybridization. With Black Cloud, Amorales translates Liquid Archive into three dimensions, materializing its potential for communicating terror by giving it an overwhelming physical presence. The artist replicates thirty-six types of moths—all culled from his archive—in thousands of life-size, black paper cut-outs that are individually hand-glued to the walls and ceiling of the space. Multiplied to create a dense mass with both wondrous and threatening qualities, Black Cloud becomes a surreal yet sublime gathering of insects delicately poised in sculptural formation, a phenomenon that suggests the potential for harm, destruction, and irreversible doom.

Black Cloud can be understood as a cautionary tale if we go back to the years of the British Industrial Revolution in the mid-nineteenth century, when the grizzly environment, tinged by coal combustion, incited a process of natural selection of black moths in cities. The typical moth in England prior to the Industrial Revolution was the dominant light-coloured form which made it very difficult for birds and other predators to see it against light-coloured trees and clean walls. The coal that was burned as industry spread throughout the north of England blanketed the countryside with black soot and a new dark form of moth emerged. It appeared suddenly, came to dominate the population in industrial areas, and then declined just as sharply following the closure of coal mines and many industrial centres. Pollution levels dropped, clean air laws were introduced, and the sootiness that prevailed during the nineteenth century disappeared from the cities. Dramatically, as the cleaner, lighter conditions returned, so did the lighter form of the moth. Some biologists suggest that the dark moths will soon be extinct.

Appearing to have entered The Power Plant through the smoke stack, the swarm of black moths calls upon the history of the clerestory as a coal storage space and points to the “lightening” of Toronto’s waterfront amidst the recent transformation of sites of industry into post-industrial centres of creativity, tourism and commercial enterprise. Black Cloud stands as a poetic allegory should the concatenation of industrial metabolism, urbanization, climate change, and the extinction of species continue unabated.

Black Cloud was featured in the exhibition The Work of Wind, curated by Christine Shaw for Scotiabank Nuit Blanche on 3–4 October 2015. There, two swarms converged, human and non-human, begging the question: have we not reached a tipping point?


Carlos Amorales was born in Mexico City in 1970 where he lives and works today. His work makes use of different media including drawing, animation, installation, performance, digital, graphic, video and painting. He is also Co-Founder of Nuevos Ricos, a discographic project. Recent solo exhibitions have been held at kurimanzutto Gallery, Mexico City (2015), Museum Kunst der Westküste, Alkersum/Föhr, Germany (2015), Centre de Cultura Contemporàniade Barcelona (2015), Philadelphia Museum of Art (2014), Guggenheim Museum, New York (2014), Rufino Tamayo Museum, Mexico City (2013), Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris (2013), Museum of Modern Art, New York (2007), Tate Modern, London (2003), among many other venues. He has also exhibited his work at numerous biennials including the 10th and 12th La Habana (2009 and 2015), 10th Shanghai Biennale (2014), the 2nd and 8th Berlin Biennale (2001 and 2014), Sharjah Biennial 11 (2013), Manifesta 9 (2012), the Belgium Biennial (2012), Performa (2007), and the 50th Venice Biennale (2003).


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Related Images

 
  • Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud, 2007/2015.

    Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2015. Courtesy of Diane and Bruce Halle Collection. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

  • Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud, 2007/2015.

    Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2015. Courtesy of Diane and Bruce Halle Collection. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

  • Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud, 2007/2015.

    Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2015. Courtesy of Diane and Bruce Halle Collection. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

  • Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud, 2007/2015.

    Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2015. Courtesy of Diane and Bruce Halle Collection. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

  • Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud, 2007/2015.

    Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2015. Courtesy of Diane and Bruce Halle Collection. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

  • Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud, 2007/2015. 

    Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2015. Courtesy of Diane and Bruce Halle Collection. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid. 

  • Carlos Amorales, Black Cloud, 2007/2015.

    Installation view: The Power Plant, Toronto, 2015. Courtesy of Diane and Bruce Halle Collection. Photo: Toni Hafkenscheid.

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