A Living Essay on Clouds – “Cumulus – Figures of the elusive – Politics of the sky” (ICE HOT:2)

Cumulus. Photo: Tale Hendnes

Cumulus clouds are, according to the lexicon, fluffy, puffy cotton-like clouds shaped like cauliflower on the top, flat underneath, and white when lit by the sun. Cumulus is also the title of an audio-visual, site-specific performance by the Icelandic artists Andrea Gunnlaugsdóttir and Claudia Lomoschitz I experienced during bastard’s visit at Ice Hot Nordic Festival in Oslo.

A group of delegates meet the artists at Dansens Hus where we are provided with headphones and umbrellas. We walk together on slippery pavements and trails to Kubaparken. This audio-visual performance is according to the festival programme an investigation of the question: “What does it mean to look at the sky in an age of atmospheric instability and weather threats?”

Andrea Gunnlaugsdóttir and Claudia Lomoschitz invite the participants to “witness movements, choreographies, and politics of the sky through a feminist lens.” When I read this, I was immediately reminded of the essay “Hydrofeminism: Or, on becoming a body of water” by Astrida Neimanis. According to Neimanis we are all a “body of water”, connected to water as our bodies consist of 80 % water and depend on this substance to survive. Water travels through all bodies on Earth and connects us.

cumulus clouds
Cumulus. Photo: Sandra Cecilie Quist Lund

Oslo seems to me like one huge body of water, covered in snow when we arrive. I have been looking forward to  Cumulus in a snowy landscape, and I am worried whether the night rain has washed the snow away. Fortunately, this morning everything is still white and I am about to witness white clouds in white snow. An outdoor performance naturally depends on unknown factors and this February weather is truly a dangerous mix of snow, ice and rain. Sometimes the sun appears, melting the snow, then replaced by rain. Everything is soaked to the bone.

Cumulus is like a living essay illustrating the fragile bonds between our human bodies and clouds. The clouds on this particular day are not the specific type of white cauliflower figures floating in front of a blue background – these clouds have painted our world in a foggy white-grey palette. These clouds are no longer elusive, they are the opposite, they are everywhere, and they are somehow controlling us as we walk as if we were penguins through the icy park.

The logic of the sky is relentless and climate change the underlying truth on which this performance exists. Through the almost mindful audio guide we learn how climate change affects the formation of clouds as well as our lives intertwined with the atmosphere and its materials: fog, steam, haze, rain, sleet, snow, all types of precipitation that soaks our clothes, quench our thirst.

person looking to a roud glass with headphones in a snowy and cold environment
Cumulus. Photo: Tale Hendnes

A voice in the audio guide explains how the delicate life form of clouds is threatened by climate change and pollution. Global warming will lead to a decrease in the number of natural clouds. At the same time, it is predicted that clouds in the future will appear in the shape of toxic emissions, chemical weapons and digital data clouds. Fewer clouds means less shade and drinking water, and it is quite strange to imagine that here in this drenched city or at home in Denmark, where lately our groundwater has seeped through everything. However, Andrea and Claudia’s performance forces us to imagine a world without clouds by getting intimately familiar with our fluffy companions.

“The air has for the longest time been taking care of us.”

Cumulus is my favorite piece at Ice Hot. At a festival continuously surrounded by human bodies, there is something wonderful about giving these cloudy creatures your full attention. When we arrive at the park, Claudia and Andrea create clouds that float towards us. Warm clouds of smoke surround us completely in the cold. My view is blurred and everything becomes a white cloud.

cumulus clouds
Cumulus. Photo: Sandra Cecilie Quist Lund

We are provided with completely round mirrors. It is like a childhood game, we are told in the audio guide that instructs us to look at the sky through the mirrors. But here the sky seems like one big cloud. Still, I catch the clouds of smoke in my mirror. We walk on icy pathways with our mirrors reflecting a chalk-white sky. I never looked at the sky through a mirror as a kid, but during the summers I often lay on a cotton blanket and watched the sky equipped with sunglasses. Here I have no sunglasses and the white sky blinds me.

“Clouds with their vaguely defined bodies, are as spontaneous and sensitive as we are, living a fleeting life.”

We are introduced to clouds as our companions but they not only surround us – they are part of us. In the Nordic, everyone is familiar with the unpredictable, constantly changing clouds. But the weather is at the same time to most people primarily a small talk topic – and we take clouds for granted. I would love to experience Cumulus once more in yet another type of weather. The voices of the audio guide are soft and soothing as we, like Bambi on the ice or with tiny penguin steps, march in line as one group with umbrellas above our heads.

“You breathe the / air I breathe / 11.000 litres / of air a day.”

Andrea and Claudia’s cloud research is published in a short, poetic book:

“fuzzy edges 

an indeterminate shape

frozen in depth of the sky

ungraspable matter

sculpted by the wind”

In Cumulus it becomes clear how the otherwise elusive and cloudy creatures are our friends on Earth. As we walk, I notice how the clouds paint our sky empty too. We walk on frozen clouds in the rain along streams and waterfalls. My breath is just like a small cloud. At the end of our walk, at an open space, just like a stage, Claudia and Andrea are waving a piece of white textile. This performance is a stage for the sky and a dance of clouds.

Cumulus by

Andrea Gunnlaugsdóttir & Claudia Lomoschitz 


Manuel Riegler


Lan Rex, Ernst Lima


Claudia Lomoschitz


Julia Müllner 


Lisa Jäger, Mael Blau, Alex Franz Zehetbauer 


Andrea Gunnlaugsdóttir and Claudia Lomoschitz

Andrea Gunnlaugsdóttir born in Iceland, is a choreographer, dancer, and performer based in Vienna. She holds a diploma from the Salzburg Experimental Academy of Dance with a major in choreography. She has presented her works in Austria and abroad and has collaborated with artists such as Doris Uhlich, Michikazu Matsune, Alix Eynaudi, Andrea Maurer, and Veza Fernandez.

Vienna-born Claudia Lomoschitz works as a visual artist, choreographer, and performer. She graduated from the University of Hamburg with an M.A. in performance studies. Her works have been shown at museums and performance institutions such as Kunstraum Niederösterreich, Vienna, Tanzquartier Wien, brut Wien, Belvedere 21, and Kampnagel Hamburg.

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