For such a delightful-looking (not to mention just plain neato) exhibition, Dutch artist Berndnaut Smilde's cumulonimbus photography, wherein he creates from thin air actual clouds inside gallery spaces and hallways, has got a rather dark philosophical core: "I'm interested in the ephemeral aspect of the work," Smilde once told the Washington Post. "It's there for a brief moment and then the cloud falls apart. It's about the potential of the idea, but in the end it will never function."
Since 2010, Smilde has been perfecting his climate-manipulation technique, tweaking temperature and humidity of the indoor spaces until, at long last, a puff of smoke suspends long enough to snap a photo. It's a method that's garnered him lots of mainstream press, and TIME even named the process "best invention of 2012." His latest cottony experiment (above)? A crisp shot of a cloud—"I wanted to make a very clear image, an almost cliché and cartoon like visualisation of having bad luck," he writes in his artist's statement—floating low in a green Beaux-Arts-style room in San Francisco's War Memorial and Performing Arts Center; indeed a room meant to be "an American interpretation" of the Palace of Versailles' Hall of Mirrors. "The space is kitsch, but it has great architectural ornaments," Smilde told Dezeen. "Its interior is classic and symmetrical, and represents perfection."
? Aspremont-Lynden Castle in Oud-Rekem, Belgium.
? Another shot at the Aspremont-Lynden Castle, which was also once a military hospital and mental institution.
? Academy Minerva in Groningen, The Netherlands. Berndnaut Smilde is represented by Ronchini Gallery London. An exhibition of new work will take place in 2014, ronchinigallery.com.