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Clear Sky
Publication 27 May–2 July 2020
Still frame from a video of the sky by Joost Bosland, from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.
Film still: Clear Sky on Instagram, May 27, 2020–July 2, 2021. Image courtesy of Joost Bosland.
Title Clear Sky Dates 27 May–2 July 2020 Location Online Tagline Clear Sky on Instagram.
Curator Josh Ginsburg

Nolan Oswald Dennis
Felicia Mings
Joost Bosland
Jonathan Garnham
Igshaan Adams
Michal Raz-Russo
Kevin Beasley

Sara de Beer

Zach Viljoen

The Clear Sky project began as a game – a way for our team to connect as we worked in a distributed mode following the temporary closure of A4’s premises in response to the restrictions placed on spaces of artistic production and performance.

The player instructions are simple:
1) Find a piece of clear sky
2) Film for 30 seconds

There may be no view on earth more hopeful than a slice of clear sky.

The project was realised on Instagram, using the social media platform as a space to stage Clear Sky while A4's premises were closed due to Covid-19 lockdown measures. The volatility of Instagram as a platform was interacted with, and content adapted to work inside the collective energy presented by the platform on any given day.

Still frame from a video of the sky by Nolan Oswald Dennis, from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.

Short videos of Clear Sky were shared as our individual background screens for A4’s team meeting, dipping into a collage of blue.

Riffing off Bruce Naumann’s Clea Rsky (Clear Sky; 1967-68) – the artist’s book of full bleed photographs of Los Angeles’ skies published by Leo Castelli Gallery – the exercise proved surprisingly difficult to execute. From within our separate locations in Cape Town, under a nationwide lockdown, the stuff of neighbours and apartment blocks crept into view; flashings and roof edges; gutters and washing lines, not to mention the sky’s inhabitants – clouds, trees, birds, the sun. A thirty second clip of clear sky necessitated contortions, acrobatics, and patience.

Interventions of this sort are markers in time, place, and identity, upon the surface of a project which asks to exist without blemish. Some of these we had to welcome – not in defeat – but in recognition of the constraints we are living under as a global artistic community. Under the circumstances, a piece of clear sky isn’t just a piece of clear sky.

We reached out to friends and colleagues from across the blue dome to share their clear skies, and we’ll post a selection over the coming days.

This clear sky is by Nolan Oswald Dennis.





Still frame from a video of the sky by Felicia Mings, from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.

“A TV just to see the sky”

  • Yoko Ono. Sky TV, 1966.

When Yoko Ono created Sky TV, the sky was performed as a place of refuge; blue, clear, endless. The eternal sky came indoors (via 24 hour live video feed) with all its promises, conceived of at a time when Ono was living in a windowless apartment.

We conceived of ‘clear sky’ as a way to connect under a collage of blues, and asked friends from across the dome to send a thirty second clip of the sky – or what they could see of it – living under various and extraordinary conditions of shelter and confinement. There may be no view on earth more hopeful than a slice of clear sky.

This piece of sky is courtesy of Felicia Mings.







Still frame from a video of the sky by Joost Bosland, from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.

How far does one need to push life around to find a piece of clear sky?

When we asked friends to submit a thirty second clip of ‘clear sky’, it revealed just how much one may need to manouvre reality to claim a clean slice of blue. A refusal to admit impediments, the desire for a blemish free day; is this a promise of hope, or the work of illusion? At worst, something like trickery?

James Turrell’s Meeting (1980-86/2016), the beloved site specific installation at MoMA PS1, is an exemplar of welcoming the promise of sky indoors. This meeting of outside and inside is a stylised affair. The roof opens at specified times, and can make no allowance for inclement weather. From January to August 2019, Meeting closed when construction on nearby apartment blocks intervened on the perfect rectangular view. The revamped room (in 2016) is carefully lit, finely tuned. This isn’t any old sky – not the humdrum sky intervened upon by cranes and roofs; all the stuff of ‘construction’. And yet, it involves as much, if not more construction and curation to allow the natural light of ‘Meeting’ to not only flood the room, but enter it – in real time – through the cut-out ceiling.

This is sky as symbol, as sublime, as ideal – the kind of sky Emerson referred to when he wrote, “The sky is the daily bread of the soul.”

The moment Truman Burbank (played by Jim Carrey) walks through the cut-out door in the painted blue dome of a pretend world, choosing the volatility of the real, comes to mind.

Clear sky may want to be believed as a matter of perspective, but it may be better framed as a work of the imagination. The glare of oppression, brightly lit. The pretense of a ‘blue sky scenario’ laid bare, in which a slice of clear sky isn’t just a slice of clear sky.

This piece of sky is courtesy of Joost Bosland.





A depiction of the sky from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.

A rat done bit my sister Nell.

(with Whitey on the moon)

Her face and arms began to swell.

(and Whitey’s on the moon)

I can’t pay no doctor bill.

(but Whitey’s on the moon)

Ten years from now I’ll be payin’ still.

(while Whitey’s on the moon)

The man jus’ upped my rent las’ night.

(‘cause Whitey’s on the moon)

No hot water, no toilets, no lights.

(but Whitey’s on the moon)

I wonder why he’s uppi’ me?

(‘cause Whitey’s on the moon?)

I was already payin’ ‘im fifty a week.

(with Whitey on the moon)

Taxes takin’ my whole damn check,

Junkies makin’ me a nervous wreck,

The price of food is goin’ up,

An’ as if all that shit wasn’t enough

A rat done bit my sister Nell.

(with Whitey on the moon)

Her face an’ arm began to swell.

(but Whitey’s on the moon)

Was all that money I made las’ year

(for Whitey on the moon?)

How come there ain’t no money here?

(Hm! Whitey’s on the moon)

Y'know I jus’ ‘bout had my fill

(of Whitey on the moon)

I think I’ll sen’ these doctor bills,

Airmail special

(to Whitey on the moon)

  • Gill Scott-Heron. Whitey on the Moon, 1970.




Still frame from a video of the sky by Jonathan Garnham, from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.

Alignment; cohesion; separation; these three rules of Boids algorithm (Reynolds 1987) – performed by individuals without any centralised leadership – have been used to explain the gatherings of birds in flight. The birds move towards one another (cohesion), do not collide with one another (separation), and coordinate direction and speed (alignment). This emergent behaviour can be applied to our own human experiences of de-centralised collective action and adaptation, wherever crowds gather and share purpose.

This piece of clear sky is courtesy of Jonathan Garnham.





Still frame from a video of the sky by Igshaan Adams, from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.

Clear Sky project began as a way to connect. The constraint we asked practitioners to observe – collect a thirty second video clip of clear sky – worked to expose conditions artists and friends living under various levels of lockdown were facing, as material reality refused to remain out of frame. Netting a 30 second clip of clear sky necessitated contortions. A critique of the project began to take form. Does the act of looking into oblivion willfully deny conditions at the surface? The sky began to thicken with fire from the ground.

“So the gunpowder is actually your painting assistant?” Lesley Ma asked Cai Guo-Qiang on the occasion of the opening of the artist’s Sky Ladder at MOCA, 2012. “Gunpowder is my teacher,” Cai Guo-Qiang answered. Permission to build a ladder “to connect the Earth to the universe" was revoked due to fire concerns in LA. In June 2015 without official permission, Cai Guo-Qiang built a 1,650-foot ladder rigged with explosives and floating by means of a giant balloon on the remote Huiyu Island Harbor in Fujian province.

Speaking about ‘open production’, making the working processes visible to the public and inviting volunteers to participate in the creation of ‘gunpowder drawings,’ Cai Guo- Qiang says,

“I think there are two reasons why the production process is such a visual spectacle: one is that gunpowder is dangerous, and the other is the ritualistic quality of fire. The danger of gunpowder is associated with life and destiny…. Before and after the explosion, there is a change from the invisible to the visible, an expectation of the transformation of energy…viewers not only watch a performance…they become connected to the explosion. Everyone senses the uncertainty while waiting for the result together…” (Cai Guo-Qiang, 2012).

Interventions mark the Clear Sky project, its surface rightly scorched, pockmarked and struck through. “Ashes denote that Fire was — Revere the Grayest Pile,” wrote Emily Dickinson on the transformative property of fire. From this heat, this light; momentum.

This clear sky is courtesy of Igshaan Adams.






Still frame from a video of the sky by Michal Raz-Russoy, from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.

“Such a size is of course ridiculous…” said Georgia O'Keefe of Sky Above Clouds IV. One cannot help but see the spare figure of O'Keefe, then aged seventy-seven, presenting herself daily to her edge-of-the-world landscape for work. Challenger of rattlesnakes and solitude, meeting the severity of the plateau with a ferocious work ethic, and then, what else but an almost seven and a half metre span of sky?

“We saw to the edge of all there is —
So brutal and alive it seemed to comprehend us back.”
- Tracey K. Smith (2011).

Painted in 1965 in New Mexico, Sky Above Clouds IV is made from the stuff of memory, recalling the artist’s aeroplane journeys of the previous decade. One is overcome with the sense of being able to dip into that blue, at once hope and vertigo, in which the clouds are afforded a mass of their own. Though above, the caps of light ground the sky. How else to fall into the immaculate but to dissolve at the periphery?

This sky is courtesy of Michal Raz-Russo



Still frame from a video of the sky by Kevin Beasley, from A4’s ‘Clear Sky’ exchange.

Jimmy Cobb’s brush pattern on the drums in All Blues sees the hands painting circles on the skin of the instrument. The right hand works on the beat, the left syncopates, slipping in on the ‘and’ count, the brushes circling in towards one another. The choreography is clear and confident; the hands in conversation set up the dialogic quality of the piece.

One hears in the sweep of the brushes a train on the tracks. Bill Evans’ piano steps into the compartment, deep in thought. Ruminating on a single idea, he builds a frame for the other occupants to move into – Adderly and Coltrane hum on saxophone, chatter with the certainty that the root of G provides the ensemble – before Evans takes up the pattern himself to welcome Miles Davis in on his horn. If there’s a symbol for youth in this piece, it’s the horn, asking big questions – the journey not yet resolved.

The penultimate track on Kind of Blue, Davis plays All Blues like a waltz barefoot. Out of heels, the dancers have put down feathers and pretence. Performance is always a kind of service, limited by the kind of audience. All Blues knows who it’s speaking to. There’s total intimacy – the prototype of a perfect conversation – and a masterclass in listening out for one another.

We close the Clear Sky project as our team steps back into the building for work, following a three month sojourn in a distributed mode. The band is back together. While we remain closed to the public, we will continue to share projects and processes and ways to connect.

This piece of sky is courtesy of Kevin Beasley, and features riotous sound on a wild ride.