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Desert Cloud

Desert Cloud, 1972-2004

Graham Stevens
  • Architect (1944)

Operating on the frontier between art and architecture, Graham Stevens builds inflatable forms and environments that create a dialog between poetry and hyper-technology. Engaged in a critical approach to architecture and opposed to its “rootedness,” Stevens advocates an art of air and movement. In 1965, with Spacefield, a project for an inflatable and multimedia environment, he experimented with a system associating sound, odor, taste, text and light with tactile and kinesthetic experiments with the body. His success with this initial experiment led him to invent numerous interactive pneumatic structures playing on the relationship between people and their perceptions of the environment: Waterbed, Walking on Water, Bean Bag and Bouncy Castle (all in 1966). Utilizing an optikinetic and multi-sensorial approach, Graham Stevens assembled, developed and filmed his installations in 1971 under the title of Atmosfields. Installed in the heart of London, in the slips of St Katherine’s Docks, these floating, flying and moving works became icons of urban performance in a Pop and critical re-appropriation of the city. Beginning in the late 1960s, Stevens focused on capturing and transforming natural energy sources from the environment in his “atmospheric” architectures, such as his Atmospheric Raft. He developed a comprehensive ecological approach based on the idea of a phenomenological relation between man and the biosphere, most evident in his emblematic project, Desert Cloud (1972).

Graham Stevens (Windrush, 1944) studied at the University of Sheffield under J.K. Page, graduating in 1966. He served as assistant to Buckminster Fuller in Paris in 1964, during the International Congress of Architecture and participated in the Destruction in Art Symposium (DIAS) at Battersea Park in London in 1966. In 1968 the Utopie group invited him to participate in their Structures Gonflables exhibition at the Musée d’Art Moderne de Paris. He currently divides his time between Great Britain and France, pursing his research on perception and energies. He was a guest resident at the Ecole des Beaux-arts de Nantes in 2007, where he experimented with his Transmobile on the water of the moats at the Castle of the Dukes of Brittany, and in 2009, he floated a colored inflatable over the Hospital of Alès (Cevennes, France). His works are present in the collections of the Centre Pompidou and the FRAC Centre.

Lucy Hofbauer