I hadn’t the foggiest of an idea what was happening when the Tate Modern’s South Terrace was immersed in a cloud. From a distance, I panicked, thought the Tate was enveloped in smoke, but realised on approach that it was induced by the gallery itself. There was no one to ask what the fog was in aid of, or who was behind it, but to me it seemed like a really clever marketing ploy. And inevitably, the first thing I did was take some arty snaps of tourists and excitable children being engulfed by the fog, process them through VSCO cam and then post them on Instagram with the hashtag #tatemodern. I imagine those posts drew a whole range of people to come and witness the strange occurrence for themselves.
Then I followed the hashtag and found the answer to my ignorance: the artist behind the ‘fog sculpture’ was Japanese artist Fujiko Nakaya. Strangely I’m not usually one to miss a mainstream art event in London, and perhaps this one had little publicity to contribute to its mystery. Originally planned to only air for 10 days, Nakaya’s fog was due to end on 2nd April 2017, however because of its popularity in the capital the installation has been extended until 18th April.
As the world’s leading fog artist, Nakaya’s first London fog work is worth a visit. What made it so mesmerising was its interactive quality. The fog immerses all kinds of passersby, from businesswomen wearing suits distracted from their daily commute, giddy children and their equally-excited parents, to Instagram fanatics like myself. Under a clouded roof, a vast array of Londoners had come together. You would think that London would not need any more gloom following the upheaval of the EU referendum last summer, but the fog had produced an atmosphere of hope and welcoming, not fear. Having said that, I can’t strip the feeling that Nakaya’s fog is also spreading a sense of foreboding through the city.
However, Nakaya denies that there is a political purpose for the fog. It’s especially surprising that it was not created to spread awareness of the impending doom of climate change to instigate activism. In an interview she stated that she was “trying to change the bad image of London fog, or smog, as it was named after the Industrial Revolution…Now I am trying to create the third generation of the London fog, an ‘ecological fog,’ for people to enjoy.”
What I find fascinating is that London Fog is both a sculpture and an interactive installation. It operates by 300 intricately designed nozzles which pump out water vapour in micro-particles of varying density and at varying intervals, according to the air currents and architectural surroundings.
What it feels like: a disorientating dance with a cloud. Not ideal for those with glasses or who have recently had their hair done. Also dampens clothes slightly.