In the Cloud is a large framed text work, printed on off-white paper. The title words ‘IN THE CLOUD’ are printed in red capital letters in Gill Sans typeface. Below is a text printed in black capitals in the same font:
ALONG AN 8 DAY WALK ACROSS SCOTLAND
¾ HOUR IN CLOUD
WHILE GOING OVER BEN MACDUI
THE HIGHEST POINT OF THE WALK
COAST TO COAST WEST TO EAST 1991
The text is a description of a walk that Long took in the Cairngorms national park in Scotland in 1991. The artist has been making works in Scotland since he was a student, most notably Ben Nevis Hitchhike 1967 (Tate T02065), for which the artist hitchhiked and walked from London to the peak of Britain’s highest mountain. Scotland is a suitable place for Long to make his walking works for as the artist has remarked, most of it ‘is still wilderness, most of the Highlands are still possible for people to walk’ (cited in Tufnell 2007, p.71).
In the Cloud describes the moment Long walked over Ben Macdui, the tallest peak in the Cairngorms, and records how much time the artist spent enveloped in cloud. Another text work, A Cloudless Walk 1996 (Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh), describes a walk determined by the length of time the artist walked until he reached a cloud.
The textual description of the walk provided by In the Cloud avoids mentioning extraneous details or using verbose language. Long has stated that ‘A text is a description, or story, of a work in the landscape. It is the simplest and most elegant way to present a particular idea, which could be a walk, or a sculpture, or both’ (cited in Tufnell 2007, p.45). The artist’s first text work was made in 1969 for the seminal exhibition of conceptual art When Attitudes Become Form: Live in Your Head at the Kunsthalle Bern (see Wallis 2009, p.47). That work, called A Walking Tour in the Berner Oberland: When Attitudes Become Form (whereabouts unknown), consisted of a text that included the first half of the work’s title proceeded by the artist’s name and the dates on which the ‘walking tour’ took place. In the same way as In the Cloud, this early work recorded a walk in pared-down and impersonal language. This use of language is characteristic of conceptualism, but for Long it is essential that the idea presented in the text has been executed, whereas other conceptual artists who make text-based work, such as Lawrence Weiner, privilege the idea over the possible realisation of an action. Regarding the use of text in his work, Long has commented:
one of the reasons why I started making text works is because it gave me another possibility, not using the camera or not necessarily making a sculpture. I can use words and they can give me different possibilities than I would get from using a camera. So, taking photographs does a certain type of job, records one moment, makes an image. And words do a different job. They can usually record the whole idea of a walk. They have a different function, sometimes a more complete function.
(Cited in Tufnell 2007, p.69.)
Richard Long (ed.), Richard Long: Walking the Line, London 2002, reproduced p.22.
Ben Tufnell (ed.), Richard Long: Selected Statements & Interviews, London 2007.
Clarrie Wallis (ed.), Richard Long: Heaven and Earth, exhibition catalogue, Tate Britain, London 2009.
William Malpas, The Art of Richard Long, Maidstone 2011, pp.281, 290.
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