The blog of author Dennis Cooper


Jeppe Hein Smoke Chair (2002)
‘A large mirror hangs on the wall with a small bench positioned in front of it. Upon taking a seat on the bench, visitors observe their own reflections, only to find themselves enveloped in smoke moments later. A small trigger activates a fog machine within the bench, releasing smoke from small holes that surround the seat. While contemplating their reflections in the mirror, visitors see themselves disappear in a cloud of smoke.’


Johannes Vogl Untitled (Swing) (2010)
‘Steel, car tire, fire’


MARCK Tank (2014)
‘lcd panel, iron, video loop’


Valie Export Smart Export (1970)


Superflex Burning Car (2008)
Burning Car is a work by Superflex in which a car is being set on fire. The empty car starts to burn, the cabin is filled with smoke and fire, car-paint is bobbling, tires explodes. Towards the end the car is burned out completely.’


Lorna Simpson Cloudscape (2004)
‘The solitary image of the black male figure whistling and enveloped by smoke appears to be a song of departure from the charnel house of the racial sublime.’


Graham Durward Various (2009)
‘Though Durward’s Untitled paintings appear abstract, they are actually representations of burning incense. Durward chose to paint incense because of its immateriality and association to ritual. These ideas are echoed through his painting style. In Untitled, the billows of smoke are retraced with the artist’s brush, the gestures replicate both what the vapour looks like as well as its ‘real’ properties of non-physicality and movement.’


John Gerrard Western Flag (Spindletop, Texas) (2017)
‘A slim pole with a huge trail of black smoke punctuates a vast landscape. Spindletop in Texas was the scenery of the world’s first major oil find in 1901 and the starting point of 20th century’s­ oil industry. Gerrard’s digital image displays todays post-indus­trial area – now barren, deserted, except for some machine relics, and exhausted, a waste land. Smoke pours out from seven nozzles at the pole’s peak, wafting as a big rectangle in the wind.’


Tom Wesselmann Smoking Cigarette #1 & Smoker #10 (1980)
Oil on wood and masonite, formica base



Rosângela Rennó Experiencing Cinema (2004)
‘In “Experiencing Cinema,” a better use of atmospherics, Brazilian Rosangela Renno revives an early 19th century phantasmagoria practice of projecting still pictures onto veils of smoke. Photographs, gathered from found family albums, cohere briefly on the smoke screen; then both image and screen dissipate, mortality again provocatively aligned with ephemerality.’


Ho Tzu Nyen The Cloud of Unknowing (2011)
The Cloud of Unknowing—which the artist created to represent his country at the 2011 Venice Biennale—is set in a deserted, low-income public housing block in Singapore and incorporates eight compartmentalized vignettes, each centered on a character who is met by an unexpected ethereal smoke cloud permeating their immediate surroundings. Additionally, four screens envelop the viewer in a dense, theatrical atmosphere that further enhances the sensorial impact of the installation. The artist even used smoke machines in the 2011 Venice Biennale installation.’

Watch the installation here


Unknown Various (?)


Jeroen van Loon An Internet (2015)
‘An Internet by Dutch artist Jeroen van Loon questions how the internet would look if all data were temporary and ephemeral. Visualising the flow of information in the form of glass tubes filled with smoke signals, the installation is based on the complex system of glass fibre internet cables that run across the ocean floors and continents.’


Anthony McCall Split Second (2018)
Split Second is among Anthony McCall’s most recent ‘solid-light’ installations, a series of pioneering works begun in 1973, in which a volumetric form composed of projected light slowly evolves in three-dimensional space in a hazefilled room. McCall regards these works as occupying a space between sculpture, cinema, and drawing: sculpture because the projected volumes must be occupied and explored by visitors; cinema because they rely on the filmic image and change over time; and drawing because each work begins as a two-dimensional drawing. Split Second consists of two separate points of light projected at different heights. The two projections – one elliptical, one flat – meet and combine to form a single slowly changing line-drawing. The projections expand to reveal a flat blade and an elliptical cone, which combine in space to create a complex field of rotating, interpenetrating planes. This uniquely atmospheric work inducts the spectator into a three-dimensional field where forms gradually shift and turn over time, creating an active and immersive experience, one in which the spectator truly completes the work.’


Marina Gadonneix Crime Scene (2015)


Olaf Brzeski Dream – Spontaneous Combustion (2008)
Material: polyurethane resin, carbon fibre mat, black pigment, wood, steel


Wyatt Burns 100 Cigarettes Machine (2014)


Ariella Pahlke Burning Rubber (2009)
Burning Rubber is a provocative re-framing of burnouts and rural car culture a filmmakers search for meaning in a disregarded and often maligned form of self-expression. Based primarily in rural Nova Scotia, Burning Rubber weaves a predominantly male car culture together with artists and the curiosity of outsiders, ultimately stimulating larger questions about identity, creativity, gender, freedom, and how we decide what is valued and given meaning as art.’


luzinterruptus 25 Minutes of protest in the smoke (2013)
‘The night of January 31 we took to the street to “perpetrate” an intervention that we’ve wanted to carry out for some time and that night it made more sense than ever. At that time, people had taken to the streets in a spontaneous manner, to protest against the scandalous political corruption that had been uncovered by a national newspaper and which implicated, with names and surnames, the entire leadership of the Spanish government. While the powers that be were entertained, trying to “control” public order at the headquarters of the PP of Madrid, we chose a central street, close to Gran Via, and there we carried out our light/sound, 25 Minutes of protest in the smoke. The action was very simple, only a few completely harmless, small, homemade smoke bombs that are placed under 9 powerful lampposts, in order to totally obscure the most illuminated street in the area, under a dense cloud of smoke. This environment, belonging to a post-conflict zone or of a church during the hours of mass, was inviting to stay and watch as the smoke materialized the beams of light from the lampposts, forming imperfect cones in space, within which the smoke evolved in hypnotic movements. To improve the scene being staged, the smoke managed to activate all the fire alarms on Gran Via which rang for a long time, contributing significantly to the general malaise that reigned on the streets at that time.’


Mark Tennant Various (2016-2018)


teamLab Massless Clouds Between Sculpture and Life (2020)
‘A giant cloud floats between the floor and the ceiling within the confines of the space, as though transcending the concept of mass. Even when people push through the floating cloud and break it, it naturally repairs itself like a living thing. But, as with living things, when the cloud is destroyed beyond what it can repair, it cannot mend itself, and it collapses.’


Ron English Cloud (2009)
‘Billboard liberator and Popagandist, Ron English, was responsible for hiring the skywriting plane that spelled out the word “cloud” five times over the city this morning. In an interview earlier this year, English said “these actual clouds will be for sale,” but there’s still no word on pricing for the artistic condensation.’


Yang Yongliang Cigarette Ash Landscape (2011)


Frederico Surace Explosion for War Film (2017)
‘For this project i create a 3D simulation for Visual Effects Explosion rappresentation.’


Judy Chicago A Purple Poem for Miami (2019)
‘Chicago began her Atmospheres series at the end of the 1960s but halted its production in 1974. The artist reignited the series in 2012, but on a larger scale. A Purple Poem for Miami is her sixth Atmospheres performance in seven years.’


Joschi Herczeg and Daniele Kaehr Explosions (2011)
‘In these photographs by Joschi Herczeg and Daniele Kaehr, the artistic team captures a single, exciting moment in a mundane, domestic surrounding. For this series Explosion, the team synchronized a camera with a custom-built detonator to snap a photo at the exact moment of explosion.’


The YES! Association SMOKING AREA (2012)
‘We installed a sixty-square-foot Smoking Area inside the Hessel Museum of Art, which shows a possibility for changing, or disrupting, the legal structure within an institution. The floor is painted with solid yellow lines the color of traffic signs and the cordoned-off space (modeled after such areas in train stations and other semi-outside public spaces across Europe) boldly reads SMOKING AREA in large font, complete with graphics of two lit cigarettes. The museum had to reevaluate. “Do you actually intend to have people smoking in there? Or is it just a painting?” There’s no way to really answer that. Visitors are activated; they are asked to make a choice: to smoke or to not smoke. We borrow from Hannah Arendt when we say: There is no doubt that the ability to act is the most dangerous of our abilities and possibilities.’


Eyal Gever Large Scale Smoke Sim (2013)


Kristoffer Myskja Smoking Machine V2 (2016)
‘The fact that the real “smell of fear” was given off by Smoking Machine tends to disprove the most commonly traded trope about fragrance: that reactions to it are purely “subjective” and “personal”. Few people would have reacted to the smell of cigarettes as though it were the very reek of the Antichrist during the Mad Men era – or even the 80s. The aversion is an acquired, cultural reflex.’


Otto Piene Dynamisches Volumen (1961)
Oil, smoke and fire on canvas.


James Benning Twenty Cigarettes (2011)
‘In Benning’s “Screentests” we watch 20 individuals, each of them smoking a cigarette. James Benning is well-known as the structuralist and documentarist who introduced the dimension of cinematic time into the landscape. One take lasts exactly three minutes, or the time it takes for a train to pass through a Californian landscape. This time round it’s people who determine the length of the takes by smoking a cigarette. They stand among walls and shelves and only their movements, which they try to control, and the movement of the smoke, which they can’t control, stipulate the coordinates of the filmic space. Benning makes a screenplay out of this and surprises us by once again creating something entirely new out of little more than smoke.’


simtec CFD simulation of fire and smoke propagation in the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens (2012)
‘The health and safety system of the National Museum of Contemporary Art in Athens was studied by SIMTEC, to evaluate the effectiveness of its standard and emergency HVAC systems. The building is a former industrial brewery and many of its art exhibits, were created with flammable materials. The basement, ground and second floor constitute the three major exhibition rooms and were modeled along with the lobby, the restaurant, the museum shop and the escalators. The network of fire sprinklers was modeled at their exact locations on the ceiling and the walls. The risk associated with their failure was estimated, considering three cases of sprinkler water capacity: (a) nominal, (b) partial and (c) empty.’


Daniel Schulze For Those Who See (2010)
For Those Who See is a 2010 installation by Berlin-based artist Daniel Schulze that relies on a 7×7 grid of audio speakers to generate rings of fog that shoot upward from the device. The vortices appear for only a second or so, but are distinct enough that Schulze could then translate digital signals into fleeting visual patterns. The installation was a jury recommended work at the 14th Japan Media Arts Festival and won the audience award at the Create10 Student Design Competition.’


Tony Oursler The Influence Machine (2000)
The Influence Machine is a multimedia installation which is staged outdoors. The work is comprised of seven video projections, each with its own audio track. The videos are projected onto a building and the trees that surround it. In addition, smoke machines are used to create a mass of smoke, onto which a video of a medium is projected. This medium speaks a garbled set of sentences in which it attempts to contact the technological pioneers Edward Gaspard Robertson and John Logie Baird. The other video projections include a talking light, a chorus singing and a technician’s hand.’


Filippo Minelli Silence/Shapes (2009-?)
Silence/Shapes is an ongoing work of art, where he decontextualizes smoke bombs in unusual locations, such as nature and abandoned buildings to give them a physical shape.’


Yao Chung-Han Electronic Monster #3 – On the Hour (2017)
Electronic Monster #3 – On the Hour combines real time mechanical sounds and music produced by the artist. A mechanical smoke machine has been rigged to trigger every hour, filling the space and creating an image of a beast that changes in scale – an experience designed by the artist to draw attention to architectural framing that holds the image.’


Claes Oldenburg Fagend Study (1975)
Lead and Cor-Ten Steel filled with Polyurethane Foam


Olaf Breuning Smoke Bombs (2012)
‘Swiss visual artist Olaf Breuning places no limits on his medium of choice, expressing his artistic vison through peformance art, sculpture, drawing, photography, installation and film. My favorite of his work are these precisely staged photos of various smoke bombs, fireworks and other colorful objects arranged on a loose framework. The pieces have occasionally been lit as part of a “happening” such as his site-specific smoke installation at Station to Station in New York.’


Laurent Grasso OttO (2018)


Liz Magor Humidors (2004)
polymerised gypsum, tobacco


Gwenessa Lam 368House Fires (Reverse Image Search 2015-16) (2016)
‘Lam’s video loop, 368 House Fires, presents repeated “still” images of a house on fire as flames transform the two-storey structure into a blazing inferno. The fire is advanced enough to be dramatic and reveal the house’s architectural form, but not so far along that the structure is unrecognizable. The animation, composed of 368 flashes of the same image in different sizes, spans less than two minutes and mimics the quick, glancing views of a digital search while simulating the flame’s flickering, burning assault.’

Watch an excerpt here




p.s. Hey. ** h (now j), Hi. Thank you. Like I said, Crews has kind of fallen off the radar, so it’s not surprising if you don’t know his stuff. Your response to what you read in the post is great, and my gratitude for that. Yes, next Monday, my new and different GIF novel will be born. Here’s hoping. John Akomfrah … I don’t think I know his work? Or I’m forgetting? I’ll investigate. Great luck with the piece you’re writing. Ah, yes, fantastic: the Bruce Conner alert! Everyone, h (now j) passes along news of a serious and wonderful gift to y’all and me too. To wit … ‘People here might be interested in viewing this movie (which is gorgeous both sonically and visually): June 22–29: Screening of Bruce Conner’s LOOKING FOR MUSHROOMS. Presented by Paula Cooper Gallery and Camden Art Centre, stream Conner’s acclaimed film throughout the week of June 22nd.’ It’s here, and it’s great, and it has a score by the legendary Terry Riley to boot. Thank you! ** wolf, Hi, Wolf among wolves! He definitely made the most of who he was. My understanding is that, yes, the American shop owners are Trumpers, very strangely or at least very unwisely. I didn’t know that the one time I shopped there, but the employees were very, very unfriendly, which did strike me as odd. It did feel like I had stopped by a super redneck’s yard sale in Alabama or something. So I guess the store is less intended to be a ‘fun’ taste of the US than some kind of rah-rah-USA-USA! autonomous zone. Sebald-like is a lure. ‘Beautiful prose’ makes me wary. Yes, the the part of the Catacombs one goes through is just a very teeny bit of it. I thoroughly enjoyed my first visit. It’s pretty cool. But I went back twice more with foreign, visiting friends and it was diminishing returns each time. So, yes, I say you should go. Once. I hear you guys are about to sort of reopen over there, eh? Congrats or … eek? ** Misanthrope, I can see you digging Crews. You should def. proceed with the ugh process of finding your novel a birthplace, yes, I think, but you must really steel yourself and keep the old confidence up and forefronted. There’ll be ‘ifs’, ‘ands’, and ‘buts’ for sure. ** David Ehrenstein, Uh, that’s a good question about his daughter. I’ve never heard that, but you could obviously be right. Wow. I know full well how a mere image can inspire the deep stuff. ** _Black_Acrylic, I don’t know that sketch based on my quick glance at it, but I will get it under my belt in a while. Thank you. ** Jeff J, Hi. yeah, great interview, no? That’s why I let it run on a little longer than I usually do with interviews. I haven’t read a ton of Harry Crews. I do remember quite liking ‘Car’ and ‘Scar Lover’. I think most aficionados think ‘A Feast of Snakes’ is his best novel. I haven’t read it. Glad your step forward with The Band is paying off. Awesome day! ** Steve Erickson, Congrats on the firm date! For the longest, longest time every poster in the metro that wasn’t a COVID advice thing was for a movie that had opened in March and had its run snuffed. It gave the metro a very Twilight Zone quality. Seriously hoping people mask up, keep their distance, and wash their hands a lot since that simple method is working for us over here. ** Paul Curran, Hi, Paul! Good, great even, that you’re writing while being able to juggle the rest. I saw that your Disney parks are finally coming back. So I’m guessing there’s a continuing upswinging? Fuck knows when I’ll be able to leave France again, but Japan is still #1 when I can. Take care, my friend! ** Right. Today’s post takes care of itself in the realm of introductions. See you tomorrow.


  1. D! Holy smokes! You know it’s funny I had ever really put your love of smoking and of smoke-art together, duh. There is something very special about smoking that I don’t think can be approximated by any other activity. Vaping seems like an insulting joke. The transe-like act of lighting up and inhaling the burnt remnants of that small paper-and-herb thing is unique, and I wonder how much people’s addiction to smoking is to that rather than to the tobacco itself. I used to love smoking but tobacco did nothing at all to me so I was a really shit, non-dedicated smoker. My dad says ‘I’ve been trying to smoke my whole life but I keep quitting’ – guess it’s in the genes (there was always a one-fourth-used pack somewhere on a sideboard and somehow never finished, probably tossed-away when it had become tasteless and replaced by a new one only 3 of whose 20 fags would ever get smoked).
    I do kinda miss it, if only for that meditative aspect.
    I like Graham Durward’s smoke paintings a lot. I have been spending more time than usual staring at the sky while in nothing-better-to-do lockdown, and there’s a real primal fascination with those cloud formations. In fact I was wondering how some of them could be rendered in painting, and of course they never are rendered accurately, it’s just the feeling of them rather than their exact physicality that is painted. Funny how smoke, like fire and waves, is an insanely complex physical structure and phenomenon that is impossible to reproduce well in CGI.
    Ah, yes, we’re re-opening…. I think? A bit? Who knows what’ll actually re-open for good. Restaurants and bars, I think, on July 4th — not sure how much of a difference to our daily lives it’ll make but hey. We shall see! I’ll reporting.

  2. Hello Dennis, Hope you’re well and safe in Paris.

    Today’s post brought to mind Ed Templeton’s superb Teenage Smokers zine and photobooks. x

    Teenage Smokers (zine):

    Teenage Smokers (book 1):

    Teenage Smokers (book 2):

  3. Dennis, When I saw “Smokes,” I just thought of cigarettes. Forgot all about fires, crack, meth, and shit. 😀

    “The pipe burns hollow” That’s a line I’ve had in my head for years but have never used. I’ll use it for something.

    Oh, yeah, I’m overthinking a bit, I think. By overthinking, I mean that I’m trying to see into the future and anticipate every single little “bad” thing that can/will happen, every obstacle, every challenge, and then worrying way too much about it. Just need to get on it and let it rip. Worse comes to worse, I’ll get it pubbed in a more non-traditional way and still be happy as pie. 😀

  4. Don’t Smoke in Bed

    “Looking For Mushrooms” is marvelous. it’s one of Conner’s few films made of original imagery that he shot himself.

  5. The YBAs of the 90s would make a lot of work about the things they were interested in, like lager or cocaine and most of the time smoking too. Most of that scene was boring and facile but I always liked this by Sarah Lucas titled Where Does It All End?

  6. Charli XCX’s “White Mercedes” video would fit this day.

    I did make it to Rough Trade Records today. I may have been their first customer upon reopening. (Suitably, “The Boys Are Back in Town” was playing when I entered the store.) I got the new Phoebe Bridgers album, the ELECTRIC EDEN compilation, Mort Garson’s PLANTASIA, the Associates’ FOURTH DRAWER DOWN, a Shirley Collins album from the ’60s, a movie soundtrack composed by Serge Gainsbourg and Iggy Pop’s ZOMBIE BIRDHOUSE. But I realized that I probably should’ve waited till the weekend, because they obviously did little ordering in the three months while the store was closed.

    Do you still plan to try quitting smoking eventually?

    I saw Fassbinder’s rare variety show LIKE A BIRD ON A WIRE today. It’s one of the strangest bits of his filmography – like a Tom of Finland drawing come to life, but presided over by a benevolent elderly woman singing cabaret music!

  7. Amphibiouspeter

    June 25, 2020 at 9:09 pm

    Hey DC,

    The Marina Gaddoneix terrifies me, thanks… I fully expect my sun-intensified dreams tonight to include a smoke filled cockpit. A great day though, I love how brazen the tyre swing is – you don’t get that much these days especially in contemporary art.

    It’s been a while – I work in a hospital so things have been really busy. Glad to see you’re still here along with some familiar faces! Have you been keeping well and safe?

    All the best


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