HeHe, Nuage Vert

Nuage Vert makes visible a community's dirty little secret and inspires residents with a call to action

The first green cloud of smoke appeared in the skies of Helsinki in 2008. Nuage Vert, as it is called, hovered for weeks above smokestacks at incineration plants to expose what is often ignored on our horizon: the effects of consumption.

Nuage Vert is a community art project by HeHe (Helen Evan and Heiko Handenun), a German-British duo interested in individual and community impacts on the cycle of waste. Through an interdisciplinary mix of industrial design, engineering, art, and environmental activism, HeHe’s goal is to expose and educate citizens about air pollution.

The installation projects a florescent green shadow on a cloud of smoke released from an incinerator. With a thermal camera connected to a laser, the projection reveals the cloud as it emerges. The size of the cloud reacts in real-time according to the statistics of the plant. Its amorphous shape shifts with the contours of the vapor and with the changing energy consumption (based on household waste) of residents – the less waste released, the smaller the cloud. During the installation, local residents are encouraged to reduce consumption to illustrate how individual behaviors affect the whole.

Nuage Vert is both an intriguing show and an interactive stage, where the spectator becomes the actor. It provides a dramatic depiction of a collective conscience, where citizens literally see the impact of their waste production on local pollution and the environment. The size of the cloud directly speaks to the resident's quality of life, and it acts not as a place to project worry and fear, but rather as a barometer for a community to take action.

Beyond the spectacle, the project aims to initiate dialogue between different actors in the field: the incineration plant, public institutions, environmental activists, residents, and businesses. With a simple act to make the invisible visible, Nuage Vert illuminates how collective commitment, when coupled with civic responsibility, can single-handedly change the well-being of the community.

The installation has since been implemented in a number of cities in Europe.