a hand holds a mold

Cuando las nubes eran las olas (When the clouds were waves)

Ana Navas and Mirtru Escalona-Mijares

Spring 2023

Artist Ana Navas and composer Mirtru Escalona-Mijares are back in residence in the concert hall with percussionists Taylor Long, Robert Cosgrove, and Clara Warnaar to rehearse for the premiere of Cuando las nubes eran las olas (When the clouds were the waves).


Cuando las nubes eran las olas is a forthcoming artwork by Venezuelan-Ecuadorian artist Ana Navas (b. 1984, Quito) and Venezuelan composer Mirtru Escalona-Mijares (b. 1972, San Felix). The two artists are in residence in EMPAC's Concert Hall with percussionists Taylor Long, Robert Cosgrove, and Clara Warnaar to workshop Escalona-Mijares' electro-acoustic score composed for Navas' recently fabricated sculpture-instruments. 

Cuando las nubes eran las olas is an expansive work inspired by the Aula Magna, the Central University of Venezuela’s main auditorium. The building was designed by architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva in 1953 and lies at the heart of his University City campus in Caracas. The Aula Magna houses Alexander Calder’s sculptural Acoustic Ceiling, completed in 1953 and known locally as “Nubes” (clouds) or “Platillos voladores” (flying saucers). The work was commissioned by Villanueva to be suspended above the audience in order to correct the acoustics of the hall. Although designed in consultation with pioneering American acoustic engineering firm Bolt Beranek & Newman, the ceiling was fabricated in Caracas by local artists, artisans, and technicians. Some of those involved in its fabrication included skilled boat builders who migrated from Portugal to Venezuela, attracted to the country’s oil-fueled mid-twentieth century construction boom, while the current economic collapse of the country has produced a marked reversal of migration. 

Deeply embedded in the afterlives of iconic modernist artworks, Navas’ sculptures, installations, and performances often trace the use and misuse of such works over time as they are circulated as reproductions and appropriated, away from the site and context of their original making. For Cuando las nubes eran las olas, Navas’ research focuses attention on the production history of the Aula Magna and its Acoustic Ceiling, interweaving analysis of its material and architectural properties with its social and sonic history in an exploration of the psychoacoustic potential of sculpture. 

Courtesy of the artist.


When the Clouds Were Waves: Ana Navas in conversation with Vic Brooks. December 2020

Presented By

EMPAC 2019–23



Production Credits

Supported by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts. Commissioned in collaboration with the Calder Foundation. Special thanks to IRCAM for residency support.