Wednesday, 28 January 2009

Up Up and Away!

Years ago a friend gave me a hot tip – When traveling, always carry some party balloons.

This seemed like rather odd advice at the time, but has since proved invaluable. On my travels I have used balloons as emergency water bottles, rubber bands and pillows, but have found that they are most valuable as a way of engaging with people.

As a joyful gift to a begging child, as a welcome diversion for a whole carriage of people playing “keepy uppy” on a crowded train, as a distraction for a crying baby silenced by a magic ball of color floating through the air, as a make-do for a spontaneous game of beach vollyball.

Balloons embody a sense of wonder and magic that doesn’t diminish with age, wealth or geography, and enable people to come together in a somehow neutral way to share in a fun and magical experience.

The magic of balloons was harnessed for a large collaborative performance piece in Singapore and later for London by Haque Design and Research.

The Burble is held down to the ground by the combined weight of the crowds holding on to the handle bar. They may position it as they like. They may curve in on themselves, or pull it in a straight line - the form is a combination of the crowd's desires and the impact of wind currents varying throughout the height of the Burble.

As people on the ground shake and pump the handle bars of the Burble, they see their movements echoed as colours through the entire system. Part installation, part performance, the Burble enables people to contribute at an urban scale to a structure that occupies their city, albeit for only one night.

Burble London from haque d+r on Vimeo.

The Atom Performance from Electric Moons, Christopher Bauder and Robert Henke builds on the concept of Baloon Ballet and creates a moody performance using gas balloons, lights and sound.

“A room is filled with deep, evolving noises from a four-channel sound system. An eight-by-eight array of white, self-illuminated spheres floats in space like the atoms of a complex molecule.”

Like this somewhat sinister performance, clearly balloons aren’t always benign - as demonstrated by the recent Superbowl Coke commercial - these guys clearly have their own agendas.

They’re not really balloons, but the menagerie of inflatable sculptures from Joshua Allen Harris, seen recently in the streets and subways of New York, share similar characteristics. Created mostly from garbage bags, his works are tethered to vents and fans, and lie dormant until the shifting air currents of the city breath life into them - then they come alive with movement and action as they draw attention to the hidden systems of the city.

A similarly elegant and organic sculpture debuted recently at the R/C airship regatta in Friedrichshafen, Germany.

Air Art from flip on Vimeo.

FinFish seems like it might be an early version of a new version air ship as envisioned in Manned Cloud by Jean-Marie Massaud (as seen in Dezeen) - Perhaps showing greater opportunity to not just travel the world with balloons in the future, but in them.

1 comment:

  1. I think you'll like these cool biomimicry jelly fish and manta ray airships made by a German automation firm Festo to promote their crazy robotics/automation technologies.