Legendary artist Christo‘s newest project, Big Air Project, is more than just big. Even ‘huge’ would be an understatement. At nearly 300 feet tall Big Air Package could possibly be the largest indoor work of art ever. Housed in a venue that was once a gas holder, the project is exactly as its title describes it. Big Air Package is a massive inflated cylinder with no hard underlying structure – a giant balloon. The project’s press release explains how it functions:
“Two air fans creating a constant pressure of 27 pascal (0.27 millibar) keep the package upright. Airlocks allow visitors to enter the package. Illuminated through the skylights of the Gasometer and 60 additional projectors, the work of art creates a diffuse light throughout the interior.” [via]
Inflatables have had an important place in Max Streicher’s work since 1989. In most of his sculptures and installations he has used industrial fans and simple valve mechanisms to animate sewn forms with lifelike gestures. His use of light and papery materials, like Tyvek (and more recently nylon spinnaker), have been significant to the character of their development, specifically to his focus on movement. The weightlessness of this material allows it to respond with surprising subtlety to the action of air within it. Streicher uses air to animate his work because it provides an effortless naturalism. It not only looks right, it feels right, recollecting our sensation of breath.
Inflatables are the medium of enchantment, fantasy and optimism, but things do go wrong. Take the Hindenburg, for example. Macy’s Parade balloon characters occasionally crash into the crowd. In Streicher’s work the distress behind the whimsy takes different forms. Scale is one factor. The giants, for example, are intended to overwhelm. In contrast to similar commercial counterparts, they are out of control. They appear to struggle, but why and to what end? However that sense of disruption is read also depends on what the individual viewer brings to the work. For some, gasping for breath, endlessly straining to rise, portray an image of playfulness, and even resurrection, while for others it is distinctly an image of torture. Both cases however involve physical empathy, a bodily recognition of the elemental—powerful and tenuous—forces that animate us all. (via)