…that floaty feeling…: Balloon chamber

Some video and notes from a current show at Fringe Exhibitions in LA entitled: ‘…that floaty feeling…’ (press release in previous post). The show features three recent works. This post will cover one of the pieces entitled: balloon chamber. (three videos below).

A 14x14x14 netted (fish netting) chamber of Mylar and latex balloons. Mylars are approximately 51” in length and 18” wide, and are filled with helium/sulfur hexafluoride (four times heavier than air)/air/bells/pingpong balls/seeds. The Mylars are intended to hover and respond by moving and making sound in response to air movement in the gallery. Their shape, gas content, and solid objects inside of them create interesting movements. Pink, 41″ latex balloons are filled with air/bells/seeds/superballs, and other sound emitting objects. The floor is carpeted (was supposed to include water beds but water conservation regulations in LA forbade that). Four clusters of 100 Blue LEDs that pulse in response to changes in the emf within the room are on the upper corners of the netting. Custom charge detection circuitry control the LED pulsations.

Visitors are requested to remove their shoes, enter the netted chamber, and push the large latex balloons to make space for themselves. Touching the latex causes them to brush against the carpet and build up static charge. The Mylars are constantly stirred by oscillating fans and pedestrian movement that cause them to brush up against the latex, pick up charge, and then generate change in the overhead blue LED clusters flashing patterns when they get close to them (detail video below). Clusters of Blue LEDs each have emf sensors that respond to changes in charge.

Carpet, fish netting,balloons: latex and mylar, oscillating fans, clusters of blue leds, emf detector/circuitry to control the pulsations of the clusters of leds, bells, shells, superballs, plastic eggs, ping-pong balls,seeds, beans, helium, air, oscillating fans.

Four clusters of 100 blue LEDs each are outfitted with emf (pos/neg charge detectors). The floor is carpeted. Visitors are asked to remove their shoes and must move the latex balloons around to make space for themselves. Latex is an insulator. Charge builds up on the latex. Mylar is a conductor. Mylar balloons bump the latex and visitors and float up toward the Blue LEDs, affecting the pos/neg charge, and altering the flashing patterns of the LEDs (detail video below).

Balloons are filled with shells, superballs, bells, plastic eggs, ping-pong balls, seeds, and beans. When they move they rattle and thunder.

a few people in the chamber:

the opening, no sound:
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NBhPpZz28GE[/youtube]emf/balloon/LED detail (sped up to illustrate effect):
[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RJJBibDY80E[/youtube]Some notes on the balloon chamber I made the day after the opening>>

should have called the middle piece ‘fish don’t have architecture’. the heavy latex balloons function as discrete objects and people who lie on the floor can use them to make temporary spaces/shelters to gaze up and interact with the floating mylar balloons.

Visitors seem to enter the space and pick up the latex first; throwing them around – it seems that if there are others in the space visitors spend most of their time bashing each other, then, if
they spend more time in the room, they settle onto the floor, repositioning the latex balloons as ‘architectural elements’ – using the latex as dividers as mentioned above, but they can sense others doing the same – the tranquility of the piece stifles talking, but, as any action in the space resonates through the balloons (the space is full of balloons so any movement requires moving a balloon, we have non-verbal interactions with visitors trying to make their own spaces with the communal latex. one can also close one’s eyes, and feel/hear the activities within the chamber – as the balloons make sounds when they move, and as the latex carry quite a bit of static charge, and the Mylars, filled with helium, produce a curious effect on the ears – hard to explain but if you’ve been around large helium balloons you’ve probably noticed that volumes of helium, when close to the ears, seem to produce a change in pressure that lasts for a few minutes.. my point is that visitors expressed that they could appreciate the piece with their eyes open or closed.

the opening was a zoo – there is video of it below, without sound…. i was so lucky to meet amy caterina in the space without anyone else the next morning so we could experience the more complex elements of the work – which i didn’t mention to her, and, frankly, given the tumult of the opening thought were impossible to experience, but she found them herself, without my prompting. she mentioned that when she first entered the gallery she found the ‘intimacy’ of the piece intimidating – she admitted that at first she wanted to avoid it. When she entered the piece she spent a moment or two thrashing, but quickly settled onto the floor and spent her time exploring the work quietly. She spent almost an hour in the room while I was doing some other things, quietly, in the gallery. we talked about it afterwards and her experience made me think that the piece has succeeded in creating a delicate, interactive, slow-paced, collaborative ‘event-space’. Amy said, and her actions proved, that if visitors spent time in the chamber the piece unfolded in many interesting ways. There were many elements to explore – visual, aural, haptic, etc. thanks amy.

I recall meeting with some early visitors to the show who didn’t recognize the piece as interactive, which was interesting. The elements of the work were intentionally simple, but I was after a complex result with carefully chosen elements designed to interact with each other and with visitors to support the intention of the piece (described above), without focusing on any specific technology. There was custom circuitry controlling the lights by reading emf that was affected by the movement of static charge from carpet to latex to mylar, but I didn’t make those elements the subject of the piece, because I had something else I wanted to create. The reports from the gallery are, thus far, that the piece is being received well, and I’m glad to hear it.