Inflation

“Inflation” is an ongoing project from last semester where I explored issues of inflation, economically speaking, with the artistic practice of making inflatables. Statistics state that there is a specific threshold where when individuals pay more than a certain percentage of their income on fuel and food, they will begin to revolt. Through “Inflation” I wanted to create a similar physical experience where individuals are forced out of their comfort zone by “inflation”.

I am strongly drawn to the idea of inflatables because of their malleable properties. Not only can they represent the ever grown inflation of the GDP, but they also can represent the idea of a “bubble”, slowly growing to the point of bursting. While this project initially started as a more illustrative idea, I am now considering how to adapt it to film, which would help elevate several technical issues I was having with the materials.

To begin with I was first drawn to the media of inflatables because I wanted to work on a larger scale without worrying about creating an armature within the object. Inflating the objects with air would also allow for them to be easily transported and set up in alternative locations.

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Above: Sketch of possible installation involving soft sculpture oil drum which could be used as a chair.

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I started with a couple of rough mockups to figure out the methodology of creating an inflatable. This version 1.0, was made out of a drop cloth and filled with constant air flow from a box fan. The scale is 40% larger than a typical oil drum, exploring the idea of inflation of fuel and the GDP.

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While drop clothes are very easy to fill with air, they come in a limited color palette. So I ordered a bunch of VCP (used for home made rafts), which is the same material that Claire Ashley uses in her inflatables. During this time I interviewed her for a class, and went to see her work in Chicago to get a better idea of how she made her own work. I had a lot of technical issues with sealing the soft sculpture so that it would not leak back out. The seams are sewn on a machine, and then I used a sealer which is used to water proof seal rips on air rafts. In theory it should not have leaked and held in air without a constant air flow, but there seemed to be too many leaks from the needle stitches. Additionally the fabric was too heavy for a box fan, or for a heat sealer to seal it shut without stitching.

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During the time I was working on these projects I was listening to “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” on audio book, which is hypothesized to be about economics. I was planning on setting up a show in a gallery on campus where this inflatable would block gallery viewers from traveling into the space (similar to Anish Kapoor) so that when the gallery wasn’t being used for a visiting artist’s performance, that it would be blocked off, physically impeding on the gallery space and the viewer’s experience of the gallery. Unfortunately the piece would not stay inflated long enough for the event, and the event tied to it (having a visiting artist come to do a performance) had to be post-poned a semester anyways.

Now that I am taking a class on Intermedia, and that I’ve switched to Time Arts, I am instead considering turning this piece into a video piece. That way the project could still be easily transported and manipulated to fill up a large space, but I wouldn’t have to worry about the technical issues of the original materials staying inflated. I am instead thinking of turning this into a wall projection where a programmed video reacts to the presence of the viewer. Rather than being illustrative, the piece would then have a cause/effect relationship with the viewer, which would mime that of real world economics.

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