Artistically, balloons have been associated with a childlike exuberance and a playful spontaneity—take a look at Jeff Koons’ balloon animals or Charles Pétillon’s balloon cloud installations—so it is refreshing to see Studio TADAOCERN’s new project, Black Balloons, eschewing bright colors and jumbled formations for an all-black palette and strictly disciplined compositions. What the result lacks in fanfare and cheerfulness, as black balloons float into space in diametrically opposed, geometrical configurations, it more than makes up in hypnotic and magical power.
Born out of Lithuanian architect-cum-artist Tadao Cern’s fixation to connect two balloons and spurred by his “childlike sense of discovery”, the experimentation produced such overwhelming results that he decided to evolve it into a more ambitious project. Using two different gasses, helium and sulfur hexafluoride—the former lighter than air, the other heavier—he managed to create a sculptural equilibrium where two balloons float in space connected with a metallic string in opposition to each other. This motif was then used to create considerably more elaborate configurations, some of which comprised of more than 400 balloons, meticulously arranged with great geometrical precision in rows or grids. Alternatively, they are displayed inside glass tanks where they float without any kind of support, a technique Cern devised especially for the project.
Although seemingly simple, the installations reveal a series of contradictions—lightness and heaviness, attraction and repulsion, corporeality and immateriality—constituting a hypnotic balance that feels both enduring, due to the solid blackness of the balloons, and fleeting, due to their ephemeral nature, which is in fact the case as the installations have a limited lifespan. Further enhancing this sense of precarious equilibrium, visitors, by moving though the space, create subtle drafts that can gently sway the balloons undermining the rigidness of the configurations. With their minimal yet intricate engineering and reductive yet rich visual language, Black Balloons definitely embody Cern’s motto that "simplicity is genius”.