When I think of balloons, I usually think of the helium variety. They’re like brightly-colored bubbles of optimism that can only be held down to earth by white curling ribbon and mailboxes. But balloons can be so much more. They come in all shapes and sizes, and the size of this balloon is… humongous.
It’s actually the largest balloon in history, or the largest “inflated envelope” if you prefer, but this is a huge bag of gas no matter what you call it. I thought nothing could be bigger than the parachute we played with in P.E. when I was a second grader. Then, I saw a hot air balloon. And now I’m seeing beautiful pictures of this installation by Christo. It’s 90 meters tall! That’s nearly 300 feet, filling the Gasometer Oberhausen‘s dark-walled cylinder with taught, white fabric.
The best part of this work may be that you can go inside the installation. I can only imagine what it would feel like to stand inside and stare into the enormity of the space above. Folks lucky enough to find themselves around Oberhausen between now and the end of 2013 can let the giant white balloon swallow them, at least for a little bit, and experience the expanse for themselves. What’s clear is that this definitely isn’t a helium ballon. It isn’t the sad ballon trapped against a tall ceiling, or the sagging bunch of balloons tied a mailbox days after a birthday party. This is an exploration of space and light where the balloon is as tall as a football field and the ribbon tying the balloon in place is really steel cables to make sure the 5.3 tons of fabric don’t fall back down to earth before the party is over.