Object lessons

Nancy Davidson considers an amorphous object that has shaped her career

Art
Video still from Nancy Davidson's 1999 'Breathless' featuring a weather balloon (Courtesy Nancy Davidson)
Video still from Nancy Davidson's 1999 'Breathless' featuring a weather balloon (Courtesy Nancy Davidson)

Weather Balloon

Like architecture, the history of sculpture is heavily weighted by permanence, monumentality, and memorial. In the early ’90s, I was reading [Mikhail] Bakhtin and thinking about the grotesque and the carnivalesque— intrigued with the humor and chaos of these spaces and the place of the viewer. I wanted to work larger and manage the weight of sculpture myself. In a eureka moment I sent for a weather balloon. The moment I blew it up, I immediately knew it was the perfect material: ephemeral, erotic, funny, absurd, and huge. A body with flesh and very importantly a body of parts… bulbous parts that all bodies have. The bulging “flesh” subverts common stereotypes: “Big is beautiful” riffs on minimalism’s “less is more.” The inflation nozzles are ambiguous, phallic yet receptive in function.

My roots of influence begin with the art of the ’60s’ attitude toward new materials, and the exhilaration of something-out-of-nothing propels me forward. My work reaches for the regenerative pleasure of touch, the fragility of creation, and the spectacle of the body as form. Inflatables evoke both human anatomy and the human condition: the struggle with gravity, the flimsy materials, the delicate stasis between inflation and contraction.

Object Lessons is a new collaboration between AN and Façadomy that asks a diverse range of designers and artists to reflect on an object (material or otherwise) that has made a significant impact on their practice. Through personal anecdotes from notable practitioners, the series highlights the myriad ways in which the built environment informs our identities.

Curated by Riley Hooker/Façadomy

Related Stories