July 29, 2021

in Metz, an inflated exhibition

It is a story that has not been told since 1968. That year, the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris presented the first and last major exhibition on inflatable structures in France. These large soft shapes, light, transparent, cheap to produce, then aroused a phenomenal craze among artists, architects, in industry and even in the army who, with its inflatable tanks intended to deceive the enemy , was not the least creative in the matter. But the frenzy only lasted a while, a hallucinatory parenthesis opened at the end of the 1950s and closed as dry by the crisis of 1973.

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Objective explanation: the explosion in the price of plastics and their derivatives has made their production much less attractive. But such a radical disappearance undoubtedly has other causes. If inflatables colonized the visual field of the 1960s to such an extent, it is because their futuristic pop look stuck with the unbridled optimism of the “glorious thirties”. In the context of the crisis, it no longer corresponded to anything. All that remained for these balloons was to deflate, and to gather dust for eternity in the radius of the curiosities of pop culture.

Joyful and libertarian alternative

It is to Frédéric Migayrou and Valentina Moimas that we owe them to have taken them out and retrace their epic in a dizzying, playful and dense exhibition, whose scenography propels you into the frenzy of the 1960s. at the Center Pompidou-Metz that it is held, until August 23. In the fall, we will find her in Paris, at the Cité de l’Architecture. Aerodream. Architecture, design and inflatables brings together an insanely rich body of work, focused on this decade which was that of the inflatable but wide open to the world, linking the United States to Japan, Austria to England, France to Italy … A quantity invigorating objects floating in space, rare archives, visual and sound documents, each more fascinating than the next, which echo each other without ever repeating each other and together revive the whole spirit of an era.

The inflatable expresses the progress of science as much as the rejection of industrial society, the extension of the field of drugs and that of the artistic field, sexual liberation and the blossoming of an ecological conscience… As a low- architecture tech, mobile, without foundation, it presents a joyful and libertarian alternative to the modern project, to the sadness of concrete, to air-conditioned hell, which will have seduced even Frank Lloyd Wright, the master of organic architecture, who produced at the end of his life a wonderful series of residential bubbles that glow in the night like fireflies. At a time when plastic was not yet considered an environmental scourge, these light and inexpensive structures, perfectly insulating, were perceived as ecologically virtuous. They nourished the utopias of Frei Otto, Richard Buckminster Fuller, Cedric Price and Archigram, inspired architects with increasingly exuberant forms, including the 1970 Osaka Universal Exhibition, an explosion of mushroom-like structures in sparkling colors. , was in a way the final bouquet.

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