For Burning Man 2019 in collaboration with my theme camp, Electric Koolaid Vision Quest, I helped realize our dream of creating a room filled with balloons for participants to play in.

Balloon room

Participants were asked to remove sharp objects and shoes, then directed to enter a netted area where they could experience a room filled with white balloons. Lights in the walls and ceiling lit the balloons and room, while speakers immersed them in a wash of sound.

Five light/soundscape environments were programmed for this project:

  • Sunrise
  • Cloudscape (soundscape)
  • Underwater
  • Bloodflow
  • Rainbow (silent)

The last one is a silent rainbow fade to provide a sound-free experience if the participant is overwhelmed by sound. A custom control box with 5 buttons was fabricated and allowed participants to select the environment they wished to experience.

Balloon room controller

In each environment (except the last one), the balloons were re-contextualized as spheres from a different physical scale: dew drops for the Sunrise, fluffy white clouds for the Cloudscape, bubbles for Underwater, and blood cells for Bloodflow.

Participants could experience the balloons however they wished (though we did request that people not get too frisky in the room) and came up with simple games and interactions over the course of the six days the installation was active. Some people popped the balloons, both intentionally and otherwise. At least one person made the empirical discovery that belly flops don’t work like they do in ball pits. Some people drew on the balloons with sharpies. Mostly, people just had fun and played.

Participants playing in the balloon room

Camp members had to maintain the balloon supply, filling over 4000 balloons over the course of the event.

My contributions included light design & programming, graphic design, electronics wiring and fabrication, sound design & production.

Soundscapes for this piece were designed, performed, and recorded by me on a Korg Minilogue with Audacity. Birdsong field recordings were provided by Carly Nix and recorded in Bethel, VT.

Saphron in balloons