Ant Farm, »50 x 50’ Pillow«, Temporary installation, Freestone, California 1970, Photograph: Chip Lord/ Courtesy University of California, Berkeley, Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

The early years of ballooning saw hobby builders tinkering with daring flying machines. Their designs and experiments document the fantasies of possibility and applicability that developed around this new technology. From the 1960s on, inflatables began exploring new architectural and societal forms. Groups of young architects used these light and mobile structures to react to the political challenges of the day, inspired by space travel, cybernetics, and hippy culture. Against the backdrop of increasing critiques of urbanization and environmental contamination, they created ecological, self-regulating spaces. Inflatable environments thus provided space for nomadic forms of coexistence.

Pneumatic bubbles works demonstrate the way in which practical knowledge about inflatables is related to military interests. More than anything else, however, contemporary art works support an attitude of experimentation and a do-it-together spirit. They demonstrate how to build inflatables, invite you to gather in temporary spaces, and provide humorous and playful tools of protest.