Story by Karen Wong, New Museum deputy director and A+ Awards juror.
This past December, Snarkitecture made a splash at Design Miami with its audacious inflatable tubes, which created an oversized canopy at the entrance to the eighth annual international design fair. In the spring of 2011, Snarkitecture partners Daniel Ashram and Alex Mustenon caught my eye with their intervention "Dig!" at the Storefront for Art and Architecture. The designers filled the iconic wedge gallery with styrofoam, and then they, friends, and interlopers carved out crevices, rooms, and skylights to create a new typology of interior-igloo wonderland.
So in January, I approached Snarkitecture with an odd request: Could they bring their flair for the temporal to the New Museum's Spring Gala? This benefit event attracts a discerning crowd of 600, which this year would include honoree Christian Marclay, as well as artists John Baldessari, Annie Leibowitz, George Condo, Cindy Sherman, Marilyn Minter, and John Waters. The venue: Cipriani Wall Street in Downtown New York City. Read more.
Snarkitecture's installation at Design Miami. Photo by Architizer's own Marc Kushner
The commission was fraught with peril and ripe with possibility—the landmark building, former home to the New York Stock Exchange, trumpets Greek revival architecture with 70-foot ceilings and detailing that one can safely categorize as ornate.
Fortunately, Snarkitecture said yes, and the firm's resulting intervention, "Lift," which debuted at the party last night, was simple and dramatic. The installation comprised 44 spherical balloons—measuring 7 feet in diameter and filled with 9,000 cubic feet of helium—which were attached to rope and harnessed by 44 performers. The crew members, dressed in black and gloved, staged a variety of movements by raising and lowering their balloon throughout the evening, resulting in a hovering ceiling, a ripple wave, a cascading fall.
What we got last night: poetry in motion.
Photos: Jesse Untracht-Oakner, unless otherwise noted