One of the most spectacular sights I saw at the 2015 London Design Festival was Heartbeat, an installation of 100,000 white balloons at Covent Garden. Arguably not a work of design at all, but an art installation (and instant tourist attraction!), the work is simple, bold and works wonderfully well. I had seen photographs of the work before I went, but in person, the work is even better, extending beyond the eye can see (over 50 metres) and rippling with the wind, reminding the viewer that this is a cluster of balloons and not a solid sculpture.
The work is part of a series of photographs by French photographer Charles Pétillon who calls his series Invasions. In each scene, the white balloon is used, transforming a simple, childlike object into a an amorphous shape that changes our perception of the scene. In each photograph, the white balloons can be imagined as a white cloud, or a growth, depending on your perception, hence “invading” the scene.
On the Covent Garden website, Pétillon says: “The balloon invasions I create are metaphors. Their goal is to change the way in which we see the things we live alongside each day without really noticing them. With Heartbeat I wanted to represent the Market Building as the beating heart of this area – connecting its past with the present day to allow visitors to re-examine its role at the heart of London’s life.
“Each balloon has its own dimensions and yet is part of a giant but fragile composition that creates a floating cloud above the energy of the market below. This fragility is represented by contrasting materials and also the whiteness of the balloons that move and pulse appearing as alive and vibrant as the area itself.”
Below I have also reproduced some of Charles Pétillon’s other images in the Invasions series. My favourite is the one with the house and the one in the forest but they are all great!
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