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Friday, July 12,2013

‘Air’ born

European ‘luminarium’ alights at Common Ground

by Kali Jo Wolkow
Kali Jo Wolkow/City Pulse

Friday, July 12 — Eight people, six months and 10 miles of hand-sewn seams add up to one Exxopolis, a “luminarium” art piece that’s the key sideshow event at Common Ground this weekend.

IMG_4096.JPG“Everything you see is (based on) geometry in nature or monumental buildings,” Kimlin Lucas said, one of the eight builders behind the piece. “People describe it as being like one of those inflatable (jump houses), except for adults. But it’s a calm environment. We encourage people to sit (or) lie down a while. You can even bring a book.”

Architects of Air, the company behind the piece, was founded by Alan Parkinson, a U.K. artist began experimenting with inflatable sculptures in the 1980s. Exxopolis is a 20th anniversary creation of the original version and is the largest to date. Almost 155 feet high and roughly 92 feet long, the piece takes up a soccer field-sized patch of land on the east side of the Grand River.

IMG_4085.JPGThis lava lamp-meets-beach ball art inflatable art structure is a psychedelic maze of loops, turns and nooks. No artificial lighting is used. All of the panels in the custom-built plastic walls have varying degrees of translucency to them, allowing the walk-through sculpture to glow in different colors in sunlight.

The idea behind the pneumatic structure was to create a dance performance space specifically designed for those with special needs. When Parkinson found that others were interested in his designs, well, you could say the idea just ballooned from there.

IMG_3944.JPGThe Architects of Air luminariums have been exhibited in 43 countries, but this is one of only 11 appearances it will make in North America. And it already seems to be quite the hit. After it was inflated Friday afternoon, one of the first visitors was a child who cried and begged not to leave.


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