I was sold on BLOW UP: An Inflatable Art Show one nanosecond after reading the title. A whole room full of inflatable art? Yes. Please. Save me. For at least 10 minutes of my life, let me walk around a room full of bubbly, delightful objects full to bursting with the life-sustaining nothingness of air.
But then, as is usually the case, a conversation with Colleen Louise Barry (the brain behind the small press Mount Analogue), who co-curated the show with Megan Harmon, deepened my understanding of the concept and therefore my enjoyment of life.
Barry told me that visitors will enter the Factory—where the show will be installed this Thursday, July 13, only—through a long, illuminated, translucent, inflatable tunnel created by Seattle Design Nerds, one of four artists presenting work that responds to the idea of "blowing up."
As you walk through the tube, you can bliss out on the lights surrounding you, as if you were traveling through the belly of a giant, cosmic glowworm.
Once you come out the other end, you can select your favorite flavor of Blow Pop (don't take all the watermelon) from an inflatable kiddie pool, or sit in one of the inflatable chairs Barry and Harmon have scattered around the room. Or you can marvel at Amanda James Parker's ceiling of handmade, reflective Mylar balloons as you listen to Peter Dodds piping in the national anthems of nuclear-armed countries and the sounds of "the subterranean impulses recorded by the University of Washington during the latest round of North Korean nuclear weapons tests." On the walls, Guy Merrill will project videos of the sky in various states of destruction and creation. The whole space will pulse with images of apocalypse and ecstasy. You know, like every time you open up Twitter.
"We wanted to do something that felt really playful and colorful and wild and extreme as an act of resistance to the way that everything else feels at the moment," Barry said of her curation process with Harmon. "So it fits in the art series as a moment of us just being like fuck it, let's play together."
"And it fits in with Mount Analogue overall," she added, "as an extreme manifestation of one of our main goals, which is to blow everything up—just kidding—which is to take ourselves seriously but not too seriously."
BLOW UP is the fourth show in Mount Analogue's summer art series. Each iteration of the series embodies something in the literary world that interests Barry. In this case, Skyspace Bouncehouse by Mungo Thomson, the bouncy castle that graced the cover of Sarah Galvin's latest book of poems, Ugly Time, served as Barry's inspiration for this show.
"I feel like inflatables are having a moment," she said, initiating a cascade of puns and metaphorical free-association that I couldn't and wouldn't stop if I wanted to even a little bit.
"There's something really clownish about it, but when you think about the hyphenated word 'blow-up,' it's actually pretty charged as a phrase."
She went on: "It's the destruction of something, but if it's an inflatable thing, or a story, or something on the internet, blowing up is how it comes to life. Sure, it's kind of violent and unpredictable, but it also has this delightful element of surprise."
"When something blows up, it's dead," she added, "but it's never more alive until right before it dies."