24 September 2017

Balloons Pt 3 - Illuminate Wagga Installation

Here are a few shots from the actual installation of the balloons.

The reflections were almost my favourite part.
Up in Wagga Wagga for the Illuminate Festival on the banks for the Murrumbidgee river, the actual install for this was not quite as seamless as I’d hoped.  I had imagined a nice slow moving body of water with two buoys in place at either end and that it would be a simple matter of taking them out one by one to pop them into place. Pootle out with our boat full of balloons and causally clip them into place as we cruised down the line. For a big river the Murrumbidgee flows surprisingly fast (faster than I can swim anyway) and the site we were allocated “the Rocks” was a short section of rapids so the motor boat we had borrow wasn’t as useful as we’d hoped. Between the rapids, our marginal boating skills, and all the string and electrical cable we were laying out in the river were the boat ended up being more of a liability than anything else and, after tangling one of the lines in the propellor and nearly losing a balloon, we ended we abandoned the power boat and moved on to Plan B. 

“Plan B” was Greg paddling everything in with his inflatable canoe. Greg was just able to paddle fast enough to make headway up-stream but the moment he would stop paddling to try and tie a knot or clip on a balloon he would either be swept off downstream or sometimes hilariously capsized. 

“Plan C” we hadn’t really considered up until that point but basically it involved swimming the whole lot in instead, and given Greg’s recent efforts, it seemed only fair that it was might turn now to tackle the icy torrent. With snow still sitting in the hills at the rivers source, the water was properly Baltic, and given the speed it was moving I had to walk a hundred or so meters up stream and then just swim like hell out past the rapids with a rope between my teeth to try and reach the line we’d installed down the middle of the river. Once there, you’d have to feel your way down the line as the river dragged you along until you managed to find one of the to the attachment points we’d preinstalled. At that point, with one hand holding the central line to stop you being swept downstream, you had to make between using your other hand to tie then knot or paddling to keep your head above water.  If you let go of the line with your other hand you’d immediately just be swept downstream and have to start all over again. After a few abandoned attempts, the best way seemed to be to take a deep breath and then just let the river suck you under while you tied your knot or attached your shackle (or whatever your task was on that particular run). Once you’d done all that and caught your breath, you’d then have to swim back through the rapids to the bank, defrost for a moment in the sun (thankfully it was a sunny day) and then do it all again, and again… and again.  Rinse, tumble, defrost, repeat. I was so glad by the end of the afternoon that we’d gone for just four balloons rather than the eight we’d initially considered.

We didn’t even bother connecting the waterwheel I’d made which I’d designed to generate a nice graceful up-down sinusoidal motion in the balloons. After all the time Id spent getting it to work it was obvious that it was all for nought as the rapids were had their own movement pattern in mind for balloons that we couldn’t hope to compete with. So we just set the water-wheel up on the bank and the nice ploonky-plunk noises it made provided a pleasing soundtrack for the whole thing.

As the sun set on and afternoon of icy hilarity everything was in place and the lighting test that went pretty smoothly. A few hours noodling with the computer to get the light sequence right was relatively painless. To control the lights, I just ended up using Isadora sending DMX Out through an Enttec. The setup was based on the setup I’d built earlier to control the lights in Balance, but tweaked to give me live control over various aspects of the light sequence so that I could fairly easily control the speed of the changing colours and send pulses of colour down the line of balloons.

 You really dont get much of a sense fo scale with these as theyre so far out in the river but each of them was roughly the size of a small car.

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