A lot of my friends currently live in London for school and for work. When French photographer Charles Pétillon debuted his series Invasions in Magda Danysz Gallery there, I was insanely jealous everyone else got to see it while I was stuck in Hong Kong. Beautiful pictures began popping up on Instagram, reminding me of what I was missing. But in a strange twist of events, I discovered that Invasions was debuting in Shanghai during the period I was visiting the city in early June.
Pétillon’s main balloon installation spans across an entire gallery space, a feat that would be out of the question in Hong Kong given the lack of land here. I couldn’t miss it. Although I would’ve preferred to see Invasions on a weekday where it would inevitably be less crowded, my short stay in Shanghai was limited to the weekend, so I chanced my visit early on Sunday morning.
The exhibition was empty when I arrived. But after an hour or so, girls with their friends, boyfriends and mothers (!) began flooding in to take photos after photos for their Wechat and Weibo platforms. Pétillon’s Invasions in Magda Danysz Gallery was a success. So much that weeks after my visit, when I checked back in on social media, the white balloons of the main installation had all wilted from the constant physical contact from visitors.
Do the wilted balloons mean a lack of respect for the art? Either way, it is undeniably funny – maybe sadly so, but still funny. And whether or not the visitors who contributed to the mess really wanted to seek out the meaning behind Pétillon’s work, Invasions in Magda Danysz Gallery has no doubt been successful in garnering attention in London and in Shanghai.
So without further ado, let me tell you the formula for making your own art just as successful as Pétillon’s – otherwise known as the 3 Essential Ingredients for a Balloon Takeover.
1. Make it white
Speaking as a self-proclaimed #whiteaddict as a design fiend, I would suggest using white for your work. It is a neutral colour that is handily girly. Of course, Pétillon’s balloons have actual reasons for being white. The lack of colour is a representation of impartiality and emptiness.
2. Make it big
If there’s one thing that makes a statement, it would be size. Invasions first debuted in London with an installation called Heartbeat consisting of 100,000 white balloons that swamped Covent Garden Market from floor to ceiling. Art surprises, shocks, and engages. It makes you gape. It makes you angry. It makes you think. The empty white baubles of Invasions in Magda Danysz Gallery definitely captures the attention of the public.
Scroll down to the next section for the last point…
Apart from the overbearing white balloons taking over the exhibition space, Pétillon’s Invasions in Magda Danysz Gallery also features his past physical installations from all around the world in a series of photographs. In every shot, a cluster of empty baubles overflows otherwise insignificant spaces, like a vacant house or an empty basketball court.
3. Make it art (give it meaning)
Did you know that the main spiral of white that viewers walk into when they visit Invasions in Magda Danysz Gallery aims to replicate a vortex representative of a life never-ending?
Yes, it’s more than just an Instagram-worthy snapshot.
Using the balloon, a universal and accessible object, Pétillon highlights forgotten spaces all over the globe, from small towns in France to beaches in England to mountains in Italy. He touches on issues surrounding the way humans interact with nature and addresses the disappearance of certain environments. The resulting photographs are eerily creepy.
You can do the same. Make sure your own work has a back story. It doesn’t have to be life-changing, it can simply be a self-reflection. Anything goes.
Although Invasions in Magda Danysz Gallery Shanghai is over, it will return for the last time to Paris from 3 December 2016 to 21 January 2017. If you happen to be spending Christmas and New Years there, be sure to check out Pétillon’s work for yourself.
Magda Danysz Gallery
188 Lin Qing Road, Yangpu District, Shanghai
+021 5513 9599
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