Inflate it Yourself

We continue to post results from the workshops organized during the 5th Delai Sam marathon in Moscow. Similar to Brad Downey's, which we wrote about last week, the workshop led by Berlin-based artist and activist Artur van Balen was about sculptures in public spaces; but this time definitely not spontaneous.

Artur was representing the project Tools for Action, famous for creating huge inflatable sculptures for protests. For the last two years, members of the project have been giving master-classes and workshops to teach activists how to create their own inflatable tools for actions. The workshop was held in Moscow and once after Artur left it moved to Novosibirsk where we created sculptures for Monstration and then came back to Moscow to take part in a protest rally on May 6th.


We must admit based on experience that carnavalisation and theatralisation are common trends for many protest movements and rallies around the world. People are fed up with old-fashioned demands and boring slogans against governments or all evil of the world. They have probably realized that you can't change the world with sad faces or without actually building that new world here and now in the city streets and squares.

Inflatable sculptures, which anyone can create by themselves, are a great tactic to unite people and to take back public space; it is also an easy way to get media attention and to share your message with thousands of people.

Inflatable sculptures for rallies are not new. The picture below shows inflatable huts in a parade at the Red Square in 30's. But now, using new materials from hardware and auto-repair shops you can easily create a great object for your upcoming protest or intervention.



You'll need:

  1. Water and air-proof material (like the shiny material used for water proofing or insulating in the house).
  2. Strong, double side tape.
  3. Duct-tape (silver + other colors for details).
  4. Blade and scissors.
  5. Measuring tape.
  6. A pump with car accumulator.
  7. Rope.


In the beginning, brain storm what you are making your sculpture for. What is the main message? Make sure all the participants and people who are actually going to work on the sculpture all support the idea.


Start with sketches and small paper prototypes. Number every part, so you don't get confused later, and measure it carefully. In your drafts remember to leave 2,5 cm for each side to make connections between the pieces using double sided tape. After you've made paper prototype, you'll probably need to make another (bigger) version to test out the material.


An important part is the hole to inflate the sculpture. You can make it out of 5L plastic bottle, cutting it's neck to like a flower. Then, use duct tape to attach it to the hole in material. Think about what side you're making the hole on, so that you can inflate your sculpture on the way to the final event / protest.


After you make your second prototype, you'll probably find some mistakes and parts to upgrade. Add more detail to you final huge sculpture. For bigger objects, you'll need rope to handle the Tool and not let it fly in to the river. You can also use rope inside the sculpture to make a kind of skeleton that will prevent your sculpture from inflating fully—this is important if you need to ensure a flat edge for the object.


The workshop in Novosibirsk was also part of Media Impact activist festival organized at the same time as Monstration— a popular annual art mayday demonstration in Novosibirsk, which became famous for artistic absurd slogans and expanded to many other Russian cities. For its 10th parade, we made a huge axe of peace, an X for the 10th anniversary, and a coin from the US Department of State, symbolizing a new law accusing NGOs funded by international organizations as being foreign agents.


The best way to inflate your sculpture is using a working pump from a car accumulator, which you can carry on a cargo bicycle or shopping cart. Make sure you have duct tape to quickly fix rips and holes which may occur during the demonstration.


The biggest sculpture made during the workshop was a 10 meter long Saw (Pila—in Russian), a symbol of corruption, which we made for a protest march in Moscow.


We want to thank all the participants who made these great sculptures, Artur for coming to Moscow and leading the workshop, all the Delai Sam and Media Impact staff, the Public Post website for great coverage of all our activities, and all the bloggers who photographed and shared pictures that we used for this article.


Tools for Action website: