There’s a lot going on at Coachella, it’s true. Between the crowds, the music, the art and the constant onslaught of heat and sun, one tends to get a little overwhelmed. So, before I rant about yet another music headliner, I want to mention an installation that instead of frantic over-stimulation, provided a calming sense of transcendence. Day or night, no matter where you were on festival grounds, you could spot three long strings of balloons ascending into the crystal blue sky. Two shot straight outward, the balloons appearing smaller as they reached further away. And one was attached at both ends to the ground, creating a parabolic arch of balloons against sky. The installation, called “Skyline” by Robert Bose, turned the heavens into a canvas: the balloons were the pigment and the wind acted as the brush.
True to form for any good Coachella artwork, Skyline was even better at night. After sunset, tiny, battery powered RGB LED chips attached to each balloon ignited, creating a procession of glowing orbs that reminded me of a kick line of fireflies. Two of the balloon chains employed static, single-color LED lights. But the third chain took the concept a bit further. Bose teamed up with Elemental LED’s lead engineer Joe Martin and artist John “Parts” Taylor to test an iPad-based LED lighting system that wirelessly controlled the balloon chain from afar, allowing it to display different color combinations. “Each balloon had a tiny custom circuit board with two RGB LEDs, a battery, and a radio. They were individually addressed and controllable from over a mile away,” says Martin.
The installation played with perspective and perception—no matter where you stood, the balloons were there, at times seeming miniature and very close, at others appearing huge yet far away. Another function of the waterproof LED lights and the balloons is that they helped concertgoers ascertain the direction of the wind. But mostly, they provided a subtle reprieve from the hectic nature of the event…all you had to do was look up and let the DMX LED lights whisk you away to a calmer place.