Making the invisible visible – An interview with Plastique Fantastique
Berlin-based art group Plastique Fantastique creates temporary architectural installations that transform and blur the borders between public and private spheres.
When we think of architecture we immediately think of a robust, firm, solid structure made of strong, tangible materials. Its main function is to fulfill the nature of human habitation, but what if I told you air can accomplish the same?
While nature has given us strong materials such as wood and stone to use in our structures, men, on the other hand, created plastic to use in a variety of manners, one of which is to give air a shape, something we commonly know as ‘inflatables’. As time progresses, we realize more and more the importance of having multifunctional spaces that are not only habitable, but also help avoid waste and, if possible, avoid the saturation of our urban fabric and respect our surroundings. Having this in mind, many architects, artists, and designers are trying to build structures that are versatile, non-intrusive and lightweight each time, but there is an artistic group in particular that take this to another level and creates practical and rationally designed solutions that sample the performative possibilities of urban environments: Plastique Fantastique.
Established in 1999, this Berlin-based art group directed by Marco Canevacci (a.k.a Dr. Trouble), and Yena Young (a.k.a Ms. Bubble), experiments with public architectural works to create spatial experiences across different cities. Influenced by the unique circumstances that make cities their laboratory, Plastique Fantastique investigates alternative, adaptable, low energy spaces for temporary and ephemeral activities.
Their transparent, lightweight, and mobile installations are like giant bubbles that take different shapes while immediately catching people’s attention and creating a temporary focal point in a city. These installations involve people in creative process and not only modify the subject’s appearance, but also alter the perception of spaces citizens are accustomed to. Curious to know more about their ephemeral installations with such an ‘airy’ material, DesignWanted interviewed Plastique Fantastique and learned more about the artistic group, their creative process, and how they make the invisible visible.
How did the journey for Plastique Fantastique begin? Why focus on the city as a laboratory for temporary spaces?
Plastique Fantastique: “We are Berlin-based artists running Plastique Fantastique together. Plastique Fantastique was founded in Berlin in 1999 when the city had much potential and space for urban interventions. Inflatables are alternative, adaptable, and low energy spaces for temporary activities. These light membrane structures are easy to transport, set up and dismantle. They activate the neglected corners of the city, involving the citizens in the creative process.”
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Plastique Fantastique installations sample the performative possibilities of urban environments by activating and creating in public space, involving citizens. Which are the main values and core concepts that will always represent the studio and yourself?
Plastique Fantastique: “Our projects are site-specific and developed in a playful approach. We like to offer a physical temporary frame, where to merge people with a specific environment. Once the installation is over, the artwork dissolves but keeps enduring memories achieved through the unique experience. Our medium is air, which is invisible but essential: it is air which makes inflatables, not plastic.”
In the ‘Bolshaya Peshka’ project presentation, there is a quote by Marcel Duchamp introducing the project: “all chess players are artists”. Which designers or artists are you inspired by?
Plastique Fantastique: “Our social/spatial relationships – how we recognize the transparent layer between public and private space, how we react and interact with the space throughout our daily lives, and how we adapt ourselves to the new situation, such as Covid-19 – are the subjects that inspire us at the moment.”
Many works by Plastique Fantastique were internationally acclaimed and exhibited worldwide. How do you choose which project to work on?
Plastique Fantastique: “An interesting location (city district and its people) to be inspired, artistic context, warm-hearted collaborators to have fun together, and freedom to explore our ideas are the key points that we would like to have for a project.”
The installations made by Plastique Fantastique are of great visual impact and allow visitors to enter into their space. What kind of reaction do you receive when people interact with your creations?
Plastique Fantastique: “The first reaction when one sees our works is to come nearer and touch the bubble sensing the tight air pressure, like a kid who sees a balloon for the first time in his life. Then he comes in and realizes the air feels the same even though he is inside a bubble. He gets used to the new environment and starts to believe that he is indoor even though he might be outdoor in the city.”
Having most recently done the Mobile Personal Protective Space for doctors, what is the next step for Plastique Fantastique?
Plastique Fantastique: “iSphere project got so much reaction from the public and we are developing it further. It started as an art performance project exploring the mutation of our social life after Covid-19 and now we are planning to create the first 500 pieces for the public. A new website for some objects from us will be coming up soon (not yet ready) and it is called: www.dr-bubble.com“
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