extraction of latex [Credit: Jan-Pieter Nap]

A balloon emerges from protection and delerium. Formed from latex, a white prophylactic compound (sometimes coloured), a colloidal suspension, a milky white liquid, an emulsion found in the cells of flowering plants. The latex of the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) is the source of opium and the alkaloid morphine. Latex forms the plants defence system

a barrier forming an envelope, that combine via the condom and its subsidiary use as an inflatable in the balloon.

Latex is the raw material for latex rubber. The milky white fluid is extracted from trees by the process of tapping. Incisions are made into the bark to allow the latex to bleed out into a receptacle.

Rubber is a robust extremely elastic waterproof material hence its application in balloon envelopes and as a barrier in prophylactics and wet weather gear. Rubber tapping is done at night to make use of optimal temperature differences, a term transferred to IT workers who typically work during low usage periods.


Latex as second skin in fetish wear, deriving from the flowing sap, containing the body in a glossy gaze trapping organ of reflections and highlights. This secondary skin has been adopted in the form of the balloon by another group of fetishists calling themselves looners. Their interest and the mediation of the internet through shared photos and videos posted to YouTube as well as social media, the form-shifting and tactile properties of balloons, the varieties of shapes and colours, the jargon of balloon taxonomy and the gamut of performative possibilities all contribute to an involuted lexicon of operations that amounts to an autonomous social system. These are mainly staged by amateurs with some niche uptake by the commercial porn industry. The latter is overtly sexual and lacking in the nuances that the wider looner community have originated. Looner practice has similarities to the production of content and  force by the artworld except the work is distributed via the internet beyond the ambit or horizon of a controlling system such as the art industry.

Public galleries are, in UK, part of the museum and parks arm lumped together as cultural agencies with sport. As containers that display the residue of artists’ activity and machines that stage sanctioned cultural production, they import the world to a constructed social void, a limbo that saps art of its transformative force. Artworks are further diminished when having to vie with the starchitect designed museum and an art industry that in its most  sectors exists only as an investment brokerage.

Two women inflate identical balloons in a polythene lined room while sitting on a bed, one in street clothes and the other in a swimming costume. The balloons jostle each other as they inflate like artworld antagonisms and one woman shields her face in anticipation of the forthcoming rupture. When no mechanical means are employed the balloon is close to the face when it bursts as a mimetic money shot. Harsh fluorescent lights reflect off the balloons and scintillate on the polythene

There is a tension between the static space and its fixed socio-political relations and the developing procedures of art that is resolved by subtle manoeuvres by galleries and artists that compromise the work. The absurd result is an institution that stages its own disappearance while remaining irreducibly viable. State museums are dependent on a wider complex of commercial spaces and private collections that furnish them with a supply of new works and act as gatekeepers and tastemakers decanting work into the system . This forms the basis for an apparatus that distributes artwork for commercial investment. Initially the public collections acted in conjunction with critics as arbiters of a canon of art that drew on historical precedent, but now wealthy collectors act as tastemakers producing their own sanctioned canon subject to their personal taste. The commercial gallery is a space where capital meets art, preferably transportable objects easily sequestered in storage like bonds in a bank vault. Artworks increase in commercial value through auctions and the rigged market of inter-gallery selling where prices can be inflated at each sale. The avant garde impulse that drove early art movements and its underpinning of theory are now suborned to fashion, authenticating the artwork as a viable property within the investment system. Marxist cultural theory validating a capitalist enterprise.

The contemporary commercial gallery is a space constructed specifically for the industry serving the projection of power in a system juiced on fear, spectacle, social climbing, secret knowledge and baloney. The visitor to a commercial art gallery is the focus of diminishment, the strained atmosphere in a gallery isn’t merely the projection of power in a high stakes game but also a consequence of the stresses in the system . The interns greet you with fake smiles at odds with any ideas of authenticity that art might claim. Their gaze riffles over you, unless they are being proffered as sexual sweetener along with a few lines done off a silver tray. Scan job done and some aesthetic retraction schlepps through space, leaving you the viewer an emptied husk in front of the art. Blood and tongues of black fire spurt from the interns and you sense an infinite scream hurled across the gallery space forcing frozen crystals of ice into your eyes. You may crawl towards art for solace but dollar signs will tear out your ruptured eye and stuff it in a nearby cunt that flutters knowingly. Get snorted into their prolapsed reality and emerge as a blurry smear in parked money. The commercial gallery is central to the control of investments and this cruciation is part of the vetting process for prospective buyers to make sure they will be worthy and reliable components of the machine.


Prices of works increase in an ever expanding bubble that seems to have no limit. Investment in art has survived the near collapse of the world economy and the rapid inflation of the price of artworks to what in any other industry would be a fatal extremes. The infinitely stretchable trust/belief/price system of the art industry follows a similar arc to the stress/strain curve of rubber, without the latter’s point of failure. Stress is the force with which balloon molecules pull on each other across the surface of the rubber which can also be expressed in terms of pressure multiplied by the surface area of the balloon. Strain is the expression of a balloon’s size to its original deflated size. One property of rubber is to enable balloons to inflate larger on successive inflations, but the art world balloon is made of an infinitely elastic material composed of the easily morphed cupidity of the art broker filled with the “hot air” of the press release.

A film of a young woman straddling and humping a large black balloon. Though producing and distributing her own videos, the high quality connotes professional production. The performer conceals her identity either by not filming her face, by wearing a mask or through pixellation. In this film, though there are a number of edits.Ttwo glitch sequences of frozen frames have been left in. As she rides the balloon, it burgeons out from between her thighs, swelling and detumescing in concert with her thrusts. Rubber creaks against skin. This bliquitos organ is directed upwards towards her breasts so both the male and female components of a tittyfuck are enacted by one performer. She embraces the massively distended body of the balloon to herself like a lover. A single harsh cold light can be seen reflected on the balloon’s surface. Her clothes match the colour of the balloon with the added details of white polka-dots and a red ribbon. In one sequence the performer presses her bare foot into the centre of the balloon deforming it into a doughnut shape, the malleability of a gallerist’s ethics. The rhythm and editing of the video suggests emphasis on the performer’s own subjectivity and the more suggestive and salacious aspects of some videos such as trapping the uninflated balloon between the teeth and stretching out the rubber, making reference to aspects of oral sex, are avoided

Yeah right, it’s just Adorno sucking power junkies surfing the culture wave, rotating heads spattering the walls with bleached vomit. The multi-way leechfest occurs between the more powerful galleries and collectors who have used their buying power and an eye for hot talent to exert a maverick influence on the market. The art work is at the centre of a standoff between gallery, tastemaker, influential collector, trusted buyer, prospective buyer with each attempting to triangulate the others’ position in an accelerating vortex of collective mistrust and rivalry. The space the viewer enters is traversed by intersecting shockwaves of relentless commercial and social antagonisms that manifest as a horror of social indecorum. The aesthetics of discomfort produced by a commercial gallery and its toxic overspill into the museum is the contemporary sublime. Any tenderness, wisdom, beauty and insight that art might possess is fractioned into fuel for a grinding monetized juggernaut. Commercial galleries are so irrelevant to staging art as a cultural force that they now locate themselves at remote sites, adopting for commercial reasons the strategies that were once adopted by artists to escape the system.


The inflated press release with its expansive weightless speech (as in speech bubble), the aesthetic economy of puffed-up grandiosity find an apt metaphor in a balloon. Casting a balloon as a sculpture remakes it as a weighty object tethered to plinth as opposed to string, grounded, subject to critical and societal buffeting. An installation of balloons filling a room vacillates between critical statement and blind-bumping, squeaky-passage, form-fugitive somatic thrill. Let’s imagine the equation of inflated art and economies of inflation as a balloonist/balloononomics aesthetic mashup, a libidinal production of an art economy or scene. An unconscious cartography of desire and a staging point for new subjectivities.

We’re riding to burst here with the balloon morphing between cartoon breasts, buttocks and cock and balls. The balloon is divided into three chambers, one of which is ruptured by the performers weight and the other two using her fingernails

 The use of balloons as fetish should not be confused with the use of purpose built inflatable sex aids as a substitute for a human partner. The fetish is an object of desire in its own right and the strictures of the fetish mirror the aesthetic rigour of an art work. At first glance these videos appear to confine their address to the libido of the viewer despite there being no overt sexual content. They close the loop of metaphor, representation, art and the fetish object. Often the performer is merely inflating and/or bursting a balloon in which case the metaphor is contingent on the viewer’s libidinal investment. In other instances the performer appears to gain gratification through frottage, though this is rarely explicit. As in other user postings, the economies of pleasure are made complex because the performer is staging their own pleasure for the pleasure of the viewer as opposed to the usual economies of directed pornography. It is the balloons themselves that seem to escape any representative confines because their shape-shifting properties evade notions of definitive form. The mutable capacity of the balloon is central to its effect. The types and numbers that classify balloon sizes are part of the jargon of fetishised exchange.

 Prices can be maintained at artificially high levels as a micro-economy for investors because it is in everybody’s interest to do so. Sales at auctions inflate the bubble further and add frisson to the whole multi-way fuck of the industry that spills over into the wider perception of art where monetary and cultural value become confused. The high commercial value of art serves to pump its cultural value to the point where the viewer has to arm themselves with a constructed mental image of a can of artist’s shit to parry these supra-cultural machinations. High profile art buyers occupy strategic trusteeships in museums in order to secure official validation for their investments.

 The distension of the balloon and a continuously distorting reflected universe are well demonstrated in this video, despite its salacious introduction The eye-popping architecture and upscaled art of the capitalist spectacle are wryly guyed in this play on visuality and extension that could only have achieved fuller consummation if the balloon had burst. The performer appears masked as though to allude to bent hedge funders pumping the system, in this case riding art as a museum trustee. Performers are of either gender and may be posting films for their own pleasure as much as for anyone elses’s, The notion of containment leading to a cataclysmic release is addressed by b2p or blow to pop which is one of the categories of loonerism, also called blow to burst and related to ride to burst.


 At first, the balloon must overcome its initial stiffness. When you first blow into a balloon, it springs “to attention” and a little pressure builds up before the balloon finally starts stretching and inflating. This represents an initial increase in stress with no increase in strain.

Once the balloon begins to inflate, the curve flattens out– this is because as you continue to blow, the pressure inside the balloon remains nearly constant while the balloon gets bigger. At some point, the balloon begins to tighten– you feel it getting harder to blow into the balloon. This is when the curve turns upward again.

The more you blow, the harder it gets to blow; also, the balloon will slow down and eventually stop growing. If inflation continues, the balloon will get tighter but not much bigger (stress increases faster than strain).

Ultimately, the rubber fractures at the fracture point. In other words, the balloon pops.


An interview produced by VICE,

The balloon is invested with the properties of a living being, not least because it is given form by the breath and its bursting and expiration denote a little death. Breath, inspiration and inflation interact as conceptual categories. An aesthetics of fragile transparency and fugitive reflection immanent to the balloon’s surface. A separate category of selfie has already been engendered by photographing reflections in balloon based artworks. This National Geographic video illustrates the intimacy between balloon and user particularly well

Lily takes a walk in the forest to get away from the museum and its culture-high mountain of contradiction and confusion. Keeping it simple and real with a pink balloon and short zebra striped dress, contrasting with the lush greenery of the wood. Let’s pause by this barrier fashioned from a tree stripped of bark, natural but not placed by nature. She has the lung capacity of a whale. The strappy sandals have stilettos that gently spurn nature, pressing into the grassy path. The balloon inflates to be an enormous solitary breast or a pregnant belly. She diligently performs her task to the point where the focus on the work of inflation is a subject in itself, as in similar videos. The membrane fails and the shockwave of escaping breath snaps some rubber across the path. A coup de grace pearl necklace of flayed skin

Bursting can also be the main topic without the initial inflation. Sometimes inflatable figures are substituted as in this one entitled Popping inflatable horse The identity between the performer and the balloon is heightened by wearing a tiger costume to hump a tiger inflatable (after an introductory clip of a woman riding an inverted inflatable horse)

To insulate themselves from the predatory scopophiles of the artworld, this performer dons full biker gear with helmet and gloves. A partial glimpse of their face does not reveal their gender. This act of prophylaxis toys with the relationship of balloon to condom. At the outset, the performer is standing and inflating a large green balloon with an electric pump. We view the action from the side of the bed as the film crossfades to them positioning the balloon which they mount and hump with rhythmic pelvic thrusts, the urban spaceman loving the alien. At some point they stop as though uncertain as to what the conclusion should be, any evidence of a sexual climax is withheld, enclosed within the contained subjective world of biker clothing. The balloon deflates to a wrinkled sac and is discarded as though unclean This user has posted a large body of work enacting a brave new world of pneumatic relations. “I ride… something! (No idea what) in my bike gear. This one was very soft and stretchy even when I got on, and I’d really like to know what kind of balloon it is, so if you have any ideas then give me a shout…”.

Two bikers stage a complex of subjectivites and substitutions. One biker clad performer lies on the balloon while the other rides them experiencing the sensation of the balloon indirectly, mimesis through another’s body. The sandwiched biker is in contact with the balloon, though their sensation is varied by the actions of biker on top.

The stealth aspects of a ninja are adopted by this performer to screen themselves from the artworld gaze while riding a 40” balloon on an inflatable mattress and this video is the same performer in an animal costume Latex clothing is frequently used to reinforce the identity between performer and balloon, echoing the reflective surface and containing envelope animated by breath, the membrane mimicking skin, the balloon given force as an independent agent

The categories of looner videos are continually being expanded. A critical framework for anthropological and aesthetic purposes could be established but this risks creating the conditions of confinement where the works would be subsumed into the art system and lose their arcane power, rupturing their fragile resistence, to inevitably expire

balloon types