Eco-idea du jour: Shrink-wrapped people

An exhibit at the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg in Germany presents some odd-looking and provocative concepts for adapting to climate change.

Leslie Katz Former Culture Editor
Leslie Katz led a team that explored the intersection of tech and culture, plus all manner of awe-inspiring science, from space to AI and archaeology. When she's not smithing words, she's probably playing online word games, tending to her garden or referring to herself in the third person.
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Leslie Katz
2 min read

Lawrence Malstaff's installation "Shrink" essentially vacuum-packs a person between two large plastic sheets, with a transparent tube between the two surfaces regulating the flow of air. Lawrence Malstaf

Many say we shouldn't put our heads in the sand when it comes to climate change. But what about putting them in giant balloons that protect us from pollution?

Such an odd contraption, called "La Parole," is currently on display at the Museum fur Kunst und Gewerbe Hamburg in Germany as part of "Climate Capsules: Means of Surviving Disaster." Two people at a time can stick their heads into the inflatable structure to share a common visual and audio space away from contaminants, storms, and aggressive solar radiation.

The exhibit, meant to explore the impact of climate change on design and urban planning, doesn't present ideas for slowing or stopping the process: "In view of the fact that the politicians are hesitant to enforce strict measures for climate protection and the citizens very sluggish about changing their habits, the change appears inevitable," the description of the exhibit reads. Instead, the display focuses on strategies for adapting to the expected impacts.

Haus-Rucker-Co.'s 1968 environmental transformer helmet "Flyhead" distorts surrounding noise. Flyhead

Museumgoers will see more than 30 historical and contemporary mobile, temporary, and urban capsules intended to make life possible independent of the surrounding climatic conditions. Concept designs by artists, architects, and urban developers range from floating cities and body capsules to ideas for fertilizing sea water, powering a greenhouse with exhaust fumes, and injecting the stratosphere with sulphur.

The textile balloons in Pablo Reinoso's 1998 interactive installation "La Parole," for example, make a statement on the lengths people may have to go to protect themselves as polluted air and other climatic hazards increase.

Lawrence Malstaff's 1995 "Shrink" installation, meanwhile, essentially vacuum-packs a person between two large plastic sheets, with a transparent tube inserted between the two surfaces letting the person inside the installation regulate the flow of air. For the duration of the performance the person inside moves slowly and changes positions, which vary from an almost embryonic position to one resembling a crucified body.

Then there are projects that go further back in time, too, such as Haus-Rucker-Co.'s 1968 "Flyhead," an "environmental transformer helmet" that distorts surrounding noise and features a lens-like visual unit of a compound eye. The idea is that seen in the context of the climate change, such historical projects will assume new meaning.

The "Climate Capsules: Means of Surviving Disaster" exhibit runs through September 12, but if you don't have plans to visit Germany by then, you can get a sense of its scope by clicking through the gallery below.

Climate capsules for a changing world (photos)

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