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Balloon Museum in Miami: the coolest spot this season

Summer in Miami often invites exclamations—most typically, “It’s hot out!” But a new immersive art exhibit in Miami’s Wynwood neighborhood is eliciting shrieks of a different kind, echoing from every corner of the (beautifully air-conditioned) 45,000-square-foot Mana Wynwood Convention Center.

“Ahh! We’re riding in a flower! Ahh! We’re being sucked up into that woman’s mouth! This is crazy!”

“When the bubbles pop, smoke comes out! How do they do that?”

“This place is like an entirely different planet!”

BB by Tadao Cern 

These are just a sampling of the enthusiastic utterances that “burst” out as my family and I wound through the eclectic collection of interactive art installations at Let’s fly; Art has no limits in Wynwood on a recent weekday afternoon. Running through Oct. 6, the exhibit—which has “popped up” previously in the likes of New York, Rome, Paris and Madrid— features 21 large-scale contemporary works from artists around the globe. Once we arrived with our timed-entry tickets, over two hours “flew” by as we explored the exhibition, whose whimsical works are linked by the themes of lightness and flight.

Here’s a peek at what it was like to spend an ultra-cool afternoon at this all-ages event. 

Dive into alternate realities

From the very first installation, the exhibit set the surreal tone—enveloping visitors in a new realm. Depth perception failing us, we tentatively stepped into the glowing, undulating AI Dataportal of Miami, a work by international design studio Ouchhh. Like a fun-house maze on hyperdrive, the tunnel’s LED screens and mirrors teem with intricate forms, all generated by data swirling unseen through Miami’s digital environment. 

AI Data Portal of Miami by Ouchhh 

Later on in the Museum route, we strapped on VR goggles and were whisked away to artist Sila Sveta’s AIRSCAPE, an experience that envelops the viewer in an inflatable new world, all lit up in technicolor hues. Spoiler alert: This is the one that spurred my daughter to shriek out astonished play-by-play descriptions of every surreal new turn of events.

Every one of us was a bit awestruck, though, when we got to the Hyperstellar exhibit by Hyperstudio, Quiet Ensemble and Roman Hill, where thousands of black balls pooled both on the ceiling and in a pit on the floor. This lent a sort of intentional disorientation to the whole scene, even before we literally flung ourselves into the art. The room erupted in light and sound, taking us on a multisensory journey; I lay contented, sandwiched above and below countless layers of airy plastic balls. I felt as though I were encased in a pillowy, psychedelic dream world. 

Hyperstellar by Hyperstudio, Quiet Ensemble and Roman Hill

Shape and shift the art around you

Something especially cool about the entire exhibition—for anyone, but especially for families whose kids have not yet witnessed experimental or contemporary art—is that it offers a chance to expand perceptions of what art can be. My art-oriented kids were impressed when I explained that what they were experiencing was, in fact, art—creativity that went beyond paper, canvas and clay. Art they could impact, shape and change. 

I’m not sure if this entered their minds as they gleefully slammed up against oversize punching bag-like spheres in the interactive Swing installation by Italian architects and designers Motorefisico. Either way, they, along with the other children and adults who simultaneously engaged with the piece, successfully brought the artists’ vision to life: “…Active participation translates into a collective dance of spheres, capturing the essence of the human experience.” 

Swing by Motorefisico

The exhibit titled ADA takes interactivity to new heights, literally. In this work by German-Polish artist Karina Smigla-Bobinski, a giant helium-inflated ball studded with large sticks of graphite rests on the ceiling, waiting for visitors-turned-collaborative artists to make their mark with it. As people push, run with or nudge the sphere, its spikes collide with the room’s white walls and ceiling, creating one-of-a-kind, crowd-sourced drawings. 

ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski

With Aeroton by New York-born “performance architect” Alex Schweder, we got to crawl through an inflatable labyrinth of tactile and auditory stimuli. Furry surfaces invited us to pet them and lounge on them while towering fabric columns rose up and down. Meanwhile, we were serenaded by the sounds of a custom-built synthesizer. 

With Canopy, created by Pneuhaus & Bike Powered Events, our impact on the art was measured in calories burned—pedaling furiously, we watched the umbrella-like forms expand and unfold to reveal their full splendor in the black-lit room. 

Interface with otherworldly creatures, sounds and objects

Throughout the experience, we encountered works that bore resemblance to familiar creatures and things, reimagining them on grander scales, with whimsical interpretations or from gravity-defying perspectives. These fanciful visions double as amazing photo opps—we saw multiple visitors, dressed in their Instagram-ready best, posing with each work, presumably in pursuit of the perfect snap for social media. Throughout our Balloon Museum adventure, the urge to capture our surroundings with our camera phones was often overpowering—and we caught a few gems worth sharing. That said, I was better able to soak in each incredible installation when I viewed it through my own eyes, rather than a lens. 

Spiritus Sonata by art and technology studio Eness, for example, reminded us of hummingbirds. Their benevolent pixelated faces glowed rhythmically out at us from their bubble worlds while they piped a soothing tune. 

Spiritus Sonata by Eness

We admired Max Streicher’s Quadriga, a billowing team of horses hanging above us from the ceiling, their paper-thin skin an interesting contrast to their apparently powerful forms. A tangle of branches floating away under a canopy of red balloons, Balloon Tree by Myeongbeom Kim was one of the most popular spots for photos—posing beneath, you’ll look like you’re being lifted away into a jet-black sky. But in the odd moment between photo snaps, we got to appreciate its interesting amalgamation of texture, color and whimsy all on its own. 

ZEROS by SpY

In the car on the ride home, we chatted with the kids about the exhibits that impressed them most at the show, and their newly expanded understanding of what art can be. With so many installations to explore, it’s the kind of place you could visit more than once—you’d likely experience the art differently on date night, cocktail in hand (yes, the place even has a bar!) as opposed to a Saturday afternoon with the kids in tow.

Regardless of when you visit between now and the Miami exhibition’s close on Oct. 6, you’ll be getting a much-needed dose of cool—on multiple levels—when you need it most. 



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