Inside the hulking structure of the Oberhausen Gasometer in Oberhausen, Germany, a massive, billowing expanse of translucent fabric runs down the walls, held upright by the constant airflow of industrial fans. A gentle, diffused light glows inside, the product of the Gasometer’s skylights shining down from above it. This is Big Air Package, an enormous pressurized envelope of air created by the Bulgarian artist Christo specially for the Gasometer, turning its spacious, cylindrical main room into a towering column of light and space.
Marking the artist’s first completed work after the death of his wife and longtime collaborator Jean-Claude in 2009, the Big Air Package is a striking continuation of his distinctively local approach to art making. Reaching nearly 300 feet in the air, and over 150 feet across, the towering structure is the largest inflated envelop ever created and maintained without the help of an internal skeleton. Distilling the core essence of the Gasometer into a singular tower of air and light, Christo allows a re-exploration of its fundamental properties, as well as the act of presence within it.
Moving into the structure’s main column, visitors are robbed of contextual identifiers save the forms of their fellow visitors, quickly lending the space contained within the package an otherworldly aura that confounds notions of space, size and depth. It’s an interesting experiment in experience, forcing the viewer to surrender to the envelope’s own internal logic and sense of scale to fully immerse themselves in an experience of the space.
Continuing Christo’s exploration and emphasis on the dimensions of his exhibition space, the artist manages to create a work of multiple, balanced relationships: the Gasometer’s unique structure is highlighted by the massive fabric construction, which in turn allows the viewer to experience the raw, unadorned space created by the building itself. Simultaneously complementing and redefining visual perception within the installation, Christo’s Big Air Package unites each element of the Gasometer in a moment of unity, allowing the human form to float free from its environmental moorings while serving as a fundamental aspect of measurement and classification within the space itself.
Showing his immense drive and work ethic, Christo is continuing work on a variety of ambitiously grand projects which he and his wife had planned before her death, including preliminary work on Over The River, which would drape silver fabric over sections of the Arkansas River in Colorado. “I don’t know how much time is left,” Christo told German news outlet Spiegel. “By promoting several projects simultaneously, we try to push things forward.” It would seem that with Big Air Package, the artist has done just that.
Big Air Package is on view until December 30th, 2013.