Image of Piene's <i>Fleurs du Mal</i> Piene's Fleurs du Mal
Fleurs du Mal

Otto Piene, Director of the Center for Advanced Visual Studies from 1974 to 1993, co-founded the influential Group ZERO in 1950s Germany, and leads an international movement devoted to Sky Art. His celebratory public art works include very large inflatable sculptures, some requiring dozens of volunteers and complex physics calculations to lift them into the sky. He created this particular sculpture, Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil), in 1968–1970. The title refers to a volume by the French poet Charles Baudelaire, who was successfully prosecuted on morals charges in 19th century Paris in connection with its publication.

The sculpture is designed to inflate and deflate periodically. Most installations of this work (including the final two months of the MIT 150 Exhibition) are in an isolated darkened room in which strobe lights reveal the unfolding and collapsing sculpture through images of frozen motion. Combined with the loud (around 110 dB) blower motor noises, the work is intense, disturbing, and fascinating. In the original installation of the artwork, the strobe lights were the personal contribution of MIT Professor Harold Edgerton.

Exhibited:
Fleurs du Mal, Inflatable
Otto Piene
1968–1970
Loan from Otto Piene

photo: courtesy of Otto Piene

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