Floating UtopiasFloating Utopias

Vertical Exploration

Eyes in the sky, Anna Hoetjes, nGbK Berlin, 2018, Photo copyright: Luca Girardini

The invention of the first hot air balloon in the 18th century heralded a new age of scientific exploration. For the first time, the sky could be directly investigated and the Earth could be seen from above. This prompted new approaches to measuring and understanding the planet’s weather — especially wind — and new ideas in mapping, surveying and understanding geographical borders. Ballooning also accelerated the desire to explore the sky beyond the Earth's atmosphere. This urge to leave the planet's surface inspired technological breakthroughs in high-altitude ballooning in the 1930s and ultimately led to the space race of the 1960s.

This section of the exhibition shows how artists use both fact and fiction in their own vertical explorations. Pictures taken during space expeditions appear alongside early balloon cameras; high-tech sensory systems are contrasted with handmade instrument tables and contemporary lunar-base designs resemble historical visions of utopian futures.

List of artists: Jakob Kaiserer, Albert Tissandier, Thomas Baldwin, Gaspard-Étienne Robert, Anna Hoetjes, Jean-Paul Jungmann, Franco Mazzuchelli, Luke Jerram

Featured Artworks

Inflatable Moon Base

Habitaton Pneumatique, 1st version, 1967