Radical bean bags

17 May

Sacco beanbags at the 'Information' exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art, 1970

Sacco beanbags at the 'Information' exhibition, the Museum of Modern Art, 1970

 

Charlie Woolley’s installation at the JVA includes long sausage-shaped bean bags that visitors can sit on while supping on cappuccinos and lemony water from the bar. They are coloured, improbably, like Dalmations, lending the show a Cruella de Vil vibe.

But who invented the bean bag? And more importantly how have they been used in art installations over the past few decades? The first bean bag, the Sacco, was an invention of a bunch of Italian designers in the revolutionary year of 1968 – a suitable historical point for Woolley’s own interests in resistance politics.

It became a regular feature in art installations with the ‘Information’ exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, where Sacco beanbags were used in order to make the rather austere surroundings feel participatory – this was the show at which Hans Haacke installed his MoMA Poll (a classic work in the participatory canon). Maybe there’s a history of radical bean bags, waiting to be told?

Sacco bean bag advertisement image from the 1970s

Sacco bean bag advertisement image from the 1970s

 

Angella Bulloch's 'Flexible' at Art Club Berlin, 1997. Three beanbags, CD-player, headphones, acrylic table.

Angella Bulloch's 'Flexible' at Art Club Berlin, 1997. Three beanbags, CD-player, headphones, acrylic table.

 

Dan Graham "New Space For Showing Videos", 1996, at the Walker Art Centre in 2000

Dan Graham "New Space For Showing Videos", 1996, at the Walker Art Centre in 2000

2 Responses to “Radical bean bags”

  1. Shonagh Manson May 18, 2012 at 1:14 pm #

    Radical bean bags? Love it. Went to see The Otolith Groups’s piece at Fabrica on Tuesday. We entered just after the film had started and the space was really dark. I spent a good five minutes squinting at some kind of strange sculpture laid out on the floor in front of my chair, wondering. Until a light scene in the film revealed the row of empty bean bags along the front. Can only imagine what kind of noise an audience on those would add to the soundtrack….

    • admin May 31, 2012 at 12:44 pm #

      I had a similar experience at Matt’s Gallery watching Slow Action by Ben Rivers where I realised during a lighter moment that I could have sat much further forward on one of the black bean bags. They felt like players in the film – rocks in the landscape – and the mystery really added to the atmosphere of the work.