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?