The Balloon – Play for real

During late winter of 1968, the population of Råby, a newly built suburb outside Västerås, Sweden, had gotten a huge green neighbour placed in-between the concrete houses. The large-scale Barracuda tent is filled with warm air, jumping mats, building material, tools and all the kind of construction gear one can imagine. The presence of the large tent made eight-year-old Mikael name the place The Balloon. The name soon became accepted as the official name for the site. The Balloon, an adventure playground made for and by the children, welcomed all Västerås’ children to fulfil their most creative dreams.

The story of the Balloon begins with a Danish activist’s ability to persuade the most powerful man in the Swedish art world that the Modern Museum of Contemporary Art in Stockholm should be transformed to an enormous play ground for children. The initiator of the experimental exhibition The Model. A model for a Qualitative Society, was activist, architect and artist Palle Nielsen. Little did he realize that by getting the permission from Pontus Hultén to stage his play ground during a short period in 1968, he would create one of the most visited exhibitions in the history of the museum as well as a ground-breaking social art event which is constantly revisited.

The documentation from the Model. A model for a Qualitative Society has been widely shown and debated over the last 10 years. Much thanks to Danish curator Lars Bang Larsen’s profound research and writings about the exhibition. The documentation has been shown at a number of large museums and biennales around the world and is today owned by Museum of Modern Art in Barcelona. However, very little is mentioned by the second part of the exhibition in Sweden in 1968. After closing down at Moderna Museet, the Model was moved to the small suburb of Råby outside Västerås. Here it became what Palle Nielsen really intended for his project: a large collaborative area in the middle of the concrete housing project. A manifestation of the power of play.

The Balloon – The Return to Råby explores the ideas behind the 1968 event through the work of contemporary artists. Stay updated about the project on this website.