For those adults who recall with fondness and yearning their playground forays (disclaimer: I am not one of them. Let’s just say, I wasn’t exactly a monkey bars phenom), Rainbow City, a forty piece interactive art installation on the Lot at 30th Street and 10th Avenue could help bring them back. Conceived by the Miami-based artists FriendsWithYou, the creation comprises a series of candy-striped and colored, ten to forty-foot high balloon structures in round, oblong and mushroom shapes. A couple contain entryways that allow participants to enter, essentially, a dressed up bouncy castle; others blow smoke from a cigarette-like nose, like a chain-smoking model.
There were a few of those there Tuesday night (though a sign specifically declared “No Smoking” to those entering Rainbow City—apparently it’s only for balloons) when AOL hosted a party to celebrate the piece, which the company helped fund, and Section 2 of the High Line, which opened earlier that day. A mix of Williamsburg-worthy hipsters in straw fedoras, guys in dark suits and ties and girls in dressy shorts and heels wandered the outdoor lot or partook of the three kinds of homemade pretzels and plentiful plastic cups of beer and vodka at an adjacent food and beverage space (which will become Tom Colicchio’s The Lot on Tap).
May Andersen, Fabiola Beracasa and a slew of girlfriends eyed the colored structures while a group in sneakers and tanks formed a dance party in front of a deejay at an AOL and rainbow-covered booth.
The art piece itself had me a bit perplexed (it will be on view—and touch—from June 7 through July 5). It was charming on the one hand, to watch young kids play with the balloons whose cord tethering meant they blew in the wind. Said blowing also meant you could be in danger of a solid punch from a rubber fungus.
“Somebody is going to die getting hit by one of these balloons,” said my friend. “Death by mushroom.”
And there are always jaded New Yorkers.
“The one good thing about this is in my cab, I was like, ‘There! That’s where I’m going,’” said one guest, accustomed to more hidden spots.
So I sought clarity from the artists themselves, Samuel Borkson and Arturo Sandoval III.
“Rainbow City is like this little hidden garden that we’ve kind of procured out of the nothingness and the whole idea is based on the idea of the holy ritual, which is a ritual that happens in India. It’s actually a spring ritual,” explained Sandoval (Thank god I asked, because I so would not have figured that one out). “The idea is to bring people and immerse them inside color and, like, they heal themselves.”
“These things are filled with air and you can see as you play with them they’re playing back with you,” added Borkson as one such thing almost took him out in a gust.
The colors and mushrooms seemed kind of psychedelic, I pointed out.
“Childhood is kind of psychedelic,” said Borkson. “Grown-ups are so formed. You walk down the street in your fucking suit, so closed off to the rest of the world, so this psychedelic thing is, like, let’s open people’s minds.”
“Chemically, when you are a kid you’re kind of high,” said Sandoval.
Hmmm, and the rather phallic shape to some of the balloons?
“Why not? The shapes are reminiscent of toys. They’re simple geometric totems. They’re phallic, and I guess they could be the other way, also, like something you go inside of, like a portal, like the woman. We’re celebrating all of the human inside of this.”
With all that to ponder, I made my way to the bar, running into a fellow social reporter.
“It’s better than a regular party,” she said. “At least we’re not just standing here looking at people.” True.
Photos: Billy Farrell Agency