The first thing you notice as you enter du Forum at the moment is a man hard at work making a giant structure out of thousands of balloons. This is the world’s most famous professional balloon sculptor, Jason Hackenwerth, and his spectacular woven structure is part of the Abu Dhabi Science Festival.
“The sculpture I am making now is called Corona, which refers to the ring of plasma around the sun,” he explains. “I chose to make this here in Abu Dhabi because I wanted to make reference to the hot sun in the desert. This is the top of it that I’m working on now. In a week’s time, it will look like the corona.”
Despite exhibiting at a science festival, Hackenwerth admits to be more artist than scientist. “But I am also a bit of a nerd. The sculptures need to be of organic, biochemical things, so I draw my inspiration from nature. The wearable sculptures you see just outside the entrance are a sort of ‘biomimicry’, because they look like sea creatures and plants. But actually I see them as being more poetic – they can be whatever you want them to be.”
Hackenwerth’s mother taught him how to twist balloons and as a teenager he started making poodles and swords. His career took off in his former hometown of New York nine years ago, by accident.
“My degree was in painting but I began experimenting with ways of catching people’s attention. So I started placing balloons in the subway, to see what would happen, and people noticed them right away. I was asked to make a balloon installation at an art fair in London and it took off from there and became a career overnight.”
• Abu Dhabi Science Festival ends on Saturday. Visit www.abudhabisciencefestival.ae for details