Web zeppelin. (Hotlist).
Part interactive documentary, part mock architectural manifesto, part exhibition of all things tumescent, Jessica Irish's Inflat-o-scape, 2001-(www.inflatoscape.com), offers viewers an opportunity to explore the ways in which inflation has served as a cultural metaphor in the modern age. Irish's Flash-based website focuses primarily on architectural idioms, and, by clicking on enigmatic headings such "compression" and "subconscious," viewers can navigate though discussions of overblown shapes such as car-lot advertising blimps, World War I zeppelins, and inflatable domiciles native to cold-war science-fiction films. The site also gauges economic pressures on architecture--pressures that for the past century or so have encouraged ever more nomadic and flexible forms of building. If the paradigmatic architecture of industrial capital was the factory and the representative architecture of late consumer capital was the department store, the current e-conomy, argues Irish, favors the inflatable warehouse. In other words, with a shift to a postindustrial economic system, factories are increasingly displaced and hidden, while stores allegedly obsolesce as more goods are bought through websites.
Inflat-o-scope thus describes (somewhat ironically) the new architectural paradigm as inflatable storage tents that can expand and contract, around their inventory and move according to shifting product demands. "Inflation" is understood in formal as well as economic terms, and there is more than one suggestion of its phallic implications. Irish's site suggests that a few egos in technology markets have been inflated too, and, with frequent voice-overs parroting yesteryear's optimistic predictions regarding the Web-based market, this project should gratify any visitors who still have it in them to snicker at the rapidly deflating bubble economy.