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Pneumatica: an event about air, made by air, powered by air.
87 backers pledged $5,584 to help bring this project to life.
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Squonk’s Pneumatica will celebrate air and wind power with a new outdoor musical spectacle.

Project Description

We want to make a new free touring event: Pneumatica will be made of air, powered by air, and about air. We will pump up the volume with live original music while inflatables pump up and immerse the audience and permeate the air.

We Squonkers hail from Pittsburgh and have performed on 3 continents and in over 30 states in the U.S. Our last Kickstarter successfully helped drive our last work, the truck-mounted GO Roadshow, to 14 cities in 10 states for over 100 free shows. And we just got back from a busy winter playing Manhattan, where The New York Times called us a "multimedia troupe of infinite jest.”

Pneumatica will celebrate air and wind power, and the joy of large-scale social events. Squonk wants to pursue the most American and democratic of art forms: the public celebration, with boisterous music and surreal image. Squonk will taunt and whisper, bellow and caress, using the very medium of sound: air.

We Need Your Help!

These performances will be free and open to the public and so we need your help! Your donation will help cover the expenses associated with making the wild yet safe mechanical and pneumatic systems. They will also help us build hands-on physics demonstrations for free shows for public schools and community groups.

Project History

Over 2,000 years ago in Egypt, Heron of Alexandria wrote the first treatise on wind power and air-powered machines that included the first wind turbine design and the invention of automata. He designed the robot-like animated characters that performed magical tasks. 

This treatise was called Pneumatica.

Set Model - Biomorphic shapes will grow, powered by blowers and vortex fans, and culminate in Lady Pneumatica blossoming, opening up to the sky. The event will explore the science and poetry of the most hidden element, so necessary to life, and so fragile in this anthropocene age: air.

Lady Pneumatica - The head of Lady Pneumatica itself has a vertical axis wind turbine that helps power the show. We wanted to create an icon of something you cannot see, so she is the pale blue of the sky with arms built of air, partly camouflaged and partly transparent, but very much present and reaching a height of 40’.

Immersive Inflatables - There will be tactile interactions with air-powered tentacles. One of the connections that really worked for us was thinking about music, whose medium is air, and we thought about the ears as really sensitive and focused extensions of touch. You can feel music through a balloon. We want to activate the audience’s relationship to each other, and us, as this should be a strange and wonderful thing to happen in the public space. Pneumatic pistons will rise and shoot splayed tubes in the middle of the audience.

On the right is a photomontage of how the tube array may look during a show.

Electronic Bagpipes and Lungcordion - Our original music will incorporate the swoops and eddies of air, and we are creating air-driven instruments. The electronic bagpipes are, like the set, a bag inflated by breath, and we will also build a vertical accordion that will be Lady Pneumatica’s lungs, played like a piano while it rises and falls with her breath. We will again combine some of the most ancient and ubiquitous instruments with the grandiose power of electronics to create a joyful pageant of sound. 

Headtubes and Star Costume - Playing with visual puns, air will be used to activate costumes, and the Squonkers will puff up and shoot for the sky. The star costume, like a blowfish, can inflate in response to danger, or, of course, to seduce the eye. The headtubes will be activated musically by wild guitar and bass riffs.

We plan to do 20 free events every summer, starting in our hometown of Pittsburgh, and then traveling across the country and overseas. Some will include workshops and demonstrations. We are already working with public schools and festivals, and community celebrations. We want to make a public American art that is poetic and brazen, funny and inclusive.

Help us make this happen!

Risks and challenges

The challenge is creating an event that can be taken on the road in a rented truck, and be set up quickly and safely - and make a community of the imagination from a group of bystanders. This is not an inflatable - this is the act of inflation and deflation and airpower happening in multiple ways in an uncontrolled environment. We are using new materials and pneumatic systems, and the better we can equip and work out the kinks now, the more people we can get it out to. There is a lot of trial and error in working with new technologies - making an outdoor show that can stand up to weather and be safe, but unexpectedly wild, is a struggle.

We place our bets on a risky and uncontrolled democratic inclusion and the challenge is to explore technology, setting and audience relationships, and our own ridiculous humanity: Help us remain the fools that we are!

It’s not easy setting up a 4-story blue-lady wind turbine, or playing a guitar with a gas mask and headtube. And those inflatables aren’t gonna blow themselves up!

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    An official thank you on our website

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    All of the above plus a Squonk Hand Fan

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    Pledge US$ 250 or more About US$ 250

    All of the above plus a 2 DVD set of Squonk’s other outdoor festival shows – Astro-rama and GO Roadshow

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    All of the above plus a full Squonk CD collection (Inferno, Rodeo Smackdown, You Are Here, Mayhem & Majesty, and GO)

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    All of the above plus a Squonk inflatable chair

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    All of the above plus an original working sketch for the design of the show

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    Pledge US$ 5,000 or more About US$ 5,000

    All of the above plus your very own Star Costume, as modeled by Steve in the photo to the left

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Funding period

- (30 days)