Cherophobia floats into town…

Photography by James Allan.


Next week, the Unlimited team are off to see one of their commissions take flight…

Cherophobia is a one-off durational live installation by Unlimited commissioned artist Noëmi Lakmaier and we’re excited to be able to finally see it realised in the flesh. This experimental event, which will see the artist attempt to float from a mass of balloons, will take place over 48 hours from 12 noon on the 7th until 12 noon on the 9th of September at St Leonard’s Shoreditch Church in London. It’ll be open to the public (and audio-described) throughout and all are welcome to attend, but if you’re not able to make it to Shoreditch the performance will also be live-streamed from St Leonard’s to Southbank Centre’s Unlimited festival, projected onto the exterior wall of the Royal Festival Hall.

St Leonard's Shoreditch Church.

St Leonard’s Shoreditch Church.

The real beauty of Lakmaier’s piece is that it’s both an art performance and an event, gathering and intertwining the audience in dialogue and shared suspense. In an attempt to lift the artist’s bound and immobilised body off the ground, 20,000 balloons will be gradually filled with helium and attached to her, then, as the balloons lose helium, she should settle back gently to solid ground – hopefully we’ll be there to witness both the beginning and the end of the piece.

This metaphorical act is a physical representation of a larger existential question. The piece is named for a psychiatric condition, Cherophobia: a fear of happiness. This phobia has been interpreted and depicted through the sheer mass of colourful balloons, juxtaposed by the artist’s physically restrained and bound body, and should make for a really moving, emotive and powerful performance.

Lakmaier has been developing her idea for this piece for years, and will finally be able to realise the piece as a result of her Unlimited commission. What began as a simple concept, of a woman buoyed by balloons, has expanded into a complex experiment- one that not only involves an elaborate setup comprising maths, engineering, science and medicine- but holds bewildering potential for danger and risk.

While visitors to the performance can get up close to witness the work, interaction with the artist during the performance, in poetic twist, will be off bounds. The nature of the piece, however, encourages the audience to interact with one another: on social media, through streaming venues and on-site. If calculations are correct the audience can witness lift off in the late hours of the first day – fingers crossed!

Much like the fleeting temporality of happiness, this transient installation will take place only once, so don’t miss out on the chance to witness and be part of the spectacle.

We look forward to seeing you there, and don’t forget – you can see many more Unlimited commissions at the Unlimited festivals at London’s Southbank Centre from the 6th until the 11th and at Tramway, Glasgow, from the 15th until the 25th of September.