“Hysterical Bubble” is a beautifully designed and executed wearable performance art project dealing with themes of conformity, social identity and group dynamics. Designed by artist Anja Hertenberger, “Hysterical Bubble” consists of four suits each adorned with an embroidered inflatable textile bubble. The suits are “aware” of each other’s proximity and react by inflating or deflating the bubble when the group dynamic shifts. The performers must remain within a specific distance to one another to maintain the group dynamic. In social harmony, the bubbles remain deflated. When an individual obstinately expresses his own identity by stepping out of range, the group identity is lost and sacrificed. The individual’s bubble also begins to inflate, like a cancerous growth or a physical “hysterical” symptom. When the individual respects and conforms to the social rules and returns within range of the group, the bubble deflates once again. The inflatable bubbles metaphorically represent the conflict between individual and social identity.
Each bubble is embroidered with a different technique from four different countries: England, Germany, the Netherlands and Japan.
I absolutely love and admire Anja’s research into the historical/cultural significance of embroidery from the different nations. You can read about it here in more detail. The behavior of the bubbles — inflating and deflating — references the psychological disorder of hysteria that is translated into physical symptoms. Hysterical Bubbles certainly disturbs and challenges ideas of individual and social identity. These ornate, beautifully detailed bubbles that represent individual identity are treated like cancerous growths that disrupt community — leaving the audience to wonder which to value — individual expression or the status quo.