About This Project

Low-cost F16 Wuxi

A thousand times cheaper than a real one, a fake F-16 also attracts those seeking the real one.

In Wuxi, we visit a company specialized in manufacturing inflatable structures for events, advertising and theme parks. But that is just part of their business. The company also makes life-size inflatable machine guns, tanks and fighter jets for armies around the globe. As early as 1944, while preparing for D-day, the American army hired 1100 artists and sound engineers to build a ghost air and sound army. A few years later, architects including Frei Otto and Buckminster Fuller appropriated the technology to experiment with a utopian, ephemeral and mobile architecture. Today, inflatable structures are more likely to be associated with play castles than with weapons of war, which makes the contrast between the violence of war and the naïveté of balloons all the more striking. While the landing gear that folds up and the insect eye-like cockpit may make us smile, they remind us that much of the technology we use in everyday life, even the most trivial, is derived from research by the war industry.