The Canadian government is helping to fund a 300 meter (1000 foot) banana-shaped airship set to be released in Mexico next year.  The bamboo and synthetic paper structure filled with helium should drift about 20 to 30 kilometers (12.5 to nearly 17 miles) above Texas for about a month before it disintegrates.

Asked why he was pursuing the project, Montreal artist Cesar Saez retorted “Why not a banana over Texas?”  Why not indeed.

Saez has obtained some money from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Conseil des arts et des letters du Quebec but is still short of its target.  He’s looking for engineers, scientists, and mathematicians, who might actually begin by making the project’s website work; so far, I’ve been unable to load the English version, although the opening screen is dramatic enough.

The screen makes the banana look like a small crescent shape high in the sky over what must be Texas because there’s an oil well and one of the two men pointing up at the banana is wearing a Stetson.  (The picture doesn’t say whether or not they’re frustrated Minutemen.)  The Spanish language and French language versions of the website (which do load promptly) have a colorful picture of what looks like an extremely ripe “Geostationary Banana Over Texas.”  (I’m not making this up!) 

Saez bristles at attempts to compare his work with that of Christo, the artist who wraps islands and buildings in fabric and recently hung saffron fabric on arches in New York’s Central Park.
Saez does, however, welcome comparisons to the work of Andy Warhol.   His conceptual statement says “The banana is ‘pop’. At the end it (is) a Show, a banana in the sky is an odd celebration to spectacle, to the advertisement industries, and to Warhol Art.”

Saez is reluctant to discuss the “meaning” of the project, but describes it as both “artistic and scientific, since it’s a space technology available to everyone.”  He insists people will react differently to the giant banana and find their own meaning in it.  He does, however, see some significance in his banana entering Texas like illegal immigrants from Mexico “in a furtive way.”  He says “space is freer than the high seas,” so any hostile response from the US air force will result in legal action.   

The flying banana does, however, have a more sinister side.  Those who don’t appreciate its artistic merits might see it as a threat to national security since it will obviously be an effective way of clearing any fence along the US-Mexican border.  But it’s also possible that since the FAA and NORAD steadfastly deny the existence of UFOs, they’ll be reluctant to send the air force up to check it out.  In any case, no pilot wanting to keep his or her job is going to report a banana flying at 35,000 feet. 


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