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Surrealism Comes to Milan with Garbage-Bag Balloons

It's an experiment that might not immediately catch on in the fashion-conscious city.

Visitors to Milan recently might've stumbled upon an unusual sight: a man standing on a street corner with a handful of floating garbage bags, like a sketchy clown who lives in the town dump.

He leaned against a wall smoking a cigarette as curious bystanders gathered around. Before long, he was handing out individual trash balloons as presents to families and cyclists, who headed off with the bulging sacks following, blimplike, behind. At the end of the day he tied what was left of his balloons to a garbage bin and disappeared, having done his duty spreading litter-based joy through the city.

"Flying Trash" was a public experiment from Guildor and Fra Biancoshock, the latter a Milan-based artist who's executed 450-plus public interventions across Europe and Asia (including these bus-stop bubble-wrap time wasters). The brief and pungent punch of surrealism is characteristic of what Fra Biancoshock calls "ephemeralism," which he defines this way: "Ephemeralism has the purpose of producing works of art that have to exist briefly in space but limitlessly in time through the photography, the video and the media."

Other ventures into ephemeralism the artist has undertaken include a man seemingly squished under a building, bike locks that look like giant padlocks, and a high-five station for weary subway commuters. The levitating garbage bags take something that certain Italian cities have a major problem with—unchecked litter—an use it to make people smile.

Fra Biancoshock/Myst-R/Guildor

About the Author

  • John Metcalfe
    John Metcalfe is CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, based in Oakland. His coverage focuses on climate change and the science of cities.