Andreja's pufferfish

Category: Inventions
Collaborators: Nina Orlić

Andreja's pufferfish cover picture

We made a site specific sculpture with my ex-girlfriend Nina, in the apartment of our friend Andreja. Andreja was in India practicing yoga, and we were staying at her place in the meantime. We thought the place could be nicer with a small extra touch, so we built this thing. It was quite a surprise for Andreja, because we did not tell her anything beforehand. We just set it up, wrote usage instructions on bathroom wall, and went to hiding in the seaside. Luckily, she liked it.

The main purpose of this pufferfish is to hold a lamp. In addition, it is connected to some technology stuff. When switched on, its eyes wink. And when the PUFF! button is pressed, it puffs like a pufferfish should.

Of course, puffing requires a compressor and that makes a horrible sound. It could never work as interior design piece if the compressor had to be inside. This problem was solved by putting all bulky and noisy stuff outside. This was possible because there were some tubes going through the wall, originally intended for air conditioning. As additional benefit, this setup made the pufferfish site specific, thus unique and special.

Talking of structure, pufferfish’s skeleton is a wire frame, made from clothes hangers. Its skin is fabric, and inside is children’s plastic inflatable ball. The air conditioning leads in the wall were just wide enough to pass all the needed wires and air tubes through, so power supply, compressor and control electronics were all located outside.

The main technical challenges with this piece were the pneumatic setup and how power hungry the compressor was. Actually, having no prior experience with moving air around, I was quite surprised how easy it was to fix everything fit together well enough to push some air into the ball and retain it there for a reasonable period of time. Power requirements were solved by using a high output atx power supply and additionally throttling the compressor a bit with power resistors. This setup was evidently not perfect, because the electronics died after couple of months operation. Apparently the reason was overheating of the drive transistor.