The room goes black at TEDxNaperville and there in glowing neon balloons is the cryptic word “awesome”. Balloon entertainer Dale Obrochta has visually mind mapped Jill Shargaa’s presentation, “ Please, Please, People, Let’s Put the Awe Back in Awesome” out of twisting balloons.
“This was a first for any TED/TEDx talk”, says TEDxNaperville producer Arthur Zards. Over the years TED/TEDx producers have used scribes to visually draw a mind map, but this year TEDxNaperville 2014 is tipping the sales by having Obrochta not only mind map on stage but mind map TEDxNaperville speakers.
“The ‘Awesome’ sculpture had its challenges,” says Obrochta. The presentation had sixteen sculptures that needed to be produced in approximately six minutes. The video referenced PDF, D-day, and the Grand Canyon, things Obrochta had to take into consideration when developing the ‘Awesome’ display.
“I drew from my three decades of balloon twisting to help me create many of these designs”, says Obrochta. Placed in the awesome sculptures were a fire hose nozzle, flowers, a car, a pyramid, a dollar sign, a moon, and a shark. Yet, Obrochta’s comedy did appear in the presentation when referencing food. Obrochta used a hotdog, which was a dog inside a Chicago style hot dog bun, a phallic symbol for flowers mating, and a pyramid for a hat.
The reveal of the word awesome through the use of black lights was extracted out of Obrochta’s Art and Comedy of Inflation show where he erects a balloon sculpture under a black light. “I knew the effect would work, but didn’t know how I was going camouflage lettering to the design.” says, Obrochta.
“The two visual symbols that took the longest to develop were the references to D-Day and the Grand Canyon, says Obrochta. “The amphibious assault is hard to depict in less than fifteen seconds, and the Grand Canyon is just a big hole in the ground,” stated Obrochta. Obrochta cleverly associated the D-Day with balloon hands; one in the shape of a victory sign, while the other hand clutched a white cross. “D-Day was a victory for the USA, but at a high cost. I felt that all those who lost their lives needed to be remembered on that day, so I honored them in the display with a hand holding a white cross,” stated Obrochta.
The Grand Canyon was depicted with a railing, a clear balloon representing the Grand Canyon Skywalk, and a blue balloon for the Colorado River, all while concealing the letter M that is in the word awesome. “It is easy to ‘create’ a bunch of individual figures, but when you have to create a letter inside an image that coincides with the speaker’s presentation and needs to be a certain color, that was the biggest challenge in making the awesome sculpture,” says Obrochta.
Obrochta mind mapped Brian Willis’ presentation, The Most Dangerous Weapon in Law Enforcement. Willis talked about the reaction time a police offer has to respond to an incident and how it’s videotaped.
Obrochta’s design depicts a police officer, or is it a bad guy? As Willis explained in his presentation, in a split second a criminal with a knife swings, and misses the officer. The officer shoots the criminal in the back, killing him. Who’s the bad guy? The police officer’s car video shows no distance between the two men. The video shows a man with a knife and the police officer shooting him in the back.
“I purposely chose a plant, which represents life, but I allow the viewer to determine who the villain is on this balloon sculpture.” says, Obrochta. “If you look at the face, he looks like a bad guy, but he’s wearing a star badge and holding two weapons, all while being videotaped.”
Another visual interpretation was John Coyle’s presentation, How to Design Moments that Help You Live (almost) Forever. Coyle used analogies in his presentation relating time to an individual’s life span, and how time seemed to last longer as a child, but flew quicker as one ages. The second analogy was how time relates to a garden hose and water trickles out as a child, while in the later part of life water gushes from the spigot. “I created a stopwatch that has three dials on the face, each one representing a person’s life (Child, Adult, and Senior). The figure held a hose that shows how water pressure decreases/increases over a life cycle.” says Obrochta.
“I found the TEDxNaperville experience was a wonderful challenge, not only from a creative aspect, but also from an educational experience. I wanted to make sure my balloon sculptures captured the essence of the speaker’s talk, but also allowed the audience to expand its thinking about what they just heard and saw at TEDxNaperville,” says Obrochta.