SHAW Jeffrey Shaw, BOTSCHUIJVER Theo, WELLESLEY-MILLER Sean Waterwalk (1969)

The Waterwalk invention was a 3-metre-high tetrahedron-shaped balloon made from transparent (and sometimes colored) PVC sheeting. A watertight zip allowed people to enter and be sealed inside. When this lightweight structure was inflated with air, one or more persons could ‘walk on water’ by stepping and rotating it like a wheel over the water’s surface. The large volume of air in the balloon allowed the occupants to enjoy the experience for some time; whenever they wished they could unzip and let themselves out. Lakes, rivers and the ocean were typical locations where the Waterwalk was shown, including on the seashore during the Brighton Festival England. It was also featured in the James Bond film ‘Diamonds Are Forever’, where it first dropped from the sky on parachutes. 

The Waterwalk transforms the traditional notion of a sculpture as a speculative object into an active affordance of immersive experiences. It redefines the user’s physical modality of being in the world by providing a prosthetic capability that locates the body in a new condition that is an operative expression of new values.

An attempt was made to formally copyright the Waterwalk as an artwork through the United Stares Copyright Office, but the application was rejected.