Soft Surrealism - CODAworx

Soft Surrealism

Submitted by M/PAL: Mandy Palasik Studio

Client: City of Tempe, Arizona

Location: Tempe, AZ, United States

Completion date: 2024

Project Team


Mandy Palasik

Mandy Palasik Studio


Community Arts Team 

City of Tempe


Magnetic inflatables engage participants in an abstract installation. Soft Surrealism is a participatory community project that invites the public to create evolving abstract sculptures using magnetically connecting inflatables. Designed for the City of Tempe’s traveling Arts in the Parks events, the project seeks to create an immersive experience that constantly evolves with the creative contributions of its participants. “Soft” references the colorful, biomorphic, and light-weight forms of the inflatable pieces inspired by the vibrant hues and air-filled shapes of the Pop Art movement. “Surrealism” aims to tap into the depths of our unconscious mind, unlocking a reservoir of creativity that knows no bounds through abstracted shapes. The biomorphic custom shapes contain magnets welded into the plastic inflatables at strategic nodes that allow the different shapes and colors to connect in various configurations. Can you shape it like a pyramid? A colorful amoeba?! How tall can you make it? The possibilities are as limitless as the imagination.


The primary goal of the project was to create an immersive and engaging experience for community members of all ages and abilities. Furthermore, the work needed to be easily transportable to various park settings. The challenge was to establish an experiential spatial presence with a minimal footprint, accomplished through the innovative use of air.

These goals became key driver’s in influencing the design’s modular kit-of-part nature. Rather than an art to be merely observed, the work serves as an infrastructure for the community to engage and explore their own creativity. As the magnetics connect with opposing poles, an element of logic and strategy is employed to the construction of the sculptures, balancing art and science.


The sculptures' geometry was generated using 3D software, analyzing natural connections between shapes. Templates were derived to produce inflatable prototypes for magnetic connection testing. Multiple revisions were undertaken to achieve a smooth, organic shape without compromising structural integrity, ensuring durability for heavy usage during ongoing events.

Collaborating with Tempe Community Arts, the community engagement aspect involved strategic planning to inspire, interact with, and foster creativity among participants.

Additional Information

The resulting work engaged participants in the art-making process through elements of play, exploration, team building, and science. Young children enjoyed hugging and crawling through the colorful forms while grandparents snapped photos. Strangers came together to collaborate on towering forms, challenging themselves to make the tallest or longest sculpture yet. Throughout the day, the sculptures morphed into captivating creations at various scales, creating a colorful vocal point within the parks. All materials from the project were salvaged for reuse or donated to be repurposed in other applications.