‘Let us deliver mankind from the ancient, universal tyranny!
‘What ancient, universal tyranny, you cry.
‘Why, the ancient, universal tyranny of gravity!’

This summer, artist and writer James Bridle is flying a balloon from the roof of Bold Tendencies, a multi-storey car park and art space in Peckham, South London. Attached to the balloon will be a variety of payloads, from darknet routers to aerial cameras, with the results of its experiments shared publicly and online.

View a gallery of photos of the project

The balloon, a large, military-grade helikite, ascends from a newly commissioned structure designed by London based architecture and design studio TDO, consisting of a rooftop hangar, workshop and exhibition space, where the project will be documented from June until September.

'The Right to Flight' takes its name from a treatise written by the Parisian photographer and balloonist Nadar in 1866. He proclaimed that mankind had a right, even a duty, to ascend to the heavens. His friend the novelist Victor Hugo urged him to "deliver mankind from the ancient, universal tyranny of gravity!" Nadar was the first person to take aerial photographs, and led the daring effort to break the Siege of Paris in 1870. But ballooning has also taken a darker turn: from the Zeppelin raids of the First World War, to the use of surveillance balloons in Iraq and Afghanistan, and along the US/Mexico border. Using an aerostat designed for just that purpose, The Right to Flight will investigate ways to return the powers of surveillance and omniscience to the surveilled, and attempt to rediscover Nadar's utopias in the possibilities of contemporary technologies, while making its own claim on London's increasingly crowded skyline.

Letters from the Balloon

James will be writing a series of letters from the balloon over the course of the summer, telling its stories and exploring its findings. Sign up here to receive them.


Read the Letter Archive


The Right to Flight is at Bold Tendencies, Levels 7-10, Multi Storey Car Park, 95a Rye Lane, Peckham, SE15 9ST

It is open Tuesday - Friday 6pm - 11pm and Saturday - Sunday 11am - 11pm, from June 19th until September 21st.

The nearest station is Peckham Rye (London Overground and National Rail from London Bridge and London Victoria).

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