Creed has made several works involving balloons over the course of the last number of years. The series of works is entitled ‘Half the air in a given space’, from which Phoenix Art Museum’s latest acquisition is drawn. The title explains the system at work in these installations: half the air in a given space must be contained inside the balloons that occupy it. This means, in each space where a work in this series is installed, the installation is completely different. In a space with very high ceilings, it could be that the balloons fill the room way above human height, so visitors moving through the space are essentially underwater in a sea of balloons. As Creed explains, “It is important that people have access to the space. In a way, the space should be treated as if the work is not there. The situation, as much as possible, should be normal: as usual, the space is full of air, and here the only difference is that half of that air is inside balloons. Rather than using netting to keep the balloons in place, the containment of the balloons should rely on the choice of the space and the management of entrances and exits, including possibly having a guard or docent help visitors enter and exit.” Thus the artwork is directly connected to and reliant upon the audience’s active participation in generating the unique energy of the installation.
Creed’s balloon rooms are quintessential examples of the wit and humor that pervade his body of work and the idea that creating a system following one simple and straightforward rule — you must enclose half the air in a given space inside balloons — can have a tremendous, joyous, and almost magical impact on the viewer.
Martin Creed, Work No. 2497 Half the air in a given space, 2015. White balloons. Collection of Phoenix Art Museum, Purchased with funds provided by Contemporary Forum in honor of Gilbert Vicario, the Selig Family Chief Curator.
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