Expecting to move freely, it is somewhat of a challenge to suddenly immerse your self in a space filled to the brim with balloons. “Half the Air of a Given Space”, a series of gallery installations by British artist, Martin Creed, accomplishes this alter-dimensional sense. Beginning as far back as 1998 in Switzerland, the exhibit has been traveling all over the world and was most recently at the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa, Ontario. Being so widely distributed as an installation says something about space and movement itself. The actual installations become less of an aesthetic sensation and more of a somatic experience; entering the installation is not only to position yourself in view of the object but to have the object immediately surround your person, physically. Air usually surrounds our person, Creed asserts this by stating that all the air is still there, only half of it is contained in the balloons. The thought may raise a claustrophobic reaction but being consumed in a mass is not as intimidating when it is thousands of brightly colored, shiny balloons. That sounds like a party, right? Still, who expects their physical reality to be mediated by any object? Where you usually assume knowledge of the world, it is totally eclipsed and disorientation sets in. Then all you know is that there are balloons everywhere – you’ve been absorbed into the dimension of the balloons. Creed claims that he isn’t an artist, pointing out the simplicity of form he applies with such installations, even though they completely morph the viewer’s perspective to alter-dimension experiences. So does that make him a sort of physicist?
-Howard Brad Halverson