Half the air

Martin Creed
October 23, 2004 – December 4, 2005

Work No. 360: Half the air in a given space, 2004
Balloons
Dimensions variable

Photo © Sebastien Schobbert

Exhibition view: Martin Creed, Half the air, Johnen Galerie, Berlin, 2004

Photo © Sebastien Schobbert

Half the air

Martin Creed
Johnen Galerie, Berlin
October 23, 2004 – December 4, 2005
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In his solo exhibition Work No. 360: Half The Air In A Given Space, Martin Creed (born 1968 in Wakefield, GB) shows silver balloons, each with a diameter of 40cm, which as an installation fill half of the gallery space. The gallery can only be entered by playfully uncovering a path, which results in a certain disorientation. Even gallery staff familiar with the architecture can only move intuitively within the exhibition. The spatial perception, especially due to the very limited view of walls, ceiling or floors, leads on the one hand to a location awareness of the viewer within the floating balloons and on the other hand to a claustrophobic restriction. 

Martin Creed's works are characterized by a conceptual idea that is initiated in space. The physical experience of the viewer is an essential component of the work, thus continuing Duchamp's approach of the artwork created only in its reception. Creed's works are dependent on the viewer; their clear basic structures or installation instructions make them have a direct effect. In his work Work No 227: The Lights Going On And Off, for which he was awarded the Turner Prize in 2001, the lighting in an exhibition space is switched on and off. A superficially simple concept that makes the experience of space conscious in its two basic states. The viewer rethinks his point of view and perspective and transfers his experience to the reception of the space. Dualisms like those of light and dark or present and absent merge within the work. The viewer is surrounded twice - architecture and visualized air. 

Choose a space. Calculate the volume of the room. Fill silver balloons with a diameter of 40 cm with air until they occupy half of the volume of the room. As usual, the room should be filled with air, but half of it should be in balloons. More balloons should be added over time to maintain the volume of the work, or the balloons should gradually release the air in a natural way. 

In Half The Air In A Given Space Martin Creed creates a balanced volume ratio of 'free' and 'enclosed' air without changing the overall proportion. The balloon as a symbol for tangible, material air becomes the carrier of the idea to be conveyed. Where the air surrounding us is defined as free space, it reverses this basis and makes it visible. Not only the gallery architecture encloses the viewer, but the balloons surround him in every position. This creates a threatening scenario that both conceals the space and encloses the visitor between the balloons.

Through the objects and their monochrome shiny surface, the artwork gains a playful appearance with an ironic wink, reminiscent of one's own childish play with freely dancing balloons and contrasting or even cancelling out the above-mentioned menacing effect.

The slow release of air (from the balloons) over the course of the exhibition and the reduction of the number of balloons due to loss (opening of doors, bursting) causes the entire installation to change gradually and to provide a steadily increasing visibility. 

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