Half the Air in a Given Space: Chicago Art Installation Fills Room With Colorful Balloons

Last week, I happened to hear about a great installation by Martin Creed, entitled Half the air in a given space. Creed is currently holding a yearlong residency at MCA Chicago… and this particular installation piece takes place in four separate locations.

Here’s a brief description:

For this site-specific installation, Creed fills half the space of a room with balloons, giving tangible form to something that’s usually invisible: the air around you. This lively artwork is meant to be enjoyed as you walk through it and not just viewed from outside. In Chicago, the artist has installed four versions of this work in different neighborhoods throughout the city, choosing a different color balloon for each site to give the installations their own feeling.

By the time I heard about the installations, the other three locations had already closed down. So I headed over to the final location (City Gallery in the Water Tower)… to walk around in a room full half full of balloons.

View from the side, with balloons pressing up against all windows.

That is a lot of balloons. I later found out that volunteers/employees ended up having to re-fill the installations weekly, due to popped balloons.

There were maybe 20+ people in front of me, but here’s one thing to note: only 2-3 people were allowed in at a time to the installation. I didn’t really understand this until I went in myself, but it gets difficult to see in there… and keeping the number of people low was kind of a safety thing.

Needless to say, the line moved slowly. I was probably waiting to get in for a good 45 – 60 minutes.

Another thing to note: the installation closes down, due to rain. This sounds a bit weird at first, but given the fact that people basically need to shuffle around to get through the installation… wet feet and wet floors would make for some slipping and injuries. From what I overheard, they had to shut down the installation a few times in the past due to rain, which must have sucked for those people who had been waiting in line.

Again, I understood this a lot more once I walked inside.

At the entrance, waiting to get in. There was one volunteer on the inside manning the door… and every time people walked in or out, balloons would invariably slip out past the door. It became the unofficial job of the person waiting in line to help grab any strays.

In talking with the guy at the door, I learned that part of the idea behind Creed’s residency was that each “piece” would slowly radiate out from the MCA, and slowly make its way into the city. This series of installations was, apparently, the first ones to leave the actual MCA grounds.

If you’re interested in following more of Creed’s yearlong residency here in Chicago, the MCA maintains a dedicated blog with photos and updates.

Walking in with the door to my right, this is what I saw. It’s really hard to do this place justice, as the balloons were pretty much right at eye level. On top of that, the balloons shifted around the entire space a great deal – a bit like how sand or snow sometimes gathers more against corners, due to wind.

For a majority of these shots, I’m holding my camera high up in the air. It’s safe to say that for much of the space, as you’re walking along… you’re more or less totally buried in balloons.

Ducking down into a mass of balloons.

Peering out a window, checking out the norms… in their boring, balloon-less world.

I spoke with the volunteers, and got permission to stick around and photograph a few folks as they entered and exited the space. Hopefully the following photos/videos give you some additional point of reference, as far as how many balloons were in here.

The entrance/exit, looking a bit more cleared away. That is, until folks make their way back around the corner:

Another couple, making their way through the space.

Going, going…


Back at the door, about to leave.

I had an absolute blast walking through here, and I have to say – get here if you can! Nearly everyone I saw leaving, old and young alike, were smiling and happy as they left the space. In fact, one kid was jumping up and down after emerging from the room, he was so excited.

Much like my experience with documenting the Chicago Color Run, it was impossible not to smile the entire time. Being a participant myself made me extremely happy, but seeing the expressions and reactions on others’ faces was also a blast.

The installation is only around until October 25th… and it’s raining right now, as I’m typing this up. So there’s not a lot of time left, if you want to go and experience this for yourself.

I’m sure there will be lines, and I’m sure there will be a wait in the final days. But I’m also sure that you’ll have a blast, and will enjoy it immensely.

Awesome Birthday Surprise: My Office, Filled With Balloons
*Pop* *Pop* *Pop* *Pop*
Waterballoon War: 2006, 2007, 2008
This Made Me Unbearably Happy
Brian Dettmer, Hyde Park Art Center
A Trip To The Garfield Park Conservatory

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. I went into the one that they had a Garfield Park Conservatory. About the same size of space but with white balloons. It was fun but also kinda creepy. Great concept.

    Ben Reply

    • I could see white being a kind of creepy color to experience. Kind of a strange clinical feel, I would imagine. Now that you’ve got me thinking about it, I’m glad I went to the one with red balloons – it felt much more playful.

      avoision Reply

  2. I think I want a room in my house dedicated to balloons now.

    Kyle Reply

    • After the 25th, you’d be the only show in town. You could charge admission!

      avoision Reply

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