For two more days, Gavin Brown’s Enterprise on the LES will have their third floor gallery space packed with big red balloons. And I mean overwhelmingly and joyously packed from wall to wall, head to toe (depending on your height, that is). The interactive installation by British artist Martin Creed is the most recent iteration of his balloon rooms, this one entitled Work No. 2592.
Upon climbing the stairs to the third floor, you are greeted by a doorway with larger than usual red balloons spilling down a narrow hallway. Visitors enter cautiously, carefully kicking balloons out of their way before turning the corner into the gallery space. Quickly you realize the only way to make your way through the room is some mixture between a doggy paddle and a dispassionate swat. Some visitors describe the experience as claustrophobic, and understandably so. Perception of depth and space is briefly lost, as there is no way to see the boundaries of the room. The only hint at other visitors is the popping of balloons underfoot.
The series “Half the Air of a Given Space” has travelled all over the world since its Switzerland debut in 1998, and has taken the form of every color of the rainbow. The concept behind the work plays with the idea of perceived volume and space. Whether we’re conscious of it or not, we are always surrounded by air. However, in these balloon filled rooms, half of your surrounding air is encased within a material structure, providing a physical expression of the room’s volume.
As with many crowd-pleasing installations of late, the immediate desire is to somehow capture the experience in photos. While it definitely lends itself to a great holiday Instagram post, I highly recommend snapping a few photos and then taking the time to explore the room. Interact with the balloons the way Creed’s viewers would have originally, before the age of snapping cellphone shots of artwork. And don’t worry about the balloons popping, they replenish the room daily.