sounding the air


Helium, latex balloon, electronics, FM transmission.
Exhibited in the group show Dyanmics of Air.
Curated by Malte Wagenfeld and Jane Burry.
RMIT Gallery, Melbourne.
September 14 – November 17, 2018

Sounding the air is a new iteration from a series of ‘balanced balloon’ projects that I have undertaken since 2013.

In this project, the uplift of a large helium balloon is balanced by an FM receiver and loudspeaker, creating a buoyancy-neutral assemblage that is sensitised to the subtle changes in air movement and temperature. The work circulates, rises and falls through the gallery space in response to these qualities of air. ‘Sounding’ is understood as process of building up a three-dimensional understanding of the atmosphere – much like the mapping of marine environments – as well as an aural testing of propositions about air.

The aural component of the project is a low-power FM transmission that is broadcast throughout the gallery space. It consists of an aural essay on air, constructed from a wide variety of quotes from poetry, fiction, and non-fiction texts interspersed with field recordings of air-activated environments. This transmission is received by the balloon assemblage, subject to distortions and interferences from the physical environment and other electronic transmissions present throughout the gallery.

Thanks to Ariel Aguilera, Andrea Benyi, Sarah Burrell, Joni Chan, Scott Andrew Elliott, Dan Griffin, Hilary Johnson, Djurdjica Kesic, Sommer Spiers, Rachel Swain and Virpi Vellin for lending their voices to the project.

Installation images by Mark Ashkanasy ©RMIT Gallery. Used with thanks.

Text sources:
• David Abram. “The Commonwealth of Breath.” In All Our Relations : 18th Biennale of Sydney / Editors: Catherine De Zegher and Gerald Mcmaster, edited by M. Catherine de Zegher, 334-41. [NSW] :: Biennale of Sydney, 2012.
• Shusaku Arakawa and Madeline Gins. Architectural Body. Modern and Contemporary Poetics. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2002.
• Monika Bakke. Going Aerial : Air, Art, Architecture. Maastricht: Jan van Eyck Academie, 2006.
• Juliana Engberg. Pipilotti Rist : I Packed the Postcard in My Suitcase. Southbank, Vic.: Australian Centre for Contemporary Art, 2011.
• Tim Ingold. “Footprints through the Weather‐World: Walking, Breathing, Knowing.” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 16 (2010): S121-S39.
• Tim Ingold. ”Lines and the weather.” In Vital Beauty : Reclaiming Aesthetics in the Tangle of Technology and Nature, edited by Joke Brouwer, Arjen Mulder and Lars Spuybroek, 12-28. Rotterdam: V2 Publishing : Nai, 2012.
• Luce Irigaray. The Forgetting of Air in Martin Heidegger Luce Irigaray ; Translated by Mary Beth Mader. Constructs Series. 1st ed. ed. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1999.
• Mark Jackson and Maria Fannin. “Letting Geography Fall Where It May? Aerographies Address the Elemental.” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29, no. 3 (2011): 435-44.
• Allan Kaprow and Jeff Kelley. Essays on the Blurring of Art and Life. Expanded ed. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2003.
• Alexander McCall Smith. The Uncommon Appeal of Clouds : An Isabel Dalhousie Novel. New York: Pantheon Books, 2012.
• Derek McCormack. “Engineering Affective Atmospheres on the Moving Geographies of the 1897 Andrée Expedition.” Cultural Geographies 15, no. 4 (October 1, 2008 2008): 413-30.
• Tim Winton. Breath. 1st American ed. New York: Farrar Straus and Giroux, 2008.

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