Half the air in a given space
1998 by Martin Creed
Installation at Galerie Analix B & L Polla, Geneva, Switzerland
The numbers Creed gives to all his artworks seem to sum up the ingenious simplicity each possess. Every one is announced with ‘Work No…’ and then the title, often giving little hint of what wit is in store; indeed, many of his paintings are only titled by their number. These numbers sum up the multiplicity of Creed’s work – there is no special medium or type, his art comes in all shapes and sizes; the work reels off in a wonderful list and one we hope is never ending. Half the air in a given space sounds suffocating, though those who have been into Creed’s room of balloons know that in actual fact it’s a lot more fun. Up to your face in balloons – soft, white, floating, reacting to your every movement – rising in that foolishly languid way that only a balloon can – it’s hard not to enter grinning. Balloons are the stuff of childhood and parties; they defy gravity, leaving us behind, and pop with an incredible bang. Surrounded by these beings, who don’t just take up but ingest the atmosphere around us, we transcend to another world, one where our line of site is completely engulfed in a shifting and frolicking white. One feels almost safe – caught in the arms of a bounce – yet slightly mad, with the constant shifting and electricity of static in the air. The balloons are a confrontation, whether welcome or not, captured so beautifully in this image of a man entering Galerie Analix B & L Polla; his stance is physically, and probably emotionally, overwhelmed as he squeezes himself in. This view of the street window embodies the whimsical attitude of the work which, here in its original form in 1998, was missing in its reincarnation at the Hayward Gallery, where it was safely hidden away; these balloons are pressed against the window waiting to get out to the public. A space with only half the air in it is a worry, but by visualising such an idea Creed turns the notion on its head.