Illusion will be at Global Gathering 2010: Friday 30 July 2007 and Saturday 31 July 2010 at Long Marston Airfield, near Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, United Kingdom. Illusion comes to GlobalGathering with joint cooperation from the Big Chill Festival.
Illusion is a light sculpture on a canvas of 25 massive balloons spread over an area the size of half a football pitch. At night, the balloons come alive with light and music. “A really fantastic space,” said Jason Eppink of the first production of Illusion. “I felt like I was swimming or flying. Or both. Probably the highlight of the art this year.” Lights are painstakingly programmed to form a choreography set to a wide range of music. The lights evoke a range of moods with soft, fading luminescence interspersed by glimmering, dancing lights.
Festival-goers can touch the balloons as the landscape around them rhythmically pulsates. Illusion was inspired by images of the Yipeng Lantern Festival held yearly in Thailand. The festival features a spectacle of over 200,000 floating, candle-lit lanterns that rise up to a mile into the night sky. Locals believe that as the Sky Lantern rise, it takes away their troubles and brings good luck in the future. Illusion’s early designs specified thousands of small balloons, each containing a small strobe, floating up to 200 feet in the air to capture a modern vision of the festival. To reduce complexities, the plan was modified, with a network of large balloons tethered to the ground.
“…and ‘Illusion, which had 24 large, lighted helium balloons tethered together and pulsating to music. “The art and music go really good together, like peanut butter and jelly,” said Petra Marar, 22, of New Orleans, as she admired the “Illusion” installation. “So much of art is music. It’s a perfect match.”
-Rick Jervis, USA TODAY
Illusion is a concept by Benson Trent, a US-based designer, with credit to Daniel Holsinger, Jay Christianson, Tom Bowen and Jaise Batty. “Growing up, I remember putting on light shows with a projector and a sheet,” said Trent, “There’s something entrancing about the light dancing to music.” The project is produced in cooperation The Big Chill Festival and was an honorarium art installation at the 2008 Burning Man
After a week-long of intense setup, our balloons were up and working like a dream on Thursday. We had them up in high winds all day on Friday, and then the doors to the public opened at 5 pm. And they just got attacked. We had to begin taking down almost immediately. It was the saddest day I’ve had in quite a long time. We made a big toy, and well, people break toys, and that’s ok. We were astounded by the abusive behavior towards our balloons. But in hindsight, we see that the materials themselves just cry out to people to RUN and launch themselves headfirst into what is essentially a giant pillow. A pillow with sensitive electronics, light bulbs, and 230 volts of electricity. We had to shut it down to save the balloons that were developing massive rips. But my, people were having FUN doing it!
I was absolutely devastated–and it surprises me how months of planning, sleepless nights and aching muscles elicits a core emotional response. It’s in these times, you see how far your basic psyche prowess will take you, and one decides if they’re going to have a mental breakdown or not. In the end, I found myself yelling at people, then smiling, dancing and crying; my coping mechanisms set in.
Contrast that day by the light test we did the night before the show’s opening. We had 24 massive balloons up, singing with light and music. It was a euphoric reward in seeing people come by and fall in love with the space, and in seeing a landscape transformed by a crazy idea. We’re going to post a video soon, so at least we have some record to share.
And next week, we’ll try this again at the Big Chill festival. Sadly, we won’t be able to let people interact so intimately with the balloons. By the very nature of the materials, we did a bad job of communicating to festival goers how to interact with the piece. Perhaps a yellow caution tape surrounding each balloon, or a small fence will communicate the message that you can destroy the balloon by launching your entire body weight at what is essentially camping tent material.