Jenny White: Till’s Landing at Red Space Gallery
In 2009, Richard and Mayumi Heene released a gray, UFO shaped balloon from their Colorado home. Their son, Falcon Heene, had supposedly hidden in the balloon’s compartment and was floating thousands of miles in the air as the world watched. In Jenny White’s installation at Red Space Gallery, the artist aims to convey the moments of embarrassment and anger resulting from the hoax. This poem, written by the artist, preludes the exhibition:
In this landing lets commemorate the airwaves
that left us dumbstruck in the wake of an empty package.
We blushed in unison for our own absent audience.
Lets see red in this Owlglass.
In “Till’s Landing” (named for Till Eulenspiegel, a fourteenth century prankster who grew popular in European folklore for jokes and puns that demonstrated his lower class cleverness over higher classes.1), screenshots of CNN’s coverage of the ‘Balloon Boy’ incident cascade down two opposite walls. Two red lights pointed at one of these walls form two circles (that I mistook for the eyes of binoculars) which emulate blushing. The third wall is covered with joker cards. White illuminates the room with low lighting that mimics watching television with the lights off. White’s use of the poetry as a riddle for the viewer furthers the theme of trickery.
An envious eye marked a flee from a wonted rock,
and through the grass may have been greener
in the blue skies of freedom, it had never once
read of plans that hadn’t crashed.
The simplicity of media used in the work mirrors the artist’s quiet, straightforward demeanor. The rhythm created by the placement of the cards and the repetition of the screen shots make the room feel playful, yet White wonders if people were jealous of the boy as he floated to freedom. She focuses on the embarrassment turned anger toward Falcon Heene, who bears the stigma his parents have bequeathed him.
I have no memory of watching this particular incident, so I came to the installation with a blank slate, rather than a memory embroiled with emotion. For me, White was telling me about the event through a storyboard. For those who watched this event unfold in 2009, perhaps they remember their astonishment, confusion, and eventual anger toward the Heene family. They might remember the facts recorded on the CNN news ticker more than the incident itself.
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After seeing the installation, I can picture the artist bent over a computer taking screenshot after screenshot for hours to produce the work and I wonder how, with so much much information always at our fingertips, we may use the internet to re-watch and re-live these public experiences and yet are still capable of being ‘fooled’ on a massive scale by two determined people.
White’s wallpapering of Red Space’s spare bedroom apartment gallery is cheeky and different from her portfolio of photography and photo collages. She rose to the challenge of creating new work for the space and succeeded at developing a worthwhile installation.
Jenny White: Till’s Landing is on view at Red Space Gallery in Austin, TX until March 18, 2013.
Images courtesy of the artist.