Dezeen Magazine

Doug Aitken's mirrored balloon New Horizon flies over Massachusetts

American artist Doug Aitken has created a mirrored hot air balloon to travel across rural landscapes of Massachusetts this summer.

Called New Horizon, Aitken's design comprises a 100-foot-tall (30-metre-tall) balloon made of a semi-mirrored material and a gondola. It will fly over various sites in Massachusetts that are managed by the Trustees, a local non-profit preservation and conservation organisation, for the rest of the month.

Curator Pedro Alonzo enlisted the Californian artist to create the project for The Trustees' Art and the Landscape Programme, which invites artists to create a work in response to the natural surrounds. Aitken came up with the idea for a flying sculpture to be less predictable.

"I thought that I don't really want to make a piece of public art that sits in a field," Aitken told Dezeen. "I'd love to find something that's, you know, more alive and more challenging and more kind of time-based."

"I started thinking about the idea of making an artwork that could travel and be nomadic and could change continuously," he added.

New Horizon by Doug Aitken

Aitken worked with friends at NASA to develop the semi-mirrored material for the balloon's body, which is intended to reflect the landscape when flying during the day.

LED lights are hand-sewn throughout the material and can be choreographed to illuminate in different patterns and colours during the night time.

New Horizon by Doug Aitken

"I didn't want the piece to finish when the sun sets and we go into darkness," said the artist. "It can change from white light to cool white light to warm, white light to different chromatic colours."

New Horizon launched on 12 July at the Long Point Beach reservation on Massachusetts island Martha's Vineyard.

It will travel onto various properties across the US state, including Holmes Reservation in Plymouth, deCrodova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Castle Hill on the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Naumkeag, and end at Field Farm in Williamstown on 28 July.

At each setting, the balloon will be used to initiate "happenings" that comprises talks and musical performances by artists selected by Aitken. Attendees will also be able to purchase tickets to ride in the gondola.

New Horizon by Doug Aitken

"These happenings are all different," said Aitken. "They're very loose and very candid."

Aitken, who is based in Venice, California, and New York, often aims to play with settings and the elements with his artworks.

Previous experimental projects have included an underwater installation that invited people to swim inside mirrored geodesic domes anchored to the seabed near California's Catalina Island in California.

New Horizon by Doug Aitken

"I was restless with the idea that to see a film, you would go into a building and sit down in a chair and watch a screen," he said. "I want to find ways to kind of break that."

"That led into more architectural directions with projects that move past the image, that go deep into the earth," he added.

His other site-specific works include the small house-shaped structure covered entirely in mirrors he created for the Desert X festival held in Coachella Valley.

Photography is courtesy of Doug Aitken Workshop and The Trustees.