Giant, mirrored hot air balloon to soar over Mass. this summer, with stops in the Berkshires


This summer, public art will take to the sky in the form of a mirrored hot air balloon.

The project, called "New Horizon," is presented by conservation nonprofit The Trustees of Reservations and is the brainchild of Doug Aitken, an American artist and filmmaker known for his large-scale outdoor installations.

"New Horizon" unfurls over the course of two weeks in July as the balloon lifts off at scenic locales across the state. A shiny marble suspended in the sky, this visual spectacle can be viewed from the safety of the ground or experienced as a (ticketed) ride into the clouds.

Beginning July 12, the balloon is scheduled to make 14 appearances at eight Massachusetts locations: the Long Point Wildlife Refuge and the FARM Institute on Martha’s Vineyard, the Holmes Reservation in Plymouth, the deCordova Sculpture Park in Lincoln, the Crane Estate in Ipswich, Field Farm in Williamstown and Naumkeag in Stockbridge. All but two of the locations are properties of the Trustees of Reservations. A ninth Boston location might also be announced.

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Aitken wanted to create a mobile artwork that would allow him to explore the diverse environments across the Trustees’ properties. He designed the balloon to reflect the landscape surrounding it.

“It's a mirage. It's something which changes continuously,” Aitken said. “We could be sitting on a sand dune at dusk right now, and above us is this enormous curved reflection of the sun setting. ... And then [we] see that change, and change again.”

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Aitken also wanted the piece to be participatory — not a passive experience, like so many art exhibits. To that end, each stop on the balloon’s journey will give rise to what Aitken calls a "happening," often involving music or a guest speaker, organized by Boston-based independent curator Pedro Alonzo.

The happenings are meant to spark discussions about the future, with talks by the artist Sarah Morris, the financial analyst Spencer Glendon and the ecologist Chris Neill, among others.

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“This is a moment where a lot of us — almost everybody — is apprehensive about the future,” Alonzo said. “I see this balloon functioning as a beacon that brings people together to have conversations about the future — and then some fun listening to music.”

In the evening, the balloon will transform into a light sculpture, serving as the backdrop to performances by musicians like the Canadian lo-fi slacker rocker Mac DeMarco. Dan Bejar of the indie rock band Destroyer will improvise a set inspired by the landscape. Kelsey Lu, Jónsi, Julie Byrne, Helado Negro and the poet Aja Monet are also slated to perform.

"New Horizon" will also host free and low-cost family events and a few surprise balloon appearances.

This article first appeared on WBUR and Since publication, the artist Terry Riley cancelled, the this story has been edited to reflect that.


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