Shooting balloons that have been tied together and laid on the sea is a popular pastime in the coastal areas of Turkey.
Halé Tenger has taken inspiration from this familiar Turkish sight to create a poetic and profound seven-channel video installation. The Istanbul-based artist's first exhibition in Dubai, Balloons on the Sea, comments on the ephemeral nature of life, political oppression in society and the undying spirit of human beings.
The exhibition begins with a light box displaying a picture of the balloons laid on the sea. Next comes a huge screen on which is projected an upside-down video of the same picture accompanied by music, created especially for the artwork by Tenger's long-time audio collaborator, Serdar Ateser.
As you look at the multicoloured balloons on the water, strung together, bobbing on the sea, you realise that because of the image reversal, it is actually the reflection that you are looking at.
There is no gun to be seen but the knowledge that these balloons have been put there to be shot adds a sense of tension to the tranquil scene. The haunting music adds to the lyricism and the tension.
By using this large projection, Tenger has actually divided the gallery space into two separate areas. Behind this screen are six smaller screens. As you walk in between these screens, you can see individual balloons blown off, each one making a different sound, a last sigh.
But magically, the balloons reappear in an almost ghost-like manner. Both the popping and the reappearance of the balloons are random, thus a tension is built as you expect a burst but do not know which one will pop and when.
Thus the artist draws you into two separate worlds — one a dream-like scenario that charmingly invites you to indulge in the joyful reverberations of the gently floating balloons and the other, almost as soft as a whisper, brings the spectral side of existence into focus.