Work No. 965: Half the air in a given space by Martin Creed, one of Great Britain’s most acclaimed contemporary artists, has been described as an “epic sculpture/installation/happening.” This all-inclusive description attempts to classify an artwork that is versatile in essence and cannot be pinned down into one specific genre.
First created by Creed in 1998 with white balloons as Work No. 200 and then proposed in different colors in subsequent years, Work No. 965 (2008) comprises purple balloons, 11 inches in diameter. The sculpture is installed, based on the artist’s instructions, by putting half of a room's entire volume into air-filled balloons, filling the room with those balloons, and letting viewers walk in. Now in the collection of the Cleveland Museum of Art, the work marks a passage in the history of this institution: it offers a stronger link than any other object between the museum’s visual arts collection and its performing arts programs. Half the air in a given space debuts in the museum’s southeast corner gallery, a tall cubic room enclosed in glass on three sides. This pivotal architectural moment invites insight on the original 1916 museum building as it connects to the new wing and atrium. Following a four-year-long display of figures and busts by Auguste Rodin, Half the air in a given space replaces the sculptures with audience members in motion, in plain sight, mixing with the balloons.
The title points to space and air manifested as breath and volume. “It is important to me,” says Creed, “that the situation is normal, that, as usual, the space is full of air; it’s just that half of it [is] inside the balloons.” With the balloons above and below the viewer’s eye level, the mass is neither impenetrable nor heavy; rather, it coexists with people.