Summer Learning 6: New Horizon

“My vision for New Horizon was really to create a sculpture that was living; something that could create a moment in time as opposed to something that was made of form and was solid. Artworks which one can seek out or explore. Artworks that are time-based, that can burn hot for temporary moments. Artworks that can interact in different ways. And it also means we’re all part of this project.” – Doug Aitken

We went west to see the New Horizon project at Farm Field in Williamstown. The New Horizon project is actually a hot air balloon and related happenings (events) at the various sites it traveled to throughout Massachusetts in July 2019. New Horizon is an artwork by Doug Aitken. The artwork and related happenings were hosted and sponsored by The Trustees of Reservations (@thetrustees). You can read about the project here.

We had acquired tickets for the afternoon family time and arrived in time for the kick off. Field Farm is a beautiful, pastoral space with walking trails and an expansive vista of the Berkshires. To breathe in that space induced instant relaxation.

Farm Field

When we arrived we could see the balloon laid out on the grass and a crew was working to set up a stage across the field. There were food trucks and a bottled water vendor. We chose to enjoy locally made popsicles while we waited.

Chocolate Fudge and Mango Pineapple Coconut pops

There were kids everywhere, on blankets with picnics, strolling around the fields, and exploring the balloon.

The balloon was interesting to watch as it undulated in the field with every ripple and billow form the breeze. New Horizon is spectacular in its reflective properties and contours throughout its various stages of inflation.

The New Horizon crew tried to launch the balloon a few different times, but the combination of breeze and mid-day heat was too much to overcome.

So we went back in the evening. And we are so glad we did!

New Horizon and artist Doug Aitken (in olive green shirt) with Destroyer on stage.

The evening program included an interview with artist Doug Aitken, live performances by Destroyer and No Age, and a synchronized light show. This is a clip from the start of the interview:

Community and shared dialogue are very important to the project. This is a recurring theme in the artworks I have seen this summer. About this project Doug shared, “For me, I saw this as this really interesting and unusual opportunity to create something that could do that, but not only do that in one place, it could kind of move across the landscape and connect people. And every location this project stops or starts at…I saw it as almost like a turbine for culture, this space where different voices would blend together and I see that the future as not a space of division, it’s not a space where we see culture over here, ecology there, politics there, science or technology over here. If any of us sit down tonight and have dinner, we’re going to talk about all these things. this is a human conversation. If an artwork can elicit these kinds of conversations, it can cross over these dialogues, then I think that’s something very valuable”

Doug was available and approachable while the music played:

When we had a chance to talk, I congratulated him on having realized his vision for the project. We talked about “art” – its traditions and new media. I explained that I teach visual art to middle school students and as such am always conscious of the relevance of art making to their lives, specifically with the consideration of new materials and technologies. We talked about how each generation has the opportunity to redefine “art” for themselves. Doug has pushed all of the boundaries over the years, as you’ll see if you take a look at his bio here:

I asked permission to share my experience of New Horizon with my students this year in the form of a video and discussion. He readily agreed and offered, “Tell them to just go for it! Whatever they can think up, whatever they want to say, they can create it!” Buoyed by his encouragement, I made this compilation video to share with my students this school year:

As the sky grew dark after sunset, New Horizon took on an other-worldly persona, personifying its name in ethereal thoughts of the solar system, our tiny planet, and the vast celestial space beyond. The music played and those of us in the field grew quiet, absorbed in the moment, yet transported to another place by the experience.

I’m including this in my series of posts about my summer learning (self-directed professional development) because the New Horizon project beautifully exemplifies the ideals I hope to share with my students, to: embrace new media, ideate beyond perceived boundaries, and consider the gestalt of an artwork.

The New Horizon experience was impactful for me as an educator because it exposed me to a unique, majestic artwork. It caused me to leave my comfort zone of home and surrounds to travel to the other side of the state and open myself up to both beauty and contemplation. And it has not only compelled me to share the experience with my students, but inspired me to create content with which to do that – making a movie in iMovie with sound bites, still images, and video clips (above) – another skill set to facilitate with them. I’m excited.

This post is part six of a group of posts about my self-directed professional development in the summer of 2019. To see the others, search Summer Learning or 2019 Summer PD.




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