Ettun ART ’10 goes ballooning

On Saturday, Tamar Ettun ART ’10 will premiere her latest art installation, “One Thing Leads to Another,” at Brooklyn’s Recess at Kidd Yellin gallery. Over a year in the making, Ettun’s performance incorporates text from “The Odyssey” with video projection, live music and dance, all taking place in an overturned hot air balloon. Ettun said her project originated with her service in the Israeli army, for which she was an instructor in a paratrooper unit.

Q: Your program is debuting on Saturday. Is this your first time putting on a performance art piece?

A: This is the second time. The last time, I put on a performance with my professor at Yale, Emily Coates ’06 GRD ’11, who [teaches] dance. We did a project that was a sculpture-dance collaboration.

Q: What inspired you to work with hot air balloons?

A: [It happened] by chance. When I did my army service in Israel, I was in an elite paratroopers unit. I wasn’t a fighter; I was an educational instructor and dealt with everything culture-related. We were only four girls and 170 guys, so it was a very intense service with lots of drama, operations and people dying and getting hurt. I was very idealistic [at the start].

Q: How did you adapt hot air balloons into your art piece?

A: When I came to Yale, I wanted to understand American culture, and I wanted to do that by studying hot-air balloons. So for my thesis project, I built a hot-air balloon out of a parachute. I wanted to juxtapose that naive object with the charged object I was familiar with from the army, the parachute.

Q: What happened after you graduated?

A: There is a big travel grant at Yale, and I wanted to think of an idea that [would] enable me to travel around the United States. After receiving the grant, I kept in touch with the balloonist friends I made [while] researching and decided to go visit them. I used this specific transport to travel around the U.S. and understand it from the inside.

Q: Why did you decide to travel around the country?

A: I felt that since I’m living here [in America] and aiming towards an American audience, I need to learn the culture better, not just in the N.Y. area.

Q: And what interested you about what you found?

A: I traveled from Vermont all the way to San Francisco. I was most interested in the communities — how people are doing some joint activity together, and why they choose that as a hobby.

Q: And people build hot air balloons as a hobby?

A: Yeah, there is a whole subculture! People build their own balloons, and they take their own rides together. It’s an act that really builds strength in their communities.

Q: How did hot air balloons translate into your final product?

A: One of the things that fascinates me about ballooning is its relation to gravity and balance. How this heavy, large, hard-to-manipulate object becomes graceful and light. And its arbitrary quality, since you have no sense of direction — you trust the wind to lead you.

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