Two weeks’ ago, while wondering the streets of Wolverhampton with my digital camera, I took a photograph of a burst balloon.
Then I decided to draw it.
And then I decided to paint it.
What next? I’m not sure yet but looking at the photograph, I questioned my interest in a burst balloon.
When it first caught my eye, I knew that I had to photograph it (and risk the odd looks from passers by which I am used to). I love the texture of it and the colour. I like the way that the rubber sticks to itself. I love the creases. I like the contrast between the bright, orange cheerful colour and the cold, dark ground upon which it was left. I found it on a rainy day. I found it in the morning before the shops opened. It looked so sad. I knew I had to do something with it.
So I asked myself: Who left it there? Why did they abandon it? Did they discard it simply because it burst? Did they cry? Was its demise an accident or the result of boisterous play? Was it perhaps burst as a prank or in anger? Or did the owner squeeze it too hard or fall on it? Where are they now? Do they remember their orange balloon? Did t hey ask for a replacement? Did they get it from a shop or restaurant? Did they choose the colour or was it given to them? Perhaps they were on the way back from a party. Or perhaps it belonged to an adult on a hen night or birthday meal. I couldn’t see a logo on it, or any text at all. Perhaps the story of the balloon is more bizarre than I can conjure.
As I thought about all this. I began to question the balloon as an object. Why is a balloon so much more valuable to the owner when inflated than when deflated? The only difference is the presence of air and air has no economic or emotional value (except when absent of course). How can something so widespread and valueless make such a difference to an object’s value? The skin of the balloon remains after it has popped yet it is so treasured at one stage in its life and so readily cast aside in another. But the balloon cannot function without the skin. It cannot function without the air. Individually balloons and air are worthless to the owner, together they have value. We can’t keep the air, but we could keep the skin. What happens to all the discarded balloons in the world? It takes six months for a balloon to biodegrade. The streets of the world must be littered with similar abandoned skins, all equally colourful. Has anyone ever thought to collect discarded, burst balloon skins?
To me there is beauty in a burst balloon. It looks pathetic yet it has something compelling about it. But perhaps that is just me. Perhaps it is because of my ambivalent relationshi0p with balloons. Would I feel the same way about an abandoned crisp packet?
I fear balloons when inflated. They make me feel extremely anxious. But deflated they look so powerless and lonely. All I feel when I see a burst balloon is relief. I am relieved that it cannot burst twice. It is dead. Yet I feel guilty that I hate something that brings pleasure to most others. They are pretty and fun yet I hate them. I run away from them. I hide from them. Is it perverse to find happiness in a burst, abandoned balloon?
This leads me to ask: do other people create narratives around objects in the way that I do? Can I use such ordinary objects to provoke thought along these lines? Can I do something with a burst balloon to encourage others to pause and think about the object’s story and odd irony of value? Or would they just look at a painting, drawing, sculpture, print, or whatever of a burst balloon and think ‘that’s nice’.
To return to my original question of this blog: how much can I say about a burst balloon?
Answer: a lot.