(P)flight of the Paper Balloons
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(P)flight of the Paper Balloons

Handmade Paper, Paper pulp printing, Silkscreen, Rubber stamps


13 Unique Artists Books : Folded hot air balloons case bound in recycled cardboard



The paper balloons were produced as part of codex event 4 (pflight of the paper balloons) in 2007. Participating artists were Sarah Bowen, Darren Bryant, Liz Deckers, Rebekah Evans, Louise Irving, Joanna Kambourian & Tim Mosely.


Artists books generated during codex event 4 are now held in significant artists book collections including, the Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, Harvard University, the Australian Library of Art, State Library of Queensland and the Bibliotheca Liborum Apud Artificem, Sydney, Australia.


The starting point for codex event 4 was the idea of crossing boundaries, sparked off by references to fire balloons made in the remote mountainous regions of northern Taiwan. In a geographical area where travel between settlements has historically been difficult, villagers have developed the use of paper hot air balloons fueled by suspended candles as an elegant way of communicating with neighboring villages.


Balloons are made during festivals, culminating in a ceremonial release of many balloons into the night sky where they can be seen from far away. The balloons became a symbolic way of crossing boundaries and a representation of freedom for the artists participating in codex event 4, even though it became evident early on in the project that the balloons produced would not fly.


The contrast between potential and reality, the hope of freedom and the inability of the balloons to express that freedom, became the pivot for the whole project: the balloons came to represent the hopes and fears and very public plight of refugees who have tried to cross Australian borders and have ended up in detention centres.The participating artists made the paper for the balloons from a variety of natural and recycled fibres, pulp printing and screen printing photographic images from refugee journeys and text from Australian Immigration Department documents onto the resulting sheets.


When dry each sheet of paper was cut into gores and glued together to make the body of the balloons. Many refugees come to Australia by sea and with this in mind the balloons were taken to the beach where the balloons took on additional significance: an unexpected encounter with a group of displaced Timorese children brought life to the balloons as they played with them. Fragile, hollow and grounded, the balloons were later taken back to the studio and reshaped into books. They unfold into boat shapes, another echo of the refugees’ precarious journey to Australian shores, and the boats were named after Australian federal government detention centres, cocos island, christmas island, darwin, baxter, perth, port augusta, port healdand, curtin, woomera, maribyrnong, naru, manus island.