Home Balance was a commission for CounterCurrent 2016 by the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston. Additional funding support from the University of Houston Small Projects Grant. The bounce house was fabricated by All-Star Inflatables, Dallas, TX.
“We’ve been always thinking about how we can get the viewer inside our home. How can we get them to see our house? What kind of project can we do where the viewer participates in our home?”
Home Balance morphs a children’s bouncy house into a contemporary art project about balance presented indoors and outdoors over the course of 4 nights during the festival of April 2016.
A large inflatable bouncy house—like the one popping up on your neighbor’s lawn heralding the arrival of a child’s noisy birthday party—is custom built with walls that become glowing film screens. The walls are illuminated by videos of our family inside our own home: the artists and their children jumping up and down, breaking things, hitting their heads against the ceiling, knocking over furniture, falling, creating complete havoc. As the private space of the family home is made public for everyone to see, visitors can enter and bounce in the midst of the images. In a bouncy house the goal is to maintain stability in an environment not designed for stability, while our real homes are designed for a stability that our home-life can never attain. Home Balance questions what constitutes a home, and draws on childhood games to explore how family interactions challenge the desire to maintain orderly control of the structures in which we dwell.
Home Balance: Together, Alone was commissioned for the Ten Tiny Dances program as part of CounterCurrent 2016 and curated by Pia Agrawal and Rachel Cook.
Choreographed by Hillerbrand+Magsamen, Gillian Bowen, Josh Eguia, Ariel Montemayor and Thu Mai Nguyen
Performed by Gillian Bowen, Josh Eguia, Ariel Montemayor, Thu Mai Nguyen
Video by Hillerbrand+Magsamen
Ten Tiny Dances Video
4 channel video shown on each wall of the performance space.
We are interested in photography’s relationship to consumerist culture and how this is expressed through the medium of the multiple, potentially produced by anyone with access to the Internet. We put these ideas and more on display in Gift Shop, a new installation that showcases the intrinsic reproductive nature of photography, populated with numerous mainstream consumer products we created using images from Higher Ground.
Special Thanks: Higher Ground and Gift Shop have truly been collaborative projects, involving many wonderful voices, talents and skills. Special thanks to: · Houston Airport System, City of Houston Civic Art Program · Jenny Conte, Sharp Egg Design · John Carrithers and Delicia Harvey, Carrithers Studio · Haden Garrett, Garrett Design · Kelly Flynn, Hen Laying Egg · Ceci Norman
A series of large photographs that have accompanied the HIGHER GROUND video in exhibitions including: *Solo exhibition at Diffusion International Festival of Photography in Cardiff, Wales. Curated by David Drake *Solo exhibition at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY. Curated by Elizabeth Dunbar *Solo exhibition at Lawndale Art Center, Houston, TX.
40x70" Archival Inkjet Prints
26x26" Archival Inkjet Prints
16x24" Archival Inkjet Prints and Posters
HIGHER GROUND is an interdisciplinary work consisting of video, sculpture and photography commissioned by the Houston Airport System, City of Houston Civic Art Program
In the spirit of George Méliès landmark illusionistic film, “A Trip to the Moon,” the artists Hillerband+Magsamen with their children embark on an adventure to construct and fly a rocket ship to the moon by taking apart their Houston, Texas suburban home.
This quirky and seemingly impossible task created out of cut up couches, duct-tape, Amazon boxes and pots and pans turns out to be not only achievable, but also believable. As the artist and their children pull apart and rummage around their home to build a spaceship, this cinematic odyssey references both the creativity and futility of the “American” experience. From backyard wrestling to big box store escapism the work creates a Beckettian theme echoing phrase 'can't go on…must go on'.
High Definition Video with Sound, Duration: 10 min 30 sec. Loop, Aspect Ratio 16:9, 2 Ch Stereo, 2015
*Official Selection and 1st prize in the Houston Cinema Arts Festival's CineSpaceprogram juried by Richard Linklater. *Official Selection of the London SciFi Film Festival *Solo exhibition at Diffusion International Festival of Photography in Cardiff, Wales. Curated by David Drake *Solo exhibition at the Everson Museum in Syracuse, NY. Curated by Elizabeth Dunbar *Inclusion in Dream Home exhibition at Pingyao International Photography Festival, Shanxi, P.R. China. Curated by Alasdair Foster
Video excerpt from full-length work.
Space Rover that was created to house the video for the Houston Airport.
Four Place Setting
Four Place Setting is a video and sound project where viewers sit down at the dinner table to see a video projected onto the table and feel sound vibrate the chairs. In the video, hands of family of four set against a black background gather together and place white dinner plates on the table. Then they take hammers, shatter the plates and rebuild the pieces into something new while an unseen force shakes the table, making it a futile process. Viewers get the sensation of physically being moved by the chairs which are hooked up to 4D theater "butt shakers" and synchronized to the playful music from the video.
Interactive installation, Chairs, table, subwoofers and High Definition Video with Sound, Duration: 4 min 30 sec. Loop, Aspect Ratio 16:9, 2 Ch Stereo, 2014
Center for Contempoary Art, Santa Fe, NM, Feb-April 2015
GGallery, Houston, TX, Dec 2014
Video excerpt from full-length work.
Created on-site at the Elsewhere Collective in Greensboro, NC as part of a residency program, this vertically oriented video installation documents our exploration of the Elsewhere Living Museum's collection of everything from fabric bolts to children's games to books. We go through thousands of items, build them up into walls and then break down the walls of stuff in this playful, looping video.
A Mandala is defined as a circular design of the universe and also as a symbol expressing a person's striving for unity of the self. In an effort to heal our home and family after a death, we have created a series of large photographs of Mandalas where we have organized the stuff from our home such as Barbies, Legos, books and all those crazy little plastic items into circular patterns.
Our previous work was about our accumulation of stuff in our home – everything from toys to lawnmowers. We cut holes in our walls, climbed up piles of stuff and surrounded ourselves in our mass of stuff. We are now taking that chaos and creating order through a series of Mandalas.
42x42” Archival Pigment Prints Edition 1/3 + 1 AP.
A “ghost light” is used in theaters as a single bulb that illuminates the stage when the theater is not in use. In addition to this practical function, it is said that theaters leave a ghost light on so that the theater ghosts can have an opportunity to perform when the theater is closed.
In the video by Hillerbrand+Magsamen, the family performs together to an empty audience, but not really together, as though they are dysfunctional ghosts of themselves. Referencing family bands such as the Partridge family, their family comes together on stage with all the right equipment except that they are not communicating and playing together.
Filmed in Santa Fe at the historic Lensic Theater, Santa Fe, NM.
High Definition Video with Sound, Duration: 2 min 30 sec. Loop,
Aspect Ratio 16:9, 2 Ch Stereo, 2014
"Disturbance" was a work commissioned by the composer Jude Vaclavik fro his composition that premiered at the American Festival for the Arts in Houston, Texas in 2012.
The House/hold photograph series are portraits of our family that playfully capture slices of our daily life with surreal viewpoints and dark humor inspired by actual events from bath time to laundry. Born out of our ordinary life and evolved into the extraordinary, the photographs were taken in our home with controlled lighting and composition. We are interested in the identity of family and how that is communicated as middle-class Americans living in a suburban home with two children, a dog and too much stuff. Those things that we have worked so hard to obtain become both the burdens and joys in our lives.
Titled after literary and mythological characters, we are referencing historical family stories of the heroism and tragedy such as Ophelia, Hercules, Pandora and Sisyphus. Throughout the House/hold photographs the charged personal narratives of our family speak to the structures of identity politics and consumerism.
"The most extraordinary thing in the world is an ordinary man and an ordinary woman and their ordinary children."
— G.K. Chesterton
Embarking on an epic adventure, the collaborative artistic team of Hillerbrand-Magsamen creates new levels of interaction, communication and exploration by breaking and cutting holes into their actual home to make a habitrail-like environment where they go nowhere fast. With conscious forethought, Hillerbrand+Magsamen critically examine the media grammar in our popular culture today by applying a "Hollywood" aesthetic to their work with layered dramatic music, visually rich cinematography, and faced paced editing. This “style” is juxtaposed against the performance-based video that expands the idea of the home video to a completely new level.
High Definition Video with Sound, Duration: 2 min 30 sec. Loop, Aspect Ratio 16:9, 2 Ch Stereo, 2012
Video excerpt form Whole, 2012, total running time 2:30.
DIY Love Seat, is a playful an experimental short video that reinterprets our family and its identity. In this dark comedy a woman takes the family couch and cuts out a section with a chainsaw. The husband, in a very deadpan manner, takes duct tape and repairs the couch. This physical act brings them literally closer together but perhaps not emotionally.
High Definition Video with Sound, Duration: 2 min 30 sec. Loop, Aspect Ratio 16:9, 2 Ch Stereo, 2012
Full-length example of work.
Belonging is an experimental video commissioned for a musical score by the composer Michael Remson. In this dream-like video introduce a family and their desire to be together and part of something bigger than themselves. The longing to find a place in this world is brought together with the belonging that is willingly created between each other with a surreal twist of tape.
Performed by Andrés Gonzaléz (violin), Erika Lawson (viola) and Daniel Saenz (cello)
Commissioned by the American Festival for the Arts for the 2012 AFA Collaborations Concert
Single Channel, High Definition Video, 16:9, trt 3:30, 2012
Comfort is a series of actions/ performances where the collaborative team of Hillerbrand+Magsamen walled them selves’ shut in every room of their suburban home in Houston, Texas with the items that existed in that very space.
From the garage to the bedroom, the artists sealed themselves off from the rest of the world. Documenting this performance they took pictures of both the inside and outside of these walled off passages, They then printed these images through Walmart, the very place that “stuff’ came from in these rooms, 50”x60” polar fleece blankets. These blankets become not only documentation of their action but fetishized objects, modern day quilts or tapestries that show the paradox of both visually being seduced by this strange installation of stuff while questioning the idea of being “trapped” inside ones own home.
Twenty 50”x60” polar fleece blankets, printed through Walmart photo center.
With so much news about foreclosures, unemployment, recession, and debt reduction, the “American” way of life is being redefined and re-examined. And that examination is happening no more closely then to the iconic American family. Ideals of class and wealth have been replaced with a language of loss. From banner carrying protestors to cable news pundents, dialogues amass on culpability. Things are not the way they used to be? The effect on society as well as personal family dynamics is profound. Who is the “American” family anymore?
Family Portrait is a 4-channel video installation createing “living portraits” of themselves and their two children. Each member of their family: Father, Mother, Daughter and Son have a video where they are engaging individually in an action. These actions are given an unexpected twist of surrealism such as the daughter getting sucked up by stuffed animals, the son smashing a stack of plates, the mother walling herself into her closet with bricks and feathers and the father standing idle with a garden hose while the barbeque grill ignites.
Amid the 4 suspended screens is a mass of used consumer products filling the space. Big Wheels, lawn furniture, old books, weed wacker, toys, clothes, and the list goes on in what we hoard and hold onto in our mountain of stuff. We pile it up in our closets, storage containers and garages.
Four Channel Video Installation, High Definition Video, Vertical 16:9, 8 foot screens, trt varied, 2012
In collaboration with the playright Kirk Lynn of Austin, Texas, the collaborative team of Hillerbrand+Magsamen, explores the idea of family identities and structures through the metaphor of lawn care. As a man (Hillerbrand) dressed in his business suit stands in his own little world on a lawn that is literally “elevated” 10 feet above the ground on a wooden platform, he tries to maintain a green lawn while his wife (Magsamen) below chops the platform down with an axe. It is the mans own internal flaws that bring himself and the "lawn" down.
Suburban neighborhoods have a flurry of lawn care workers tending to middle class homes everyday to manicure, fertilize and preserve green landscapes of perfection. This homogenization of identity propels the notion of “keeping up with the Jones” as neighbors notice that their lawn is not very green and does not fit the Better Homes and Gardens model. These facades really say nothing about a family’s identity.
Performance & Single Channel, High Definition Video, 16:9, trt 4:00, 2011
In Accumulation, a couple (Hillerbrand+Magsamen) piles up stuff over two stories tall from their garage: lawn mower, toys, tools, Christmas lights, and more into a mountain that they climb up as a means to get to another space while their daughter hangs for her life above. An auctioneer rambles away and the viewer is left to decide if the couple is buying or selling their material, physical and emotional accumulation asking the question “How much more can we keep this up into the future?”
Performance & Single Channel, High Definition Video, 16:9, trt 4:00, 2010
ETA is short for “estimated time of arrival.” In this video a couple’s tension is illustrated through the enclosed space of a car as rain and thunder dramatically pour down with an impending doom. The end reveals a constructed reality in a suburban environment that plays on ideas of film, theater and reality within a relationship.
High Definition Video with Sound, Duration: 3 min 55 sec. Loop,Aspect Ratio 16:9, 2 Ch Stereo, 2011
Whether is about the interaction between family members and how one persons emotions can effect the family dynamic as identities of parent, spouse and child, through the metaphor of fog, veil and reveal one another. What appears to be a typical family dinner becomes surreal as a cloud of fog engulfs and distorts the everyday event and fluctuates between memory, reality and dream worlds.
Single Channel, High Definition Video, 16:9, trt 6:40, 2010