Getting Airborne

Keep your eyes on the skies over Long Point and  The FARM Institute in mid-July.

Doug Aitken’s magical aircraft makes its Island debut.


Visitors to Long Point or the FARM Institute on July 12, 13, and 14 will encounter one of the most unique sights ever to grace Island shores — a shimmering, globular reflection in the sky. Not a mirage, the orb will in fact be a hot-air balloon, and sitting in its gondola will be a most singular aeronaut: internationally renowned artist and filmmaker Doug Aitken. Aitken is collaborating with The Trustees of Reservations to unveil New Horizon, a mobile art installation that will debut on Martha’s Vineyard and then fly to Trustees properties across Massachusetts. 

“You are moving at the speed of wind,” Aitken said from his studio in Venice, Calif. “I think we live in a very accelerated world, and I think that the faster society moves, the more that also creates a desire for stillness, and for an interaction with the natural environment.” New Horizon is the fourth and most ambitious iteration of The Trustees’ Art and Landscape program, which brings contemporary art into conversation with unique conservation properties around the state. 

The balloon will mirror its habitat by day, and be reborn as a light sculpture by night. Of course, the goal isn’t just to marvel at the Mylar marble — as the balloon changes, so will the events surrounding it. From sunrise joyrides to afternoon thought experiments and evening music festivals, each touchdown will be tethered (literally and figuratively) to a “happening” meant to spark discussion, collaboration, and, of course, reflection. 

Aitken is no stranger to happenings, or to massive installations. His previous works range from a set of underwater geodesic pavilions in California to a multimedia theater performance on a barge in Greece. “I like the idea of art and culture creating something that’s unique and time-based, and unrepeatable,” Aitken said. If Aitken’s newest project can be traced back to anything outside of fantasy, it might be his 2013 project Station to Station, a railroad train transformed into a nomadic light sculpture. Over several weeks, the train freighted a changing group of artists and creatives across North America, instigating music and pop-up art at stops large and small.

That kind of showstopping work is not often seen outside of art-world hubs like London and New York, much less on Martha’s Vineyard, said Boston-based independent curator Pedro Alonzo, who pitched the idea to The Trustees. The seeds of New Horizon were planted when Alonzo visited Long Point in 2017. “I went out there to check out the site, and I was, quite frankly, just overwhelmed,” he said. He asked Aitken to devise a project. 

Aitken was equally excited. “It’s really been a passport to explore the landscape,” he said. “There is so much subtlety and nuance and dramatic change, from the sand dunes of Long Point to Western Massachusetts. We just researched and researched, and the idea kind of grew.” The prospect of connecting so many Trustees properties, and bringing people together to talk about the future, was perfectly aligned with The Trustees’ mission of land stewardship. Alonzo recalls hearing Aitken’s idea and saying, “Oh my God, this is so brilliant, and it’s totally insane, and I hope they go for it!”

“The balloon is interesting because you have this friction-free form of movement,” Aitken said. “To me, in a world which is really dominated by fossil fuels, I think that there’s an interesting symbolism with a project like this. You’re moving in a way where the wind is guiding you. You’re moving on thermal gusts.”

“This is really a once-in-a-lifetime thing,” Alonzo said. “We’re not going to get another floating balloon sculpture.” 


For schedule and information and to purchase tickets, visit

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