The Bench and The Balloon. Vladikavkaz, North Ossetia, Russia

Year: 2015

Part 1.

Set in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains sits a city by the name of Vladikavkaz.

In the centre of this city there is an avenue lined with lime trees and all along the length of this leafy promenade, beneath those trees, sit painted wooden benches.

And on these benches, people of all ages come and sit and rest and watch the passers by.

It became instantly evident that I was visibly an outsider - every time I walked down this boulevard with my big beard and big grin I was without doubt being stared at with many an observer turning right round, craning their necks in order to track my passing for as long as possible. This was the first time in all my travels to have been on the receiving end of such direct visual scrutiny - a curiosity was in town.

Part 2.

As with many places I have been invited to around the world, celebratory helium balloons can be found being used to mark all manner of events. Vladikavkaz is no exception. Every day I discovered hapless balloons like the baby boy, aptly located just outside the paediatric hospital, snagged on the eletric overhead cables of the tramline in the city centre or the silver heart on a telegraph pole on the path next to the River Terek with its glacial melt running excitedly through the centre of the city or the blue elephant looking forlorn hanging upside down outside a derelict house.

All these balloons are memories of events. Every time I find a dead balloon, I find the memory of an event that was.

Part 3.

I arranged for one of the benches located in the central avenue to be moved to the gallery where it was placed in front of the recently found elephant balloon that now lay inert and crumpled on the gallery floor.

The bench used for staring at people became a place to contemplate a dead balloon.

What do we see when we stare but a passing reflection of the decay in our own memories?