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Full of Hot Air

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A bat in the belfry? Maybe. A tree growing in Brooklyn? Sure. A light in the attic? Of course. But, a dirigible in the Library’s Jefferson Building? It happened.

Walking the institution’s resplendent halls, you come across lovely murals, elaborate ornamentation, gilded embellishments, and, as it turned out the other day, two rather large balloons – mini dirigibles in fact.

So, what were they doing? The balloons in question were floating about on March to film scenes for a project by artist Isabella Streffen, who was a visiting British Research Council Fellow at the Library’s John W. Kluge Center last year. Her project, titled “Hawk & Dove,” is a film using footage shot from two seven-foot remote-controlled zeppelins (the Hawk and the Dove) that moved around both the Library of Congress and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in a “balletic dogfight” to “explore the role of knowledge in the shaping of political debate.”

Isabella Streffen with her two dirigibles, the Hawk and the Dove./Richard Hollinshead

Streffen’s film developed directly out of her six-month Kluge Center residency, where she researched the early history of ballooning and military visioning in the Library’s Gaston and Albert Tissandier archive. She was also inspired by the unexpected residency of “Shirley,” our rather famous Cooper’s Hawk who camped out in the Library’s Main Reading Room while Streffen was doing her research.

“Hawk & Dove” debuts as part of the 5×5 Project, which is exhibiting 25 ground-breaking public art installations created by artists from around the world as part of D.C.’s National Cherry Blossom Festival Centennial celebration. More information on the project, sponsored by the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities, can be found here.

Streffen’s film will be screened at the Library of Congress on April 24 at noon in the Whittall Pavilion and at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library April 26-28.

The Library is also part of the larger Cherry Blossom Centennial celebration, which you can read bout in this previous blog post.


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