Judy Dunaway began using balloons as a preparation on her guitar in the late 80s. The philosophies of John Cage, Fluxus and other avant-garde movements inspired her to produce conceptual sound art and sonic performances using her own body and balloons to make sounds.
The toy balloon – an instrument to celebrate the end of “high art” – had previously been used by optimistic pioneers such as Charlotte Moorman, Eugene Cardbourne, Mauricio Kagel and Anthony Braxton. But as Judy Dunaway explains, the AIDS crisis affecting New York in the late 80s and early 90s gave new significance to the use of latex. Dunaway coupled herself to a musical instrument that, through touch, conveyed sensuality and at the same time allowed her to confront the power structures behind sexual repression.
As well as performing as a balloon player in compositions by John Zorn and Roscoe Mitchell, and collaborating with Annie Sprinkle, Diane Torr, Yasunao Tone and numerous others, Dunaway has also created her own works, often to do with social activism or cultural critique, in the field of telematics and transmission art, sound installation and interactive technology.
SON[I]A talks to Judy Dunaway about tenor balloons, improvisation, greyhound buses, Western music, the AIDS crisis, studying with Alvin Lucier, working day-jobs and learning to play a well-tuned piano.
00:00 Latex, balloons and AIDS
10:48 A well-tuned piano in Mississippi
19:15 Free improv, East Village
23:58 Fluxus and Tone
28:06 Working day jobs
29:21 A balloon trio with Diane Torr
32:37 At home with balloons
35:29 Less is less: working with Alvin Lucier
39:08 Christa Erickson at Stony Brook
44:08 Hommage à Kenneth Noland
47:05 A lack of inhibition
48:51 The score of touch
50:53 Held taut, melted and spread out into an orb
52:37 Sexuality, sensuality, Sprinkle
54:07 Discrimination and drag kings
57:15 You need to make some new friends, dude.