See What's Next for the Houston Family That Tore Apart Its Home to Build a Rocket

Hillerbrand+Magsamen's "Home Balance" is April 12, 14 and 15, part of CounterCurrent16.EXPAND
Hillerbrand+Magsamen's "Home Balance" is April 12, 14 and 15, part of CounterCurrent16.
Photo by Hillerbrand+Magsamen

Remember the family that built a rocket ship in their backyard? Well, imagine what their house looked like after they dismantled their sofa, cut holes in their kid's bedroom door and repurposed a sizable chunk of their possessions to build that gleaming, but oh-so-cool, silver monolith that had the neighbors gawking. After fending off a few practical inquiries — “I hope you're not planning to sell your house anytime soon” — it soon became clear that friends enjoyed visiting their deconstructed home.

The husband-and-wife team of Hillerbrand+Magsamen have found a way to invite even more people over, but this time it's in the form of a bouncy house cum video-installation, one of the many experimental offerings at this year's citywide CounterCurrent16 Festival, presented by the University of Houston Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts.

For years people have been telling the couple, “Your house is crazy; you've built spaceships,” but then those same people kept wrangling for an invitation. Mary Magsamen (curator at Aurora Picture Show) and Stephan Hillerbrand (an associate professor at the University of Houston) pondered the requests: “How can we get people to come to our house? If we can't get people to come to our house, we'll bring the house to them.”

Their contribution to CounterCurrent, presented in partnership with Houston Center for Photography, is titled “Home Balance.” Hillerbrand+Magsamen say, “It's a video of us jumping on a trampoline inside of our house. [It's] going to be a lot of fun, too.”

The walls of a custom-built inflatable are being turned into glowing film screens to create a three-night traveling exhibit. Viewers outside the bouncy house will see the screens, and the more adventurous are invited inside to become part of the installation (the images also can be seen from the interior). The other three walls will show videos of the couple and their two children: jumping and falling, breaking objects, and basically wreaking havoc in their own home.

Hillerbrand+Magsamen's "Home Balance" is April 12, 14 and 15, part of CounterCurrent16.EXPAND
Hillerbrand+Magsamen's "Home Balance" is April 12, 14 and 15, part of CounterCurrent16.
Photo by Hillerbrand+Magsamen

“The video projects are on all four sides of us bouncing in our house on a trampoline, falling over, hitting our heads on the ceiling,” say Hillerbrand+Magsamen, who hope people will participate in the jumping. “I think it will be a very strange experience.”

Festival visionary Karen Farber, who serves as executive director of the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts, says that one of the center's goals is to find new audiences. “We want to reach people who don't usually go to art events, one of the reasons the admission is free. The projects are so unconventional. You might be likely to bounce in a bounce house, but not go to a gallery.”

“Home Balance” is Tuesday, April 12, 7 to 10 p.m. and Thursday, April 14, 7 to 9 p.m. at The MATCH, 3400 Main. The final performance is Friday, April 15, 8:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. at Houston Center for Photography, 1441 West Alabama, 713-521-4533 and 713-529-4755, countercurrentfestival.org. Free. 


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