April 14 – May 28, 2003
Hiraki Sawa’s black-and-white video, Dwelling, 2002
Guy Hundere’s Ornithomancy, 2003
No matter what ones politics are everyone can agree that the post-9/11 world has changed a certain activity that once offered a feeling of escape and freedom into one of fear, paranoia and dread. Flying in airplanes and dealing with airport security in the age of fighting potential terrorists means that the grandma in the wheelchair boarding in front of you gets patted down and treated like a common criminal, you must leave the Swiss army knife and Edward Abbey books at home, and through no fault of its own the vessel that transports one and carries with it a physical identity to all great escape plans, vacations, and daydreams has been brandished permanently as a possible weapon of mass destruction. The 747-passenger plane in flight is now a visual metaphor for an era with a new loss of normalcy; it is an icon for a certain break in history. The show Fly Away at Johnson County Community College Gallery brings two video artists works together that each attempt to illustrate this brave new world through a shared subject, the passenger airplane.
Hiraki Sawa's black and white video, Dwelling, is a nine minute video projection that is an excursion through the artists own London flat, the tour given by an arsenal of miniature passenger jumbo jet airplanes lying next to the artists bed. Lifting off one by one the flying objects are well integrated into the interior, a ruffled bed, a light bulb, a bathroom sink; all seem disproportionate. The continuous engine humming audio track and fine animations that Sawa effectively uses to make this fantastical scene seem real. The shadows of the planes disappear off lift off and the entire fleet made up of 19 planes is up above one-foot altitude in less than a minute. The shot shifts to the kitchen table and a brief landing for two of the planes. It is remarkably entertaining viewing, rare for a genre so bent on the minimal and meticulous (dull) documentation that seems inherent in the medium at times. Sawa's planes feel refreshing because he uses fantasy is an unsettling way. The childlike narrative creates nostalgia for a time when this plane was the future and the future looked promising. Next the planes are crossing the ceiling leaving vapor smoke behind it. The hallway finds the planes crisscrossing through a ---- space. The planes have interrupted the domesticity of the scene. After landing in the same spot the camera pans the window looking outside, an overcast days and no planes in sight.
In a completely different use of the dizzying effects of planes in motion Guy Hundere has created an animation of over 200 747 Jumbo Jets encircling each other in a chaotic but organic pattern. Ornithomancy is a color video projection bereft of background imagery and sound. Hundere is an artist trained in computer sciences and has used the physics of airplane flight mixed with the algorithms of birds in flight to produce the patterns that the airplanes follow. The fluidity of the animated planes allows them to follow a seemingly random pattern and never run into another plane. Instead each plane seeks to reach a center point of space that is unattainable with the sheer number of planes seeking it. The video is looped but without a trace of beginning or end you could stare at the planes in motion for seven seconds and understand the general idea the artist presents, or watch for several minutes and take in the kaleidoscope of visual activity taking place. Hundere transforms the great mechanical transporter into the illusion of a flock of birds that have no sense of direction or purpose, his airplanes demystify and blur the lines between the logic of the technology of man-made flight and its inspiration from the 'natural' world of flight patterns of birds. The dissolution of boundaries has the unsettling effect of reminding the viewer that the human species is closer to other kin of the animal kingdom than we like to think. Far from being a Romantic illusion to this proximity it is more a cold memento of the instincts, binding necessities, and invisible sciences that keep us going.
Both Sawa and Hundere's work share more than a timely subject matter. They are refreshing as an exercise in the power of a non-didactic examination of a yet unnamed era in this new century. At a time when so many of the worlds thinkers and artists have gotten caught in making grand statements about the end of irony, the end of American Empire, and our collective loss of innocence this show is a reminder to the powers of subtlety, curiosity, and bewilderment.