Geneva Express

Geneva Express was commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella to be shown first as part of the group exhibition 'Airport' curated by Steven Bode and Jeremy Millar at The Photographers' Gallery in 1997. It was then shown as a solo exhibition at John Hansard Gallery in January 1998.

Video control unit designed and made by Adrian Fogarthy

Exhibition supported by Citizen, and Philips.

In a pitch black rectangular space measuring around 8m by 18m, video images are projected, filling the two end walls. On one of these, in extreme slow motion, the image of a large passenger aircraft (a jumbo jet) is seen head-on as it approaches down the runway at speed and lifts slowly into the air. The aircraft moves out of the top of the frame at one end of the space and enters the top of the frame at the opposite end of the space having seemingly passed ‘over’ the head of the viewer. On this screen the aircraft flies away from the viewer and disappears into the distance. At this point the image crossfades to be replaced by the approach and landing of the same jumbo jet on its return journey. In this way the work tracks the same aircraft over one full month of departures and arrivals at Gatwick Airport.
Each take-off and landing lasts approximately 10 minutes and is accompanied by the sound of the jet engines. This soundtrack, although also slowed down, retains the howl of the engines without altering their pitch. This noise (not overly loud, but nonetheless overwhelming) pans through the space and accompanies the image of the leviathan-like jumbo hauling itself into the air over the spectator's head, combining to recreate the sublime, and indeed visceral, effect of a take-off experienced at close quarters. The work aims to capture the extraordinary power and intensity of flight that the airline industry strives so hard to conceal as it attempts to minimise the anxieties that the vast majority of travellers still feel at the moment they are projected into the air at great speed. Watching the take-off of a jumbo jet from the end of a runway has the effect of greatly emphasising the miraculous aspect of modern mass air travel - making barely credible the fact that thousands of such take-offs occur routinely each day.
The strange relationship between routine and intensity is the focus of the second element in the installation. Positioned between the two screens are a cluster of tiny 3" LCD video screens, their arrangement alluding to the lights of the runway and the rows of video screens showing in-flight movies on the planes themselves. When ‘passive’ these screens display a green or red screen. As the viewer approaches each screen a proximity sensor switches to an incoming signal from tape and scenes from the arrival or departure areas at Gatwick Airport appear. The action is in slow motion. On these tiny screens is presented the ‘micro drama’ of, for instance, the delayed arrival, the reunited family, the case of mistaken identity and the frustration of non-arrival; as well as the fragmentary narratives that constitute the stories of the parting: the lost passport, and the fretful, worried traveller; dramas that can be witnessed at any moment during the airport’s 24 hour day and dramas that are repeated anew every time an aircraft lands or takes off. These dramas and fragmentary events will be constructed from video shot as passengers booked on the tracked jumbo jets arrive and depart through Gatwick airport.
The airport is now commonly thought of as a ‘non-place’ when in fact it is a space charged with a heightened drama of the everyday which is strangely repeated over and over. In general terms the piece aims to focus on these moments of extreme intensity, the point of take-off, the moment travellers arrive to be met by friends, lovers etc, and the superstructure of banality that surrounds flight, which at its most basic consists of the movement of a single object between two fixed points and the processing of passengers at either end.

A catalogue including essays by John Gange 'A Phenomenogy of Slow Motion', Steven Bode 'Planespotting' and an introduction by Oliver Sumner, is published by John Hansard Gallery.







From top:

Sketch diagram of installation.

Installation view, John Hansard Gallery, Southampton, Jnauary 1998. Photography: Steve Shrimpton

Catalogue, front cover. Published by John Hansard Gallery