Category Archives: Musings

Nigerian Plane Crash- MD 83 Flight 992

Over the past few days I have been tracking the news reports and updated crash information on the MD83 crash in Nigeria. I am (trying) to keep up with text and images used in internet news reports, newspaper headlines, t.v news reports and also radio reports. I am looking at UK national news and also international news where I can.  Alongside this I am also keeping track of official updates from the crash investigation being carried out by the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA) assisted by the U.S. National Safety Transportation Board (NTSB).

By keeping up to date with this information I aim to see how certain types of images and texts are mediated in similar and contrasting ways and how they are presented to ‘bring’ information to the general public. I plan to conduct some experiments with spliced text from both media and official reports and also study images of the plane debris and the crash site. As I am focusing on the media spectacle and mediation of air disasters I hope this experimentation will allow me to make artwork as a comment and exploration of these issues.

I wil continue looking back at past crashes with complete reports as case studies, however I feel continually following this crash will let me show the pace of investigation and reporting. On crashes on this scale a completed report can vary in length but usually take a couple of years to finish.

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Interview with Richard Mosse

Interview with photographer Richard Mosse on his Air Disaster series. The photographs capture various airports’ plane crash simulators in use, disembodied fuselages and fiery engines allow emergency crews to be ever ready for a real incident.

Very interesting photo series.

Link to Richard Mosse website– this series is under the category Airside.

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‘Staring into the Contemporary Abyss’

Article accessible here.

The article Staring into the Contemporary Abyss was published in 2010 in Tate Etc magazine, written by Simon Morley as a response to the Tate 3 year research project The Sublime Object. The idea behind the project:

In the early eighteenth-century Joseph Addison described the notion of the sublime as something that “fills the mind with an agreeable kind of horror”. It was an idea feverishly explored by artists such as Turner, John Martin and Caspar David Friedrich, and further taken up by the American abstract painters Rothko and Barnett Newman. But how about now? As Tate comes to the close of a three-year research project, “The Sublime Object: Nature, Art and Language”, TATE ETC. explores how contemporary artists have responded.

Morley uses image examples from  11 artists and their contemporary response to the sublime:

In the text he also refers to other artist’s work that he feels successfully demonstrates the contemporary sublime.

In the article Morley makes points in his writing about the the general concept of the sublime and its application in contemporary art. He explains a renewed interest in the term sublime and how it has been applied:

As a result of this renewed interest among postmodern thinkers and artists, we now have a rather confusing number of uses of the word sublime. In the book I have recently edited, The Sublime: Documents of Contemporary Art, I try to make sense of the situation, distinguishing five different ways in which the word is now broadly used. These are in relation to the problem of the unpresentable in art, and to the experiences of transcendence, terror, the uncanny and altered states of consciousness.There are also two main contexts for such discussions: nature and technology. What links such various perspectives, I think, is a desire to define a moment when social and psychological codes and structures no longer bind us, where we reach a sort of borderline at which rational thought comes to an end and we suddenly encounter something wholly and perturbingly other.

At the sublime’s core are experiences of self-transcendence that take us away from the forms of understanding provided by a secular, scientific and rationalist world view. Thus, discussions of the sublime in contemporary art can sometimes be covert or camouflaged devices for talking about the kinds of things that were once addressed by religious discourses and nevertheless seem to remain pertinent within an otherwise religiously sceptical and secularised world.

But often contemporary perspectives on the sublime reject traditional conceptions of a self, or a soul or spirit, seen as moving upwards towards some ineffable and essential thing or power. Instead, the contemporary sublime is mostly about immanent transcendence; that is, it is about a transformative experience understood as occurring within the here and now. What we make of this experience, what value we give it, can take us in two very different directions, however. One re-envisages the self as existing in the light of some unnameable revelation arising in a gap between, on the one hand, a dull and alienating reality, and on the other an unmediated awareness of life. In contrast, there is a far more pessimistic conclusion that can be drawn, one that ends up as a resigned sense of inadequacy, in which we are made aware of our emotional, cognitive, social and political failure when faced with all that so blatantly exceeds us.

In my own practice and research I have found that the ‘transcending’ quality of developing technology fulfils this in the contemporary sublime- specifically in the field of aviation. Flight technology has been improving since the first craft allowing man fly and navigate the earth from above. In current commercial airlines and the phenomenon of the airport, both passengers and flight technology are separated from each other, planes are a symbol of the sublime- they have immense power in terms of both technology and allowing passengers to reach far destinations. They also represent a fear within the sublime, failure of imperfect technology, terrorism and fear of death and rethinking mortality.

Morley also makes the point that the man made and natural together are a large part of the term contemporary sublime:

Today it is technology rather than nature that provides us with our strongest sense of the sublime. While the legacy of the Land Artists of the 1970s, such as the Americans Robert Smithson or Walter de Maria, who expanded the frame of art into the vast open spaces of the mid-west, still makes itself felt, and contemporary photographers, such as Gursky or Darren Almond, continue to bring the awesomeness of nature into the art gallery via the medium of large-scale digital prints, it is not so much the desert, the stormy sea, or the mountain range that serve as subject matter for a contemporary sublimity as the mind-boggling power of science and the infinite spaces created by digitalisation. Indeed, any residual sense of nature comes thoroughly mediated. As the American artist Fred Tomaselli remarks of his childhood: “After hiking miles into the wilderness and discovering my first real waterfall, I immediately began looking for the pumps and conduit that make it work.” A recent work by Eliasson seems to engage directly with just such cultural contagion and confusion, as it involved creating artificial waterfalls around New York City’s rivers. The magical effect they evinced suggested both a sense of something natural and at the same time thoroughly unnatural and man-made.

This point, for me, links back to my research into the structure of the airport in the book Aviopolis. The interconnectivity of passengers with the physical structure/aesthetic of the airport together create an experience of the sublime. Morley also mentions the mediation of nature by man made technology; this is also seen in flight as technology allows passengers to fly but also protects them from the dangers of the natural world.

I have also come across the term mediation in the book Terror and the Sublime in Art and Critical Theory. Here Gene Ray talks about the gap or mediation between the direct source of fear and the recipient. The type of mediation- through art, literature or contemporary media allows the audience to enjoy the terror to a certain degree. This has been an important part of my research- looking specifically at how plane crashes and other disasters are represented in society and any ethical issues may arise from depicting these scenes.

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Aviopolis by Gillian Fuller and Ross Harley is book about  the dynamics, structures, networking, technology and language of the airport. The book splits the phenomenon of the airport (or ‘aviopolis’) into different sections, each section being analysed and accompanied with image examples.

The seven sections of the book are:

1. Anatomy of an airport

2. Movement: life in the air changes everything on the ground

3. From the jet age to the network mall

4. Pattern: bodies and motion in a networked world

5. Transcapitalism and the multiple ecologies of an aviopolis

6. Airport semiology

7. Airport geometries

In the book the parts pertaining specifically to planes and their technologies are important to my practice. However looking at airports as a whole helps me see the interaction and relationship between technicians, pilots, employees and passengers and the commercial aircraft.

I’ve looked at 5 sections that are most important to my research in detail for this post.

In section 1 the airport’s logistical, institutional and architectural elements are analysed in terms of how successfully they allow movement of traffic. The author explains that these elements are important to enable ‘ and commodify mass global movement.’ There is also a high level instability because of exchange of systems and movement of traffic within the airport, the more sterile components of the airport allow an amount of control.

A high level of control happens in the airport where passengers cannot see, on the tarmac continuously changing planes are inspected, cleaned, maintained, checked all as streamlined and controlled as possible. All sections of the airport are designed for control to allow a safe journey. In the history of aviation mistakes made at this stage of the airport have a terrible consequences whilst planes have been in flight.

Images of a Dutch KLM plane on the tarmac ready for boarding:

KLM on the tarmac

KLM on tarmac from different angle

The book show symbols and signs on the tarmac of the airport, all indicators of control to allow the planes to move around the airport safely and as quickly as possible. These images show markings on the tarmac that inform pilots where to safely position their aircraft and also markings that allow space for different services making the plane ready for it’s next flight. This section is interesting to me as part of my research is looking into how trust is put into ever developing aviation technology and issues that arise from planes that are not maintained correctly.

In section 2 the ‘operations of mobility’ in air transit are considered, showing how everything that happens in the air has repercussions on the ground- they are almost parallel. As technology improved and allowed a larger traffic in the air, airports had to accommodate larger numbers of passengers and planes going through their systems.

It is also shown the impact on air activity September 11th terrorist attacks had- 3,667 flights in the USA at 9:49AM and 290 flights by 11:40AM.

In section 3 the book covers the history of the airport and looks in detail how it had to expand to accommodate more planes and more passengers. The book shows that the high rate that airports needed to be changed left buildings empty with building carrying on around it; any structure that could not be easily adapted was left to abandonment.

These images show fully built but desolate buildings at JFK Airport:

Also images of ongoing development of airports around the world, an example of continuous technological progression.

Section 4 covers the ‘networked world’ and the pattern of motions within it. It also touches on how passengers (as bodies) get accumulated into the patterned networks through close interactivity with airport technology and structures.

Excerpt from the book on pattern:

Some of these patterns are visible- like the precise geometry of runway lights at night or the miniaturised interlocking shapes of in-flight meals. Others appear more random, but are as predictable as the paths that planes travel overhead. Still other patterns are difficult to see- we are too caught up in them to notice- but they guide our behaviour and control our movement all the same. in a networked world, these patterns offer techniques for duplication, convergence and extension. Airports connect one thing to another entirely different thing by this process of meshing patterns. The airport is full of patterns that operate in every possible dimension and on every conceivable scale.

This section demonstrates the aesthetic aspect of interactivity between technology and man via patterns and contrasts of the natural (passengers) and the man made (the airport). It is interesting to me in terms of my practical research and work as I’m partly looking at the aesthetic that is present in air technology and how it can impact the surrounding environment.

Section 6 covers ‘airport semiology’ and adds ideas to the patters and language of the airport previously talked about in the book. This section, apart from the short text at the start, is purely images to demonstrate ideas.

The airport’s signs have to convey messages immediately via the international language of the airport. Image examples in this chapter (bad images as I had to take them with a phone camera instead of using a scanner):

These images are accompanied with short phrases showing how each set of signs is an example of contrasts and similarities through semiotics in the airport. The concept of immediate message through instantly recognisable signs is also applied to commercial airliners. There is a separate language for aircraft but is the same idea- company logos, signs for passenger safety and indicators for service staff all have to carry important messages for the intended audience. Al these signs are also useful in a crash situation, allowing investigators to assess all the details of an incident and relay them quickly to both governing bodies and the public.

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Roger Hiorns on post 9/11 artwork

Roger Hiorns interview on Art Info:

Hiorns discusses the use of planes and plane parts in his artwork post 9-11, also planes for a future piece of art physically burying an intact commercial airliner.

Excerpts from the interview:

In the “September 11” exhibition, currently on at MOMA PS1, you are presenting the pulverized engine of a passenger aircraft (“Untitled,” 2008).  How did this piece come about?

This piece doesn’t have any set structure; it’s completely formless. I really wanted to explore the idea that you didn’t have to make sculpture that was solid, had aesthetic rules attached to it, or had to exist as a singular form. I wanted to explore the idea that you could introduce a certain sense of immateriality into an object. That decision then led to finding a dominant social object, an object that encourages a certain sense of global behavior. The jet engine is a good example of an important dominant object, and I wanted to insult it — the insult was to render it very little, the opposite of what its form was.

Both this dust piece and the jet engine piece, which is in Edinburgh at the moment, represent a certain materiality of world. There is a certain sense of creating a trap for ourselves and the jet engine encapsulates a narrative of that. I was also interested in the fact that it was a piece of work that could find itself in a gallery space, but also stuck between the gaps in the floor boards — or perhaps even on a jet plane. The form of this piece is never going to resolve itself, so I thought it was a perfect sculptural form for now. There’s a kind of formlessness to the period we live in.

For the dust piece, you reduced an aircraft engine to nothing, but in the piece about to go on show in Edinburgh, you left the two engines pretty much intact. What’s the relationship between these two works, how do they converse?

The dust piece came first, so the first thing I did to a jet engine in terms of my work was to turn it into a powder, to make it disappear. In the second version, I kept it as a solid object, but the insult, or the corruption of this object is to insert anti-depressants crushed into a powder into the engines’ mechanism. For me, it’s another dust work inside that piece. The jet engines are designed to enable us to have a rather extraordinary experience of the world, and the anti-depressants also offer a rather adjusted experience of reality. I was very interested in these two adjustments of reality being in the same place.

Taking a piece of cutting-edge technology and burying it seems to suggest a certain ending which seems quite relevant about how you are supposed to relate to materials that are present in the world.

I have been interested in Hiorns work since I saw his atomised jet engine piece in Tate Britain in 2008- at the time nominated for his Seizure piece. The engine dust arranged on the floor of the gallery is one of those pieces of artwork that made me want to stay there all day, I liked the aesthetic of the piece but was also completely intrigued by the concept behind it.

Roger Hiorns, Untitled, atomised commerical jet engine

I would also like to see the buried plane piece, I’m very interested in the concept of transforming the symbolism of objects. The idea for the piece reminded me of Alex Andreyev’s work- an alternative symbolism and conventions for man made objects and the natural world.

As I’m dealing with commercial planes in my work I also have to be aware of the connotations of contemporary terrorism and public sensitivity towards the subject. I have to ensure that through various means (titles, composition, depiction etc) my artwork communicates both my philosophical and technical research.

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Lenka Konopasek

Lenka Konopasek is a Czech born painter, currently based in America. One series of hers that I’m interested in is Disaster Paintings, in which the artist portrays the ‘conflict of conscience’ during disaster situations and their aftermath. She emphasises the contrasts of man made structures and their environments and strives to raise questions about man’s presence and impact on the earth.

Many of the paintings in this series show blazing structures and polluting chimneys along with abstract landscapes and seething skies.

Looking at Konopasek’s work along with Magsig’s and Hido’s work allows me to study ways of portraying usual landscapes with different theories and messages behind the aesthetic.


All images from

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Stephen Magsig

American painter Stephen Magsig portrays typical, American landscapes often showing the close proximity of urban industry and nature. Some of the scenes in his artwork are ‘ordinary’ scenes but show the beauty in the banal.

I would like to portray the banal landscape and how it has been disrupted by the presence of a plane crash and the destruction that it causes.  It’s useful for me to look at Magsig’s work- inspiration for composition and use of forms of the landscape.


Images from

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Todd Hido

Todd Hido, a San Francisco based photographer, produces photographs of urban and suburban areas. He focuses on revealing anonymity and isolation in these locations, emphasising this loneliness with use of abandoned properties and dynamic lighting.







































Hido uses dramatic lighting to reveal parts of the landscape an subject matter, this gives his work a solemn atmosphere. I plan to experiment with lighting in my work to achieve a sombre, respectful feel to the work

All images from

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Alex Andreyev

The Russian artist/illustrator Alex Andreyev creates pieces that convey a sense of ‘a separate reality.’ His artwork has a strong sense of light and colour and many pieces have a tension of man made technology and an altered nature. He also has some works involving aircraft against an abstract natural land mass/landscape.
















































Andreyev’s works are primarily digital art, however I still find it applicable to my mixed media approach. I find his composition and use of light and colour interesting- the technology being the main subject matter of each piece and a smaller reference to the environment.

Images from

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Plane Crash Tests

Through my researching of planes and the technology that enables them to fly, I have found videos of safety tests carried out on commercial jets. Some videos show controlled crashes of large planes and others show testing new aircraft to their limits. As I’m looking at plane crashes in my practice I am also researching into the mechanics and technology behind aviation; I want to be able to have some technological knowledge of the planes and situations I will be studying.

Controlled Plane Crashes

Controlled Impact Demonstration testing AMK fuel 1984:

Russian Crash Test Footage:

Boeing 747 bomb explosion testing decompression and breakup:

Aircraft Safety Tests

Footage of various plane tests in one video:

Airbus A380 Heavy Landing test:

Boeing 747-8 Freighter various testing:

Boeing 747-8 Freighter over maximum weight flight testing:

Boeing 747-8 Freighter maximum takeoff weight, used brakes and no reverse thrust rejected take off test:

These videos are an interesting look at stringent tests done on aircraft for passenger and cargo safety and also a look into the development of flight technology. I am also planning on making some drawn studies of still frames from the controlled crash videos, looking at specifics of explosion on impact and how an aircraft’s frame breaks up and is affected by the fire.

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