Thursday, November 30, 2006

Flights Of Fantasy

When I was a child I was fascinated by dictionaries, encyclopaedias and maps, the classification and representation of ‘things’ amazed me, the fact that somebody could collect and collate all that knowledge into one accessible document. In later years as a nine to five’ing adult I would realise just how tedious the production of such documents and publications could be as my boss and I would proofread chemical listings, technical descriptions and equations drafted for print in scientific documents, luckily (or maybe because of) I have moved into a rather more interesting, if less financially lucrative, life. However my childhood excitement of the bizarre descriptions and exotic photographs of the scientific world in encyclopaedias has stayed with me, grainy black and white photos of aircraft, vehicles, ships, rockets, weaponry and industrial architecture still entrance me.
On entering the M+R gallery on Kingsland Road to see Brendan Walker’s ‘Airphoria: Terminal 1’ exhibition I was never going to be disappointed. Walker has turned the gallery into a proposal exhibition for a theoretical installation inspired by two disparate aviation events, a parachute mine destroyed a teahouse and amusement park on Epping Forest in November 1940 and in 1999 a Korean Airways cargo plane crashed on Hatfield Forest. Both events have been combined to inform the collaged and sculptural documentation scattered around the gallery. Two large colourful prints of aerial disaster scenes, a small library of aviation, fairground and Korean related books, a 2 screen projection with footage donated by the National Fairground archive and other black & white newsreel footage with an airline seat from which to view the films and hybrid sculptural, wall relief and collage all sit as individual documentation or ‘sketches’ of Walker’s thought processes and influences for the possible final installation piece. It is as a whole environment that Walkers piece really affects the viewer, it is melancholy and fun, forward looking but rooted in nostalgia, real and fictional and nerdy but gregarious. A piece of a branch from the area of forest from the crash and a fragment of a Korean Airways aircraft alongside burnt pieces of coloured fabric catch your eye but the overall exhibition melds into a gallery filled 3d encyclopaedic experience, what is real and imagined, documented from the past or proposed for the future blur into this one overall experience. I left with those strange feelings that we all felt as small children when we leafed through encyclopaedias, those factual but strange descriptions of the scientific and industrial world combined with those black and white or faded colour photographs sent our minds on flights of fantasy, from the factual and real beginnings of the descriptions to the possibilities of the future that this information provided, we knew there was a strange and exciting future out there in the world but what would our adult selves be doing in it? I am not sure I can remember what my six year old self thought my adult self would be doing in the future but somewhere inside my mind inside the M+R gallery tonight Brendan Walker's installation had awakened that fascinated little kid I used to be.


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