Art in Air­ports


Frequent Flyer Destinations - - CONTENTS -

For many of us, the air­port might not be the first place that comes to mind when con­tem­plat­ing the per­fect cre­ative workspace, but air­ports are open­ing their doors to artists, writ­ers and mu­si­cians, invit­ing them to en­hance, and get in­spired by, the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence.

In 2009, Heathrow Air­port gained at­ten­tion for host­ing two writ­ers-in-res­i­dence, each for a week-long stay. Pop cul­ture philoso­pher and au­thor Alain de Bot­ton pub­lished a be­hind-thescenes di­ary record­ing his time in Ter­mi­nal 5 called A Week at the Air­port. The pro­gram’s sec­ond and fi­nal par­tic­i­pant, Tony Par­sons, wrote a col­lec­tion of short fiction en­ti­tled De­par­tures: Seven Sto­ries from Heathrow. Five thou­sand copies were handed out to trav­el­ers at Heathrow free of charge.

Other air­ports are host­ing artists and per­form­ers without fol­low­ing the tra­di­tional res­i­dency model. As the win­ner of the 2011 Live@YVR con­test, Jaeger Mah spent 80 days liv­ing and shoot­ing short videos in Van­cou­ver In­ter­na­tional Air­port. He was dubbed YVR’s “res­i­dent sto­ry­teller” and was given carte blanche to in­ter­view any­one he wanted.

“Be­fore I stepped into the air­port world I was ac­tu­ally afraid of air­ports,” says Mah. How­ever, YVR gave Mah such a warm wel­come, set­ting up a “liv­ing room” for him near the air­port’s iconic Haida Gwaii stat­ues, that he quickly lost his fear of air­ports. He pro­duced daily videos on a va­ri­ety of top­ics, such as: where lug­gage goes af­ter you check it and the most ex­pen­sive brands of liquor avail­able in the duty-free store.

While artist-in-air­port pro­grams have emerged over the past decade, cre­atives have been mo­ti­vated by the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence for years. Af­ter trav­el­ing through Cologne Bonn Air­port in 1977, Brian Eno, for­mer syn­the­sizer player for Roxy Mu­sic, was in­spired to com­pose one of the fore­most am­bi­ent mu­sic al­bums of all time, Mu­sic for Air­ports, as an an­ti­dote to the of­ten stress­ful and tense at­mos­phere of the air­port ter­mi­nal. Though art res­i­den­cies gen­er­ate pub­lic­ity for air­ports, they also present a chal­lenge to think about air­ports as places to look for in­spi­ra­tion, rather than just tense spots to pass the time.

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