fig. 1 View from "Shusuke Ao: PAX-4" at eitoeiko, courtesy of eitoeiko
fig. 2 View from "Shusuke Ao: PAX-4" at eitoeiko, courtesy of eitoeiko
We usually look up at the sky to see an airplane flying. While leaving a white contrail, an airplane flying across the bright blue sky immediately disappears in front of us as if to prove its speed. Although airplanes found in the sky look just like small dots, we are overwhelmed by their huge airframe which appears in front of us just before we get on the plane. Airplanes which we view on earth leave us with a massive image similar to that of industrial products rather than a light impression of machines flying in the sky.
Traditionally, passenger planes and fighter jets have been used as motifs of many items, such as films, photographs, designs, cartoons and video games. Most of them seem to have been expressed as manufactured products giving us militant and manlike image. How then have “airplanes” been expressed in the field of art? By way of experiment, let me give you one example of modern artworks made in recent years. One designer, Marc Newson, created a jet plane named “Kelvin 40” (2003) for the Fondation Cartier pour L’Art Contemporain. In this work, we can find a high quality of airplane made not only as a creation, but also as a product. Kazuhiko Hachiya is engaged in an ongoing project entitled “OpenSky” (2003-). It is described as “a project in which he tries to make a flight equipment based on his own ideas”. The aim of this project is to create a single-seat flight device (a personal jet glider) and to ultimately realize a manned flight by using it. In addition, it will be still fresh in our minds that Noriyuki Haraguchi created a work named “Phantom”, in which the tail of F-4 Phantom jet fighter aircraft was expressed in real scale by using aluminum foil. This work was displayed in the exhibition, “Noriyuki Haraguchi: Society and Matter” (BankART Studio NYK, 2009). In this way, the relationship between art and airplanes has stirred a number of artists to create and express “flight”, whether their artworks can be actually used as flight equipment or not.
By the way, an airplane by Shusuke Ao named PAX-4 was displayed in this exhibition. However, Ao’s “plane” was different in form and materials from “airplanes” such as those described above. This is because Ao’s airplane was composed of designs of 32 “planes”, each of which was made 540 mm in length and 410 mm in width, and the installation was created by actually folding these designs. Compared to recent modern-art creations made with an assumption that they can be used for a manned flight, Ao’s “paper plane” might leave viewers with small-scale and childish impression.
Nevertheless, this paper airplane, PAX-4, was not the same as the so-called “paper planes”. Ao expressed a metallic texture and a weighty impression by utilizing thin Japanese paper as the main material of this work and by using lead foil. He also used handmade decals created from Japanese paper for creating the fuselage. The weight of the airframe was lightened by partially pulling out a layer. In this way, Ao succeeded in achieving a balance between the design and the functionality of the fuselage. Indeed, PAX-4 was a “paper plane”, but it was made in the a form similar to that of industrial products which were created based on elaborately-structured designs. In other words, the design of the paper airplane which Ao showed as an installation, can be deemed as a design taken as synonymous with a “painting”, instead of sketch and esquisse made in the course of drawing pictures. This exhibition presented us the manufacturing process in which “designs” (i. e., paintings), including even folds and marks, were made into a structure called a “paper plane”.
fig. 4 "PAX-4 100109-100483 Sheet No.1000081" (2010); Japanese paper, 236×400cm, courtesy of the artist and eitoeiko
fig. 3 "PAX-4 100109-100483 Sheet No.1000081" (2010); Japanese paper, 236×400cm, courtesy of the artist and eitoeiko
Designs mean drawings in which the form, function, structure, dimension and layout of buildings and machines were depicted according to a certain rule. Generally, a designer and an ordering party are required to disclose and present designs as part of technical documents to reach an agreement between them. In this respect, designs are not considered to be created, disclosed, maintained, purchased and sold as artworks. In other words, designs are not measured by the quality of paper on which they were drawn. The worth of designs is what they include.
Despite this, as is well known that Leonardo da Vinci drafted drawings and designs of airplanes and helicopters. Nonetheless, there was no clear difference between designs and “paintings” in the past. Unlike da Vinci, Shusuke Ao depicted paper planes through “designs” by incorporating the technique of Japanese-style paintings. This could be called his attempt to realize once more the integration on a plane between art (paintings) and science (designs) which are currently classified into completely different fields. As same as the flight equipments dreamed up and devised by da Vinci, PAX-4 which appeared on paper as the fruit of Ao’s imagination and painting technique, made me expect that it would open up some new perspective of flight. I wish to wait and see what kind of traces PAX-4 will leave in the future.
(Translated by Nozomi Nakayama)
fig. 5 Installation view of "PAX-4 Flight Simulation" (2010), courtesy of eitoeiko