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28th November 2011

Air Pressure: fight or flight…or farm?

Whitworth Art Gallery’s latest installation

The Shimamura family live at the end of Runway B, Narita International Airport, Japan. In the latest installation at Whitworth Art Gallery, Angus Carlyle and Rupert Cox have created a compressed cinema space where visitors line up quietly and sensibly along the wall of a narrow rectangular room before coming face to face with two large, imposing screens. These present the experience of close and continual exposure to aircraft noise, lives conducted amidst an aggressively literal metaphor for globalisation. Anthropology and acoustics collide as these two worlds, and screens, contend with one another for precedence in the field.

As a UPS logistics airplane trundles along the runway, the Shimamura’s work quietly and methodically in a dimly lit room: sorting, weighing and packaging their harvest. Penned in by international commerce, travel and delivery, the family mark a sharp contrast between the apparent global-shrinking phenomenon of modern mechanics and place-hopping whilst their own working patterns remain resolutely rooted, grounded, clinging to their small stretch of land.

A farmer pulls his plough slowly along a field, the tail end of a plane moves behind in the distance, ploughing its own route. An ominous Jaws-like fin of global power and logistics looming behind the high steel wall and watchtower that separates the local from the international. The installation documents the impact of continued negotiations between airport authorities and the farming community, of which only two families remain. Despite the increasingly thundering recordings of planes taking off, landing, looming overhead; there is an unsettling calmness to the film. The family tend to their crops, barely noticing, hardly ever looking up.

It is us, as audience and unaffected, who are disturbed by this looming, large image; we add the third dimension to this multi-levelled issue. At one point the camera, positioned behind a window in the family home, watches a plane take off from the runway, growing larger and louder and finally, thankfully, clearing the roof. Only a bird fleeing out of harm’s way is indicative of the perils of this noisy industry- the continual booming flux of man’s flight that engulfs the flatness and stillness of earthy production.

Two forms of life butting up uncomfortably against one another; the installation is an observation, a record and a performance of the particularities and peculiarities of nature and commerce. An uneasy synthesis of sounds and activities caught up in a powerful space of strange co-existence and contained growth. As the crops continue to flourish, the planes continue to rise. Where do we go from here?

Air Pressure at Whitworth Art Gallery from 4th November 2011- 12th February 2012. Supported by the Wellcome Trust and part of the Asia Triennial Manchester 2011.

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