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Going Aerial. Air, Art, Architecture

by Monika Bakke, Editor
Jan Van Eyck Academie, Maastricht, The Netherlands, 2006

184 pp., illus. 93 b/w. Trade, 15.5/$31
ISBN: 978-90-72076-77-9; ISBN: 90-72076-77-x.

Reviewed by Dr Eugenia Fratzeskou

London, UK


There have been profound changes in our understanding of air and space, due to the latest breakthroughs in wireless communication technology, cybernetics and cosmology. The definition of air as a highly complex and constantly evolving substance, challenges the modernist definition of air as a Cartesian void and, thus, an object-centred and form-based thinking. Air consists of interacting flows of organic and non-organic data, such as natural radiation emanating from the stars and the earth, bio-cultures, temperature, natural phenomena, sound, encrypted or open zones of electronic communication data. There is a growing fascination with air in art, design, critical theory and science, as air is redefined as a polymorphous informational substance that is dynamically and constantly fluctuating. Going Aerial marks this paradigm shift concerning our understanding of air as the starting point of innovation of a political, artistic, philosophical and technological importance, as realised at the new cross-roads between art, architecture, bio-art, enhanced environment design, Artificial Life, communication, critical theory and other fields.

Going Aerial is one of the most comprehensive and well-researched key readings on this subject. The book challenges the existing modes of practice and research in art and design and presents a rich spectrum of recently developed practices, research projects and theories, some of which concern the creation of event-spaces and the visualisation of hidden data-scapes that emerge in the dynamic exchanges between humans and the environment, the use of air as an ephemeral material for communicating presence, the investigation of the changing relationships between utopia and survival, precariousness and transcendence in relation to the concept of a continuous becoming within a post-humanist context. One of the most important achievements of Going Aerial is that it radically challenges our perception of the world and ourselves, as it attempts to shift our viewpoint towards less anthropocentric perspectives. Furthermore, Going Aerial reveals the hidden and challenging dimensions of informationalism that include the perceptual mappings of data-scapes, ad hoc networks, uncontrolled and excessive data, the emergence of instability and saturation, bio-traces, cross-metabolism and memory. The book deals with such emerging and demanding subjects and reveals new possibilities for future work in these fields.

The dissolution of the traditional notion of the boundary in architecture, communication, organic and non-organic entities, politics and the self, designer and user, is debated in depth and from diverse perspectives by the authors. The inert nature of traditional architecture and the conventions of enhanced environments design are challenged for enabling the creation of performative spaces that emerge in the exchanges between users, architecture, unstable environmental conditions and data. In certain cases, information processing and interactive environments are used for modifying natural phenomena. The transmission of heat, smell, and air is enabled while intuitive, tactile and non-textual modes of interactivity are devised for communicating presence. Furthermore, suggestion, unpredictability and instability are introduced into the communication processes for questioning objectivity and detachment. Information processing has evolved as the metabolic transition between organic and self-evolving non-organic species, generating environmental imprints and memory. Antigravity is explored in space art, as a means of extending the boundaries of our body and perception as we experience a constant vertigo within a destabilising environment of extreme and hostile conditions. Interesting comparisons may be made between such conditions and cyberspace. Space art does not only challenge the aesthetic and functional conventions of our gravity-bound architecture but also the very foundation of our earthbound rationale. Furthermore, air is associated with the notion of freedom and utopia. Air is used as a means of constant movement that cannot be confined in national and social borders. New strategies of migration and survival are formed for enabling a collective escape from earthly uncertainties and individualistic mentalities.

Going aerial presents an excellent selection of internationally renowned leading experts and practitioners who have formed innovative strategies for researching and working with air and space, and have interdisciplinary expertise that includes art, science, design, technology, psychology, philosophy and other areas. Going Aerial includes Prof. Monika Bakke’s editorial introduction, "Air is Information," and it is divided into three sections Breath-taking, Air Conditioning and Living Aloft. The contributors are Andrea Ackerman, René ten Bos, Annick Bureaud, Steven Connor, Nikolaus Gansterer, Georgios T. Halkias, Usman Haque, Steve Heimbecker, Laurie Hurwitz, Ann Veronica Janssens, Ruud Kaulingfreks, Jaroslaw Kozakiewicz, Dominik Lejman, Constantin Luser, MxHz, Francois Perrin, Sabrina Raaf, Michael Rakowitz, Pablo Reinoso, Yehuda Emmanuel Safran, Tomas Saraceno, Scott Snibbe, Christa Sommerer and Laurent Mignonneau, Hans Theys, Marcia Tanner.



Updated 1st December 2007

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