Jen Southern

Commissioned by: Queens Hall Arts, Hexham, UK.

Exhibited as part of the exhibition Skylines: A Survey of Works 2001 - 2016 at Queens Hall Arts, Hexham. Curated by Dominic Smith.

A silver leaf drawing of a GPS track I flew in a Cessna 150 is overlaid onto a cloud made of satellite imagery of the ground beneath. A dress made to fit the artist is printed with an aerial photograph taken during the flight.

The work draws together four different perspectives of the sky: a cloud seen from a distance, a satellite image view from above, a photograph of the ground taken from a light aircraft and a GPS track of a flight over Hexham. These images are combined in a two part installation that refers to gaming, model making and sewing as ways in which people engage with the construction of 3D models. The two installation elements are a large ‘low-polygon’ cloud image and a dress, both mounted on a sky blue wall. The cloud shape is printed with satellite imagery of Hexham, and the dress is made from fabric printed with a photograph of Hexham taken from a light aircraft by the artist. 

Aviatrix has a silent subtitle (I am of the sky) in reference to the writing of Donna Haraway.

Haraway’s concept of situated and partial knowledge criticises the traditional or fictional idea of scientists as objective and disembodied observers of the world as a view from nowhere and everywhere: "I am arguing for politics and epistemologies of location, positioning, and situating, where partiality and not universality is the condition of being heard to make rational knowledge claims. These are claims on people’s lives; the view from a body, always a complex, contradictory, structuring and structured body, versus the view from above, from nowhere, from simplicity. Only the god-trick is forbidden." Haraway (1991: 195)
Haraway uses the figure of the view from above to stand in for a view from nowhere. She identifies herself with the ground as the location of being ‘situated’: ‘we learn to be worldly from grappling with, rather than generalizing from, the ordinary. I am a creature of the mud, not the sky’ (2008: 3). Haraway often uses figures as ways to understand the world or how things are worldly. Figures are: "… material-semiotic nodes or knots in which diverse bodies and meanings coshape one another. […] figures have always been where the biological and literary or artistic come together with all the force of lived reality." Haraway (2008: 4).
Aviatrix, and these embodied views from the sky are an attempt, in sympathy with Haraway’s situated knowledges, to reclaim the figure of the sky as just as messy as the ground; it is full of weather, constellations, gases, ozone, volcanic ash, microbes, bacteria, space junk and thousands of people in flight. The view from above and in motion is a partial and situated view from somewhere, it is an embodied and fragile viewpoint.

This description paraphrases part of my practice based PhD in Sociology titled 'Comobility: Distance and Proximity on the Move in Locative Art Practice', awarded in 2013.

Image Colin Davison
Image Colin Davison
Image Colin Davison
Image © Dominic Smith
Image © Dominic Smith