For the spring-summer 2017 edition of ‘As You Change, So Do I’, artist Yuri Pattison will produce Flights overhead, (portmanteau of global and local), a site-specific work produced exclusively for Luton town centre.
Pattison has taken Luton’s airport, the fourth busiest travel hub in the UK, as his subject matter to dwell on the town’s industrial infrastructure within a global economic context. Typical of the artist’s merging of hard and soft digital realities through sculpture and installation, recording devises will be fixed in a discreet room at the easyHotel on Bute Street in the town’s Cultural Quarter, with a direct view of departing flights in order to track the airport’s activity in real-time.
As a hack of a public art project, Flights overhead, (portmanteau of global and local) presents a innovative situation in which ‘public art’ becomes problematic, and is a natural development of previous ‘networked’ artworks by Pattison, such as Insights (crisis trolly), which was placed throughout the 2016 Frieze Art Fair in London. This work comprised a series of ‘big board’-style monitors used by media companies to visualise sales statistics and popular news articles, enabling a live response to consumer behaviour, and in part formed a critical response to the contemporary art market.
For Luton, open source radar-tracking systems and an online DIY automated system, used mainly by the enthusiast community as a tool for surveillance by retrieving broadcasts from commercial planes, will produce live collages of aircraft codes and flight destinations. These statistics, normally hidden to the general public, will be combined with analyses of air quality and atmospheric data generated from a device called an uRadmonitor, while abstracted excerpts from local news will be thrown into the mix to dwell on subjects such as local air pollution. Cameras will send the resulting information, including the details of each arriving and departing flight in daylight hours, live via a date acquisition device to a bespoke online site, whose uniform resource locator (URL) will be announced at the project’s opening via film projection on the wall opposite easyHotel. The visual output of this commission will therefore be entirely web-based and attempt to visualise invisible data within the wider atmosphere of Luton.
In many respects, Pattison’s project can be read as an analysis of the shift from two previously dominant industries in Luton, namely the Victorian era when the town was situated at the centre of hat production (the mental health of local workers suffered enormously through mercury poisoning, which erodes the central nervous system), and the subsequent impact of the motor industry in the late twentieth century (where similarly, the extreme repetition of behaviour in assembly line production had dangerous effects on workers’ health and creativity), represented by firms such as Bedford Vehicles, Chrysler and Vauxhall Motors in the 1970s and 1980s. The small factories that serviced these vast corporations in Luton and Dunstable, now supply the airport, the area’s current main employer.
Issues connected to a lack of social responsibility by corporations and the human impact of global digital technology always appears in the background to Pattison’s work, which alongside a natural concern for an ethical approach to making art, can also be seen as a response to the sometimes-hedonistic canon of ‘post-internet art’, which often fails to highlight the effects of global capitalism’s effects on ordinary people.
It’s important to emphasise that, although Pattison has a profound interest in wider global economics and the ‘easy’ company, the artist’s main focus in this project is the presence of the local airport in relation to well-being, and how the wider global movement of people is shifting our ideas around identity. In essence, alongside issues of health, his project communicates how Luton’s character is overshadowed by its role as a transport hub, and how current politics in the area reflects wider international tensions between the UK and Europe, the US and the Middle East.
If Pattison’s mapping of Luton as a small hub for a ‘global network’ reflects a fraught sense of the marketing term ‘glocal’, then in addition, his intimate perspective on how the town’s various industries directly impacts its diverse communities echoes in other parts of the ongoing art programme for ‘As You Change, So Do I’. How in Pattison’s words ‘work kills’, for example (literally, through aviation fumes), relates symbolically to Scott King’s Keep the Home Fires Burning (2016-17), which riffs on commuting and the famous Situationist slogan from May 1968 Ne travaillez jamais (‘never work’), as well as Polly Apfelbaum’s new limited artwork Pink Giraffe (2017), which holds a direct connection to the aforementioned hat industry, and which advocates drawing as an essential form of communication development in children as a more constructive view of the future. Apfelbaum’s edition is printed in an edition of 60 on 3mm-thick hat felt, and was produced by The Guildford Street Press, located in an old millinery on Bute Street.
About the artist
Yuri Pattison (born 1986, Dublin) lives and works in London. Recent solo exhibitions include user, space, Chisenhale Gallery, London (2016); sunset provision, mother’s tankstation limited, Dublin (2016) & Architectures of Credibility, Helga Maria Klosterfelde, Berlin (2015).
Group exhibitions include Public, Private, Secret, International Center of Photography, New York (2016); British Art Show 8, Leeds, Edinburgh, Norwich, Southampton (2015-17); The Weight of Data, Tate Britain, London & Transparencies, Bielefelder Kunstverein; Kunstverein Nürnberg (all 2015). Pattison is the recipient of the Frieze Artist Award 2016. Forthcoming exhibitions in 2017 include solo presentations at Kevin Space, Vienna & Kunst Halle Sankt Gallen.