For some anxious travelers, there’s often a moment of hesitancy as they surrender their suitcase full of personal items on the conveyor belt and watch it pass through rubber flaps into oblivion.
New York-based artists Patty Chang and Noah Klersfeld drew inspiration from that moment to create “Current,” a video that follows a houseplant traveling through the bowels of the baggage system, a labyrinth of mazes from the check-in counter to the sorter. “We wanted to pull back the curtain and give travelers a glimpse of the inner workings of this massive global transportation network in a personal way,” said Klersfeld. “A house plant is a very distinct icon of domesticity. It’s vulnerable but strong.”
“Current” is one of 27 custom site-specific media artworks that are part of “See Change,” two permanent large-scale video installations in the newly renovated Tom Bradley International Terminal at LAX. The $250,000 project (funded by revenues collected through airport operations) was seven years in the making, a collaboration between Los Angeles World Airports and the city Department of Cultural Affairs.
Visitors in the arrival area can watch two displays: a 90-foot, 58-screen linear video filmstrip suspended from the ceiling and viewable from both sides, or a 5-by-5-foot media wall composed of 25 42-inch monitors near the dining area. A welcome monitor in the middle explains the project, along with artist Chip Lord’s time lapse aerial view of the airport.
Seventeen teams were commissioned to create five- to 15-minute segments focusing on Los Angeles or airport-related themes.
Lord, founder of the San Francisco-based architecture and media collective Ant Farm, assembled video footage from 25 airports to create “To & From LAX.” A series of scenes shows people coming and going through terminals and planes taking off and landing. “He was thinking about how all airports are connected, like a suspended airport city,” said curator Anne Bray, founding director of Freewaves, an L.A. media arts organization.
“It’s designed to give that sense that you are part of that larger phenomenon,” said Lord. “If you think about the number of people in the air at any given moment, it’s the size of a city.” At one point, various moving sidewalks are synched up on the grid, appearing as a live video feed.
Some works are a montage of clips on individual channels that change every few minutes. Others, such as Scott Snibbe’s black-and-white “Transit,” use the screens as one large canvas. Dancers from the California Institute of the Arts were cast as silhouetted travelers scurrying along, dragging luggage or children. In one quick flash, they burst into dance moves like an unsynchronized flash mob.
The team of Todd Gray and Joseph Santarromana used individual screens to show a carousel of similarly staged scenes of Angelenos meeting and greeting each other against familiar L.A. backdrops.
The videos are repeated on a two-hour rotation, some playing on both the square grid and the serpentine filmstrip. For those desiring less stimulation, wait a few minutes and Megan McLarney’s quiet, meditative panoramic landscapes of a tranquil ocean will appear.
For the lone animated piece, “Cloud 29,” L.A.-based Steve Shoffner transformed 29 monitors into 29 airplane windows where viewers peer out and watch white puffy clouds morph into a snail.