civilian defense (grounded flight) moscow


Civilian Defense (grounded flight) was developed for the 2015 Moscow Biennial,  Our Lands/Alien Territory exhibition. Julia Aksenova–curator.


Civilian Defense (grounded flight) utilizes sandbags like those employed in the provisional architecture of temporary checkpoints, military bunkers, flood control walls, and other “emergency” installations. These sandbags are fabricated from a broad selection of domestic fabrics, widely ranging in color and pattern, creating an interface between emergency “civil defense” deployments and the kind of domestic spaces where these types of fabrics are usually encountered. This is an adaptable architecture that is pillow-like and welcoming in appearance, but also practical and heavily grounded. In this installation, the sandbags serve as the structure of a kind of earthwork drawing that stretches across the floor of the exhibition hall.   

This large scale floor drawing, built as a series of low-running sandbag walls, depicts three elements associated with three specifically consequential occasions of flight: a wing from a Boeing 777 (in actual dimensions) ; the silhouette of a Cessna 172 Skyhawk; and a “flying” human figure. The wing, is a fragment of a downed passenger airliner. The Cessna 172 is a small plane once landed by an inexperienced young civilian pilot in Moscow’s Red Square. The flying man—borrowed from Ilya Kabakov’s “The flying Komorov”  album—is a powerful act of imagination and political will.

Airspace offers symbolic freedom from the boundaries and physical constraints of terrestrial existence.  But the reality of contemporary airspace is that it is mapped, regulated, conflicted and constrained as tightly as the earth’s surface. This installation developed around the idea of flight depicted in earthbound sandbags: symbolic flight, magical flight, and sometimes liberating flight.  But this is a depiction that cannot easily escape the gravity of contemporary political and social unrest and conflict.  It brings to light our conflicted state of being: that of possessing wings while too often dwelling in bunkers.

Dan Peterman 2015