Project Overview

Graham Ellard and Stephen Johnstone’s Geneva Express was a multi-screen video installation that received its maiden outing as part of the group exhibition Airport, curated by Film and Video Umbrella and the Photographers’ Gallery. Tracking the routine arrivals and departures of the same 747 jumbo jet, as if counting it in and counting it out from its ‘home’ airport of Gatwick, two facing screens capture the miraculous if lumbering beauty of each take-off and landing as the ear-splitting boom of the aircraft’s passage reverberates around the space. Alongside this periodic rumble of thunder, the artists record other atmospheric fluctuations. Perpendicular to the two large-scale projections, a series of miniature LCD screens, laid out in parallel lines to resemble runway lights, illuminates the fleeting micro-dramas of the airport environment – people waiting, pacing, shopping, flopping, greeting, embracing. These images lend a human face to the tyranny of the airport schedule, and the rapid travel (and turnaround) times of the project’s title – which actually derives from an observation by the linguistic philosopher, Ferdinand de Saussure. Noting the convention by which the 8.25 express train between Paris and Geneva was always called by the same name whether it was composed of different rolling stock or left twenty minutes late, Saussure cites this as an example of metaphor being fast-tracked into universal shorthand. As the wonder of flight also becomes a thing of all-too-easy, everyday acceptance. Ellard and Johnstone’s work deftly highlights both sides of the equation.