The Failure of Flight Test Three
Indian Ink on Paper
89 x 112 centimeters
© Jack West
In order for an entity that remains heavier than air to achieve continual lift in the form of flight, an acutely narrow band of parameters must be adhered to. These objects, known as ‘aerodynes’, possess the distinct capability to belittle the commonly experienced force of the earth’s gravity and through the process of both evolutionary and manmade design have manifested themselves in a variety of forms. From the beating of a helicopter blade to the flap of a bird’s wing one constant must remain, the thrust of lift must be greater than that of gravity and drag. Once these boxes are ticked our aerodyne can take to the air.
Between 1900 and 1910 two brothers scratched together a temporary settlement amongst the biting dust of a North Carolinian sand dune. In an sweep of land known as ‘Kill Devil Hills’ Wilbur and Orville Wright discovered quite how stringent these set of rules that enabled manmade flight really were. Through a process of obscenely analytical measurements, test after retest and a certain amount of trial and error the Wright Brothers finally managed to harness the rigid laws of physics around them in a way that had previously firmly fixed man to the ground. They launched a bundle of canvas, timber and living human flesh into the air and at Kill Devil Hills the Wright Brothers discovered flight.
The starting point for my work has always relied on a set of rules to become the determinant to its eventual outcome. The sculptures were born from the visual layout of an equation that dealt with universal forces; the paintings represent a space whereby the rules imposed on air traffic take on a graphic and visual manifestation. But the unifying concept beyond this again lies with man’s courtship of the rules around him. As the Wright brother’s negotiated a set of pre-existing and timeless rules as laid out by Newton, we see man negating systems once again in the track marks left by the vehicles on a runway. The sculptures take on the form of the Wright brother’s gliders and have become machines to negate the rules of flight. However the delicate balance of rules is highlighted by the futility of the ‘machines’ to actually fly. It is only through visible suspension in the the real world or a falsely recorded scene of the structures taking to the air, as represented in drawings, that these structures born from a system can take to the air.
And so my work becomes homage to the interplay of man and the blindly unfolding rules around him, with the specific intention of human flight providing a background to these negations. However an important aspect is that the human action is inferred, the record of his process is what remains, the act of balancing these rules has passed. And so there is an intentional feeling of the space almost becoming an ‘exhibit’ to flight, wherein aeronautical exhibits the viewer is aware that they are in the presence of objects which have the potential to achieve great feats of human endeavour, my aim is to achieve a similar sense of excitement, intensity and potentiality with the 2D and 3D work in the space providing the exhibits to man’s attempt to negotiate the rules around him and demonstrate his potential for abiding to the specific parameters that enable not only flight but all systems that mould his actions.