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Work of the Week: In Free Fall

Jets have complicated lives, too.

From first flight to plane graveyard, commercial jetliners have long careers with more than just figurative ups and downs. I'm a confessed airliner enthusiast, so Hito Steyerl's In Free Fall (2010) piqued my interest because it lays out the life, death, and reuse of a Boeing 707. The moving-image work is separated into three chapters: Before the Crash, After the Crash, and Crash. When we join the main character, Boeing 707 4X-JYI, it's in pieces in Mojave—the place where planes go to die. We're told that 4X-JYI started its life at the glamorous airline TWA ferrying the trendy jet-set. The plane descended to serving utilitarian functions for the Israeli military in the 1970s, made an explosive cameo in the 1994 film Speed, and then was sent to China as scrap—its fuselage chewed up and, presumably, turned into products like pirated DVDs of American action films.

The story of the classic jetliner is told through appearances by Hito Steyerl, actor Imri Kahn, and even the cameraman. The production of In Free Fall also plays a role. So essentially, it's telling the story of the airplane, but it's also telling the story of telling the story of the airplane. Follow me?

Regardless, the plane's many lives, shown in the immersive environment of the Donna and Howard Stone Gallery for Film, Video, and New Media, offer a visually compelling look at the processes of production, consumption, destruction, and reuse. This exhibition is on view through January 27.

Image Credit: Hito Steyerl. Still from In Free Fall, 2010. © Hito Steyerl. Courtesy of Wilfried Lentz Rotterdam.