Fact and fiction converge at La Guardia Airport

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

Ever been lost for words when you depart an airport, perhaps after saying goodbye to a loved one? Well you might not be by the time you land if you fly out of La Guardia Airport Terminal A, where a novel and lovely concept called Landing Pages has been launched.

Travellers more used to buying a grab and go baguette can now also order an original poem, short story, or illustrated writing to be composed for them. It is then delivered to them on landing via mobile phone and/or e-mail (and on the website www.LandingPages.nyc for the public to share).

It’s a case of fact and fiction in an intriguing collaboration between the Port Authority New York and New Jersey and the Queens Council on the Arts. It’s called Landing Pages and it all happens out of a humble kiosk in the art deco terminal.

It’s not the terminal’s first artistic expression. According to the New York Times, a 235-foot James Brooks mural, “Flight,” adorns one wall. It was created as part of the Works Progress Administration program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal; during the Cold War it was painted over because critics suspected it carried a hidden Communist message, the newspaper reports.

“The airport is also just a ripe ecosystem for observing the human experience. It’s the crossroads for people who might otherwise never be in the same space.”

As The Sunday Times put it, “Behind the counter two writers [Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs] equipped with pens and paper, laptops and a type-writer, turn out short stories about families, journeys, love, loss, unexpected encounters with the natural world and anything else that they can conjure in the hours before their would-be reader descends from the clouds.”

Lexie Smith and Gideon Jacobs in front of the Landing Pages kiosk at the Marine Air Terminal, LaGuardia Airport (Terminal A). Photo courtesy of Queens Council on the Arts.

The scheme was launched in April and runs through June as part of the 2018 Airport Residency Program. So far it has spawned over 30 creations.

Let me give you a flavour of the concept (and of how talented the two creators are). This was written by Lexie Smith for a US army passenger on 24 May.

The European tourists look tired. It is hot today and one could imagine they walked many miles for their treasures, which are draped over every arm in the group. There are two children and two adults which means there are 8 arms on which to string bags full of things they’ll have to find room for later. 

The man possesses a soft, half-formed sadness. This causes a few nearby empathic passengers to pity him in a way that’s not becoming of anyone. He fills the train car with this exhaustion. He does not fix his gaze anywhere. His shoulders are very round. He says something now to one of his daughters, who is still young in the real, gooey way. He nudges her elbow with his hand and points out the window. She looks briefly at him but not at wherever he’s pointing to. She’ll not give him that, it seems. He smiles this pathetic little line, just a faint smear across his ruddy face, as if that glance was what he’d been after. They go back to just being beside each other. … [You’ll have to visit https://landingpages.nyc/ to see what happens next]

I admire both the writing and the concept. As I have written many times, I feel that airports not only have an obligation to reflect the crafts and culture, tastes and traditions, history and heritage of a city, but they are also the perfect platform to do so.

Smith told Hyperallergic, “The airport is also just a ripe ecosystem for observing the human experience. It’s the crossroads for people who might otherwise never be in the same space.”

Precisely. A crossroads of humanity as I have often said.

According to Hyperallergic, Landing Pages invites Queens-based artists to create three-month-long public art projects in the rotunda of the Marine Air Terminal. The report notes that next up Sandra Lopez-Monsalve will launch a sonic exploration in July that incorporates traveller interviews. In October, Sherwin Banfield will begin his studies of the historic airport and its stream of visitors for sculpted murals. Finally in January, Brian Soliwoda will build a Clipper sailing ship onsite from plant materials and papier-mâché (a reference to the original use of the terminal for seaplanes).

Wonderful stuff. In our fortnightly e-Zine we have started a series called Airports as Artports. It’s a notion close to my heart and I salute the efforts of La Guardia Airport.


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