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Fighters As Flights of Fancy


One of the glories of attending an air show like Farnborough is that, sometimes, you get a few hours to poke about the great museums that mark the cultural capitals of Europe. During Farnborough this year, I snuck off with my wife for a few hours before the show started to stroll through my favorite art musuem, the Tate on the Embankment.

There, to my great surprise and delight, I stumbled (well, it's pretty hard to stumble on things this big) two fighter aircraft displayed as art. Now, before you smirk,  the artist offers a pretty striking argument for her work in this video.

In one of the press releases about the exhibition's opening, she tells how she was inspired from an early age by fighters roaring through Wales.

I remember long sublime walks in the Welsh mountains with my father, when suddenly a fighter plane would rip through the sky, and shatter everything. It was so exciting, loud and overwhelming; it would literally take our breath away. The sound would arrive from nowhere, all you would see was a shadow and then the plane was gone.
My wife, who does not share my deep fascination with things military, was struck by the planes as art, and a bit amused by my strong reaction to the show. The brightly polished Jaguar [pictured]  possesses a sublime quality, the polished surface evoking the swirling currents of air that sweep along its aerodynamic sides. But it was the Harrier --hung like one of those pheasants the English like to hang for days so they are tender and "ripe" -- that struck me. Seeing one of those high-tech aircraft hanging from the ceiling as if a newly-shot game bird evoked thoughts of good men now dead and the desperate glory of what fighter pilots do each day.

The shadows of the planes are not gone from the exhibit at the Tate. They may sink deep in the minds of thousands of art lovers who likely wouldn't think twice about the magnificent flying machines so many of us spend so much of our lives thinking about, working on and flying.

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