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The airport is more than just a gateway to the world. It was one of the iconic architectures of the modern age and has become a site where the contradictions and issues of the contemporary world circle and land. It is the ultimate ‘non-site’ of late modernism, a social and imaginative space promising escape and adventure and a battle line in issues around border control and state security. Flight itself has lost much of its romance, and is now also recognised as an environmental threat.
Contemporary artists have been drawn to the airport for all of these reasons. Art is both complicit in and critical of these shifts. The trend for commissioning art for airports greatly increased after 9/11, in an effort to humanise the increasingly dehumanising experience created by strengthened security procedures. Exhibitions and entire museums have started appearing as part of the airport’s ‘entertainment offering’. The art world also loves to travel. It is a global enterprise which moves its people and its art around an endless parade of exhibitions, biennales, and residencies, at substantial environmental cost.
Terminal explores the complex relationship between contemporary art and the airport. This is art made about the airport, not for it. The artists variously address the airport as site or non-site, subject, or form—often through subverting its processes and systems, its histories and politics.