Excerpts of preface by Lars Grambye, Jacob Fabricius & Lotte Juul Petersen
from the exhibition catalogue SIMONE AABERG KÆRN: OPEN SKY, Malmö Konsthall (Sweden) 2006
In the early 1990s Simone Aaberg Kærn began working with projects relating to surveillance and control. This, however, soon turned into a fascination for the unreachable and impossible task of floating: flying in the space. Through animated flying videos, such as Air (1994), wanna fly (1995), and Royal Greenland (196), Simone Aaberg Kærn investigated and soon found a symbolic free space in the air. At first, it was animated spaces, in which she flew across the skies of Copenhagen, New York and Greenland seeking the limits of gravity and individual unassisted human flight. Soon after Simone Aaberg Kærn achieved her own flight certificate in order to produce the work, Sisters in the Sky. This was demanded by Anne Noggle, one of the female pilots, who also was portrayed in the work Sisters in the sky (1997). Simone Aaberg Kærn’s painted portraits of female fighter pilots from Second World War was shown at an acquired by Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Humlebæk. Sisters in the sky is an impressive aesthetic and intellectual peephole of how women at that time could realize their dream of flying in a time of hardship. In the painting and sound installation, Simone Aaberg Kærn narrated their stories with a poetic, political and feministic gesture and introduced the notion of aero feminism – an aero feministic sisterhood across cultures and generations.
One of Simone Aaberg Kærn’s most spectacular projects started in 2002. One day the artist read an article in a Danish newspaper about the girl Farial from Kabul in Afghanistan. Farial’s greatest wish was to become a fighter pilot. Simone Aaberg Kærn had no doubts; she had to attempt to reach her and show her how to fly.
In Micro-Global Performance (2002-03) Aaberg Kærn took off in her fragile Piper Colt flight from Little Skensved, Denmark, to Kabul, Afghanistan. Micro-Global Performance is produced in collaboration with Magnus Bejmar. They flew across borders; crossing the enormous mountain range Hindukush (the Hindu Killer) to Kabul with the risk of the American Air Force would attack them. In the film Smiling in a War Zone (2005) Simone Aaberg Kærn crosses war zones and defies the military power in order to make contact to the girl Farial. She risked her own life so she could give Farial a journey in the air. In the film Farial flies the plane over Kabul.
From a global perspective, the sky and the airspace are a place of battles – over power, prestige and politics. At the same time, the sky is a place of refuge for individuals, a place onto which you may project your own wishes and dreams.
© The authors
the axis of evil
The art project "1001 Nights 2002" has reclaimed the freedom of the sky.
It was an attempt to test if you can cross borders, flying yourself and manage as
an individual to process the massive amounts of red tape, combined with such an operation.
To obtain necessary permissions and fly, map in hand, looking out the side-window;
following rivers, roads and valleys along the border of Iraq right into Iran.
Crossing it and pursuing on a mission to reach Kabul, Afghanistan.
Claiming anyone's right to the sky.
The freedom to fly anywhere at any time, even after 9/11.
It took off from a farmers grass strip in Denmark, at the 4th of September 2002.
That was ten years after Rumsfeld, Cheney and Wolfowitz had published the first draft of
"Space power theory".
A document describing how air power can be used to control the grounds and how
space power can control the air.
"Full spectrum dominance" is a key issue in this paper. Establishing USA as the only
dominating power on the planet.
The"drone attack" in Yemen hinted towards the perspectives of full spectrum dominance.
To take out any target, anywhere at any time.
The war in Iraq showed it even more clearly, cruise missiles attacking top targets in Baghdad.
B-2 bombers taking off from fields amidst lands of genetically modified corn,
flying superdupersonic speed across the globe. Crashing the cradle of agriculture between
the Tigris and the Euphrates.
Finally ending that era of agriculture, establishing their new times.
A task obviously not fully understood nor challenged in a Europe lacking coherent space policy.
Staging an impotent war machinery.
Briefly addressed by Beijing's declared will to reach the moon and a Russian hope
to cling on to, what was once a race, but now, is an established fact of domination of space-research.
Far eastern Iran, the holy city of Mashad.
Close to the Afghan border.
Three months on our way. The Americans controlling Afghan air space, denying us to enter.
Last words from the US Major on a hissing line to Qatar:
"Sorry to say Mam, but if you cross that line, you would be a target Mam. I repeat Target!"
Time passed by noon before we finally entered our forty-year-old Piper Colt.
The little two-seater wiggled out over deserted lands, once the route of silk caravans.
A line in the sand, clearly visible from 2500 feet.
The Afghanistan border.
Goodbye and good luck from Iranian air-defense radar control seventeen minutes ago.
It didn't take long before the radio started to spark:
"This is area control. Aircraft crossing line, heading one, two, four. Identify! Identify!
Like an invisible voice from the sky, the ever patrolling AWACS high up there somewhere.
They spotted us immediately.
We penetrated American fortress Afghanistan.
"We no shoot you down! This is baby-plane, no danger!" the local commander
of Herat airport watch-group explained, pointing his Kalashnikov to the sky.
If you are small and persistent & you can succeed.
A certain girl, special, her name: Faryal, a 16-year-old with the outspoken dream
of becoming a fighter pilot.
She told this to a Danish reporter, those hectic January days when reporters paid
thousands of dollars to be driven around, having women to unveil and shyly look out of their burkhas.
Now the reporters gone, the burkhas on.
Faryal still in school, now teaching the English she learned less than a year ago.
We found her.
Completing the "axis of meaning" Simone saw that grayish winter day over
a cappuccino in her morning cafe.
The article was electric to her.
After the work "Sisters in the sky" about how women went into the field of military
pilotry during WW II, a link was there, the future in front of her.
Faryal facing much the same problems with cultural resistance as women did
in the west not to long ago.
To take her flying, letting the controls to her over the ruins of Kabul. A wish
for the skies would come true.
M odus operandi being the one of aero feministic action.
Building a cross border, cross time, sister hood in the sky.
Using the full involvement technique developed in earlier works.
That is, to perform the task and persistently telling and retelling your story, letting every individual
who wants to, become a pillar in this imaginary air bridge between west and east.
Trusting their Yes! to open skies, making yet another leg closer to the goal.
Bringing courage from flying sisters along route.
There where the young Croatian girl, new at flight academy. The Turkish-Bulgarian,
a Muslim, well on her way in the cockpits.
Turkish female fighter pilots of today, who flew formation with
Simone in their F-5, "Freedom Fighters".
She more bound to deny her dream, controlled by a family obstructing possibilities
for the daughter to lift from the ground.
We, a metaphor on how the west throws itself upon any prey in need to satisfy this
thirst for righteous "good-willing".
Faryal is tough, Afghanistan is harsh. Simone is determined.
Now cultural negotiation begins for real.
A Pashto clan leader helped as an intermediary.
Letters signed by ministers from Aviation and Defense Department provided security.
Cooperation with controlling Turkish forces made the actual flying possible.
Slowly Simone and Faryal could define themselves, sharing the same dream.
It took a month to do.
No more men, mothers or officials in their way.
They met on the ground, found a platform, made it closer to the plane.
Faryal finally took off. She steered the airplane out over Kabul.
She smiled, threw up, wiped off, laughed and flew on.
"1001 Nights 2002" succeeded in its claim for anyone to fly anywhere at any time.
No matter what.
Tin-tinism and postcolonial flair being a flirting bonus a year when aviation celebrates 100 years.
The Wright brothers took off 1903.
did it take us?
Simone Aaberg Kærn/ Magnus Bejmar
REFLECTIONS ON MY SKY BLUE
I use my collages as a kind of artistic ground research as a supplement and ground material for my more conceptual projects.
By working visual, associative, I’m able to reach understandings that would be hard to achieve by the means of a rational language.
Most of my collages are based on personal experiences with stunt flying. I have taken part in several competitions. An aerobatic pilot always prepares for competitions by drawing his or her flying route in 2-D by using a choreographic alphabet, called Aresti. Afterwards you wander about in an introvert way miming the flying with your body and hands.
The actual flying is a rhythmical experience where all senses and every part
of your brain are in action. When looking at my little Aresti drawing I transform it into a physical 3-dimensional form and can then feel with my whole body how my weight is increased with up to 7 G. I am being thrown around in the cockpit while I imagine what my loop will look like from the ground.
It is more or less the same reflections as a sculptor, making a statue of a king on his horse. He has to adjust the dimensions of the horse and rider to the viewpoint of the beholder. In fact his sculpture will be seen from below placed on a high base. And the king’s head must not seem to be too small.
Preparing for a competition I also have to take into consideration the influence of the wind on my flying route. It will blow me to one side and then to the other. This means that a vertical line is crooked. Stunt flying is about the sense of angles and pleasure. The speed is standard.
In my aerobatic collages these experiences are being expressed within a new
medium. Most of the collages are made on light blue paper representing my sky.
In these sky-blue collages I sample modern photos of flowers from garden magazines with drawings and futuristic visions from technical magazines of the 1950-60’ies. This turns into a utopian vision of future, where yin and yang, feminine and masculine, biological and mechanical are mixed together in a borderless universe.
Simone Aaberg Kærn