Visual Arts: Review: They fly through the air with the greatest of ease

IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT THE LUX HOXTON SQUARE, LONDON
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The Independent Culture
AS NIGHT falls, the stillness of Hoxton Square in London's East End is broken by a handful of silent, gliding bodies. With arms outstretched they fly, effortless, Superman-style, a gravity-free vision more suited to the world of dreams than that of physical reality.

The installation Gravity Zero, by the French dancer Kitsou Dubois, records the artist's efforts to train astronauts in the skills of space dancing: choreographed movement in a zero-gravity environment to help the space travellers keep fit and fight boredom and space sickness while they are in orbit.

Zero gravity on earth can only be achieved through parabolic flights, when a plane is sent plummeting towards earth in a controlled 20-second nose dive from 30 thousand feet. So Dubois joined US astronauts in what they fondly call their vomit comet on several such heart-stopping, free- fall flights to develop her unusual dance routine.

Liberated by their weightlessness, the figures kick out their back legs and swim through the air around them, conjuring up images of underwater mermaids and crowded fish tanks. Limbs drift past the camera, interlocked bodies spin slowly around the confined space of the plane's interior and an arched, crab-shaped body floats upwards, as if caught on a gust of warm air, in a state of enviable freedom.

"The experience that I had while in parabolic flight was both wonderful and melancholic," recalls Dubois. "It is an exceptional experience with regard to experiencing a perfect state of dance. Wonderful because one finds oneself in a state which corresponds to those magic or perfect moments which in dance one is always trying to recapture.

"It is first and foremost an ephemeral moment, which the dancer values because it expresses his or her need to find and keep that magic state of being which is real but ultimately transient. In weightlessness, this moment is taken over by a feeling of eternity. The dream of flight is realised and it becomes a reality."

In stark, grim contrast, Suicide Box, from the Bureau of Inverse Technology (BIT), brings home the irreversible force of gravity in everyday life. A motion-activated camera positioned under San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge, that suicide hot spot, captures unidentifiable objects as they fall from the structure.

Presented as a grainy documentary, the film makes for fascinating, if ghoulish, viewing. Subtitles provide a continual stream of facts and figures such as: "After the 996th official suicide from the bridge in 1995, California highway patrols stopped releasing numbers of falls, fearing that quantifying the suicide figure would incite a millennial race." Footage of smiling tourists, cameras in hand, who appear under the subtitle "The Scale of the Problem", sits incongruously alongside that of the bridge's infamous history.

BIT, an illusive organisation that puts together out-of-the-ordinary product information, is described as an "information agency servicing the information age".

The company argues that only certain matters get the status of being information and that "the gaps are enormous". It's this imbalance and limited perspective that the organisation is trying to confront. "Even parking ticket data or the video data generated at your local shopping mall get many more resources than suicide data," a spokesperson for the company has pointed out.

The BIT Plane, a second BIT piece on show with Suicide Box, takes the viewer on a flight over the "shiny idealism" of Silicon Valley - the centre of the techno boom which, from the air, is far from inspiring: a deceptively dull, abstract patchwork of low-rise industrial buildings and beautifully kept lawns, which gives no indication of the innovative creativity taking place below.

The plane - a miniature remote-controlled aircraft with a video camera attached which is being marketed by BIT - is controlled by a pilot on the ground who is able to navigate from the video feedback sent by the plane.

The quiet, accompanying narration soon melts into the background becoming no more than a low and distant mumble, leaving you free to be transported by the camera's jerky, chaotic flight.

This may not be in the same league as zero gravity flying, but with its birds-eye view and visual freedom of movement it can provide those of us without access to wings or parabolic flights a chance to reach untold heights.

`In-Flight Entertainment: Kitsou Dubois and BIT', The Lux, 2-4 Hoxton Square, east London, (0171-684 0200), until 25 April

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