Around the World in 80 Airports

Ross Rudesch Harley

Around the World in 80 Airports
Art/Book/Installation Concept

3D model and test render by Mr Snow

1. Around the World in 80 Airports
3D visualisation installation project by Ross Rudesch Harley, Zina Kaye and Mr Snow
Concept Proposal

Imagine if you could take the itineraries of 80 flights you’ve been on and map them into a dynamic 3D representation. The air corridors from one airport to next create a very particular aerial and terrestrial image of the globe, which in this instance is made entirely from itineraries limited to 80 airports we have each personally visited.

Together, these tubular looking flightpaths create a dynamic spatio-temporal image of our world girded by spindly tendrils that terminate at the runway. Think Google Earth meets Donnie Darko style 3D video graphics. The project also presents a 4D perspective whereby different histories of the itineraries exist in the one time/space of the visualisation.

With its abstracted 3D extrusions of terminals, runways and flightpaths, the whole system looks like a techno-rhizome, with its complex system of flightpath-aerials and terminal-runway-roots.

It can be presented as a short video projection/loop, and may also feature an interactive component. There are also extensive sets of photos documented from many of the airports that can be displayed in relation to the main 3D work (on the web, as photographic prints, and in a publication). Exact technical requirements TBA (though most likely video projector, DVD player, computer, monitor, audio speakers and amplifier).

3D model and test renders by Mr Snow

2. Art/Publications Concept Proposal
by Ross Rudesch Harley

Imagine you got on a plane, and you didn’t stop. Just flew from one city to the next, without ever really touching the ground. A journey around the world, where you never leave the realm of the airport.

This project is a modification and a response to the conceptual artists of the 1970s, who responded to nature and experience through the creation of conceptual works that explored the relation between time, space, distance, geography, measurement and experience. To modify Richard Long’s explanation of his well-known nature walks, ATWI80A is a “formal and media-filtered description of the non-space and experience of the global spaces of airports and its most elemental materials”.

These “airport walks” gathered over a period of 5 years, are at once documentations, deconstruction and interventions in the environment of airports. Referring back to the 19th century dream of circumnavigating the globe in just 80 hours (popularised by Jules Verne’s “Around the World in 80 Days”), this project exchanges time for space. The 80 airports visited create a personal map of the world, that turns out to be shared by many millions of other travelers who find themselves tracing similar routes in the course of their daily life.

The airport is meant to propel us out of our mundane lives and ordinary routines, but more often than not it bogs us down in bureaucratic and political procedures many of us dearly want to escape. At the airport, we “freely” forego the kinds of intrusions, enquiries, surveillance and waits that send us nuts in the rest of the world. The “terminal conditions” we encounter at the airport remind us that one technical slip-up, and we could be held eternally captive instead of being set free.

Steven Spielberg’s film The Terminal shows us just how much of an infinite loop the airport (and Hollywood movies) really can be. And still, despite all of that, the airport remains at one remove from the mundanity of everyday life. Is it just me, or might the airport still be able to deliver something of it’s utopian promise and take-us-away-from-all-this after all? This project attempts to deal with this question visually.

In the 19th century, the very thought of traveling “around the world in 80 days” generated considerable excitement and debate about the liberatory prospects of modern technology and science. By mid 20th century, Jules Verne’s classic had been translated into paperback, comics, popular music and wide-screen feature films. Would the world really change if time and distance could be so compressed by media and travel machines? The answer was a resounding “YES”.

The advent of the jet age in the 1950s saw Time Life magazine amp up Verne’s no-longer-fanciful proposition of circumscribing the globe in a handful of weeks. Entitled “Around the world in 80 hours”, the 1956 summer edition of the magazine devoted an entire issue to the marvels of the modern age of flight. American illustrator, Edward Weep, accompanied US Congresswoman Claire Booth Luce on an 80-hour whirlwind world tour (courtesy Time-Life, Pan Am, and Intercontinental Hotels). Given the task of capturing the exotic allure of faraway lands by way of their airports, the pair dutifully reported back to their eager audience the highlights of their exotic experiences. The late-1950s subsequently marks the moment that air travel moves from the preserve of a venturesome elite to the domain of the masses.

When I discovered this Time Life project, so bound up in the rhetoric and hope of the “American Century”, I found the mid-century echo of Verne I had been looking for. Nearly 50 years after Time Life, I decided to embark on my own Vernian adventure, aiming to travel not so much against time as through space. My idea was to buy a round-the-world-ticket and to photograph as many airports as I could on that ticket. The plan was to go “Around the World in 80 airports”, sleeping on the plane, and photographing terminals between flights. It seemed simple and straightforward to me, but everyone, including my travel agent, couldn’t believe it. Was I really going to spend a month in the air without ever reaching a destination? What would my body say? What would my family think? And wouldn’t it look pretty suspicious to all those post 911 customs or security officials?

The Airports

Adelaide, Amsterdam, Atlanta, Auckland, Banff, Bangalore, Bangkok, Beijing, Bogota, Brisbane, Calgary, Canberra, Chang Chan, Charles de Gaulle/ Roissy, Chicago, Christchurch, Darwin, Dubai, Dulles, Frankfurt, Gatwick, Heathrow, Helsinki, Hobart, JFK New York, Honolulu, Houston, Kansai, Kuala Lumpur, La Guardia, Las Vegas, Madrid, Melbourne, Mexico City, Miami, Minneapolis, Montreal, Mumbai, Nadi, Narita, Newark, New Delhi, Perth, Pudong, Orly, Rotterdam, San Francisco, Shanghai, Singapore, Stansted, Sydney, Toronto, Venice, Xian Xianyang. (54 visited)

Addis Adaba, Alice Springs, Barcelona, Berlin Templehof, Bilbao, Brandenberg, Cairo, Caracas, Copenhagen, Dempasar, Exeter, Fuzhou China, Gaza, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Macaw, Novi Sad, Oslo, Phnom Penh, Phoenix, Rockhampton, San Pablo Seville, Schenzen, Seoul, Stockholm, Taiwan. (26)

Text and Image Strategy

A five day walk.
First day ten miles.
Second day twenty miles.
Fourth day thirty miles.
Fifth day fifty miles.
Totnes to Bristol by roads and lanes
England 1980. (Richard Long)

Flight time five hours and 15 minutes
MH 387 Malasian Airlines
Depart Shanghai Pudong 2.00AM
Arrive Dubai Terminal One 4.45AM
Aircraft Boeing 777-200
Seating capacity 375.
Sporadic sleep on plane, stopped at customs for baggage check.
Taxi to Red Falcon Hotel.


Flight coupons and ticket stubs
Baggage stickers
Airport terminal schemas (Minneapolis, Charles De Gaul, Houston, Newark, Amsterdam
World maps global route systems

Three or four scales

1.TRIPS The globe and the mini itineraries (GLOBAL ROUTE MAPS AND personal itinerary/TRIPS)
2.POINT TO POINT trip, flight time, departure arrival points
3.AIRPORT WALKS through the airport terminal to either a hotel destination or connecting flight.
4. DISCONNECTIONS abstractions of video and photographic material.

“Terminal Basket”, airport video abstraction by RRH

“Check In Check Out”, airport video abstraction by RRH

“Always On Time”, airport video abstraction by RRH

“The Global YES”, airport video abstraction by RRH


Pick one trip.

Itemise the itinerary (5-6 airports).

Organise content into airport walks and disconnections. Include photos (6?), airport terminal plan, ticket stubs, baggage, misc material.

Write a text for each walk. Caption those that need it.


Design a mock for the book that gives a sense of the look and feel. Should not feel like Aviopolis. Integrate text, graphics and photos in a clean visual style. Utilise design and format of airline material. Use icons, markers, lines and overlays liberally with all the material. Abstract vector graphics from plans and photos. Use palettes for terminals, runaways, walk-path.