Aviopolis

Aviopolis: A Book About Airports, (with Gillian Fuller), original colour photography, (plus limited edition CDROM and DVD), Black Dog Publishing, London, 2004, 160pages.

Pagespreads from the book.

EXCERPT from the Introduction

Every year, one and a half billion passengers move through airports.* They are scanned, checked and uploaded into the flying machines that will take them on a high-speed journey to elsewhere. Aviopolis is about how this new type of life in the air is changing everything on the ground.

Airports are a type of city designed to facilitate global mass-movement as efficiently as possible. This city exists in no single location. It is dispersed and distributed in much the same way as most global information networks, and yet it is inhabited by real people and things (not just data). To access this city one needs to buy into a very particular set of procedures and rules.

The airport brings to life a mutant geometry, a mobile polis of invasive security procedures and hyper-surveillance mixed in with the comfy banality of global franchising. It is a sublime ‘non-place’ that connects us to large-scale anonymous processes. With airline ticket in hand, we are on our way elsewhere, seemingly given unlimited access to any destination we can imagine. But of course this access is highly conditional. Though the walls and ramparts of this city are mostly virtual and shaped by the contours of information, our bodies are channelled in a manner that is not really determined by personal choice. As with much of the software packages we subscribe to today, we voluntarily lock into proprietary processes and infrastructures that are constantly being upgraded, updated and upended.

Aviopolis considers not only what airports mean and how they are mediated to their users. We also consider what they do in terms of the materiality of the procedures that process both human and non-human commodity objects. For us, this book is an exploration of the complex relations that exist between people and technology in global networked space.

In a world where mobility and connectivity of all kinds is increasing, the cultural significance of what we call the aviopolis has become apparent for reasons ranging from security issues and civil rights, to urban planning and biometrics. Innovations in security (such as biometric processing), legislative exceptions (such as the US Homeland Security Bill) and transnational sovereignty (IATA and other global entities) are often tried out at the airport, before being introduced to the polis in general. If the contemporary airport has offered us ‘laboratory conditions’ to analyse the global interconnections of life in the information age, then perhaps the aviopolis is an early-warning system for what might happen in the rest of the world under networked globalisation.