Rosemary Laing «Flight Research» 1998-2001.
In the Flight Research series, Laing furthers her signature style of art and flight in a series of photographs depicting a woman in a wedding dress, suspended in mid-air above the Blue Mountains in NSW, Australia. Apparently these photos were not digitally manipulated; rather they were taken with the help of a helicopter and a stuntwoman.
These photos give the representation of flight without mechanical construct. This is a depiction of 'true' flight. But it is suspended, the viewer cannot tell if the subject is falling or rising. Pigeons are shown surrounding the main subject of the picture to further re-enforce the sensation of flight.
In flight research No.1 1998, a woman is suspended from a twisting ladder hanging down from an aircraft over a verdant, ‘primordial terrain.’ Against the danger of falling, she gazes resolutely up towards an uncertain future. In the ensuing images she is transformed into a world beyond the everyday, dressed in a bridal gown, becoming acrobatic, leaping into the void. Her body is shown undergoing extreme motion, ‘actually suspended within “flight” itself’ – between the earth and the immensity of all that is out there’. In one of the most spectacular images, flight research No.5 1999, the bride appears mesmerising, like a billowing cloud floating in the expansive blue sky. As in flight research No.6 1999–2000, in which she is diving swan-like across the panoramic landscape, the bride appears paradoxically, eerily still, as if time and motion have been suspended.
Only days before the photographic shoot, Laing decided upon the idea of a bridal gown. She recognised that to achieve what she was aiming for, she needed to enter the realms of a representational form which would provoke recognition that was outside of the ordinary. The serendipity of finding a gown that invoked Elizabethan memories was not lost on the artist. It provided a way of reclaiming the feminine image of the bride from the many male interpretations of the subject in 20th-century art history and having fun with it on her own terms. On another level the dress was a significant aspect of bringing another layer of complexity to the series: taking into account past histories in Australia and the need for ‘a symbolic new engagement in terms of how we image ourselves in this landscape at this point in time.’ As opposed to previous incursions and impositions on the land, she suggests a ritualistic new ‘contract’ that is more open-ended; still precarious perhaps but one that implies, in her own words, ‘the optimism of promises that should be kept.’
Whatever ecstatic moments or tribulations may lie ahead for the bride is part of another tale or fabrication. In this poetically charged, unforgettable flight research series, we remain suspended within the imaginary world of flight – within the realms of the body liberated in space, within the flow of freewheeling possibilities and untrammelled wonder.
«I understand the necessary image.
I don’t understand photography.
Idea is everything.
The image exists in relation to the idea.
Beauty is useless.
It is endlessly desired and entirely useless.
When necessary – exploit beauty – to give the image that which is necessary.
Composition is crap.
When necessary – exploit composition – to trap the gaze of the viewer into the idea.
The image must live.
It must have a life beyond the problematics of the image itself.
The most inspiring image ever made is Nauman’s Failing to levitate in the studio.
It is everything to do with the crucial paradox of the artist’s intention.
It reveals that the inherent failure of all images is essential to the process,
and, that the images finished along the way never complete the necessary idea.»
~ Rosemarie Laing.