The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) is the first large scale floor model that I made as the Associated Artists for Propaganda Research. I started by purchasing a model of Air Force One, building it and destroying it by cutting it apart and burning parts of it to blacken them. I used white paint chips and blackened plastic pieces to create debris and studied photos of airplane crashes to try and figure out how it should look after the crash. The problem is that more serious plane crashes usually decimate the aircraft and I needed the aircraft to be slightly intact so I opted to minimize the damage. I decided that it would be best to have the nose intact, the tail intact, and most of the body of the plane intact. I also researched photos of Air Force One so I could apply the decals properly and paint it with right colors. Next I researched the type of sand that was available and chose the finest grained sand that I could find. I worked out some sketches for the platform structure and decided on simply using 2″x4″‘s with half inch rough plywood on top. I went to Pittsburgh and the warehouse space that I was showing in was giant. I had planned on making the platform for the sand only 8’x8′ but because the space was so big I decided to make it 14’x14’ so it wouldn’t get lost in the vastness. I went to the local lumberyard and purchased all of the wood and sand that I would need. The other problem that I ran across was lighting since the space had no lighting available. I decided on 2 large yellow work lights, each with 2 lights on it, to give it enough light. I built it fairly quickly and dumped all of my sand on top of the platform and started spreading it out evenly. I padded it down with the palm of my hand to create a smooth surface and spent time creating dunes to make it look more realistic. I started in the middle so I could place the model airplane in there first and worked my way out. I decided not to finish it with sides since I didn’t want to deal with the hassle of building them and instead left the sides exposed so that the structure can be seen underneath. I didn’t mind the rough finish but wish that I would have made the sides which is something that I’ve used on every floor piece since then. I set up my lights and used extension cords to run the power.

I was pleased with how it turned out my ability to adapt my piece to the space that it was being exhibited in. I find that it’s important to be able to logically respond to circumstances and conditions that arise when exhibiting in unknown spaces. Usually these circumstances become problematic to the proper viewing of the piece and the key is to find an adequate solution that makes sense for it. I should also say that the photographs for this weren’t very good and the detail is actually a reproduction that I made in my studio at a later date.

In 2003 I made another version of this piece for The Rotunda Gallery in Brooklyn which used a wooded landscape and was only 6’x6′. I’ll write about this one in my next post.

Here is what I wrote about version 1:

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) is a project that was first exhibited in Pittsburgh during the Pittsburgh International Sculpture Conference in the Spring of 2001. It featured a small scale model of the United States Presidential aircraft, Air Force One, burnt and broken in a large desert landscape. It was built using 20 bags of fine grained play sand spread out and smoothed on top of a large wooden platform. Two large work lights were used to beam a nonstop flood of bright desert light.

It was originally conceived as a way of outwardly criticizing the Persian Gulf War and the continuing sanctions against the people of Iraq throughout the 1990’s. The piece was designed to aggressively respond to the US government which foolishly brutalizes innocent civilians through massive military campaigns without the slightest fear of reproach. The UN council and the laws of the Geneva Convention do not warrant a war which has as its aim the blatant pollution and destruction of over 1 million people in the name of protecting oil interests.

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) is a way of conceptually destroying an important symbol of American tyranny, bringing to light a growing dissatisfaction with how we conduct our international affairs. It has become increasingly important for America to recognize itself as a prominent participant in the creation of a broad global community which values the rights of all people and scorns senseless acts of destruction as crimes no matter which side its on or from which side it comes.

The Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1 by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda ResearchThe Black Box (Downing of Air Force One) Version 1 (Detail) by Brian Higbee and Associated Artists for Propaganda Research

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Filed under Associated Artists for Propaganda Research, Sculpture, Small Scale Model

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