3rd feb 2022 - 3rd mar 2022
SOPHIA IOANNOU GJERDING
HOMAGE TO AIRWAY
HD video 12:25 min, 2019
While airway can be a reference to air travel and human respiration alike, in this context Airway is the name of a dog. Homage to Airway takes its starting point in a 1920s photograph depicting the dog Airway, who was part pet, part lab animal to two anaesthesiologists. Their tests on Airway led to the development of a device which serves to open the patient’s airways. The invention became known as Guedel’s Airway, named after both the doctor and dog involved.
The work also takes its point of departure in a sculpture created by Friedrich Wilhelm Wolff in 1847: a satirical bronze sculpture depicting Germany’s first experiment with anaesthesia, conducted on an old, blind bear in the Berlin zoo. In the centre of the sculpture, we see the bear surrounded by various animals. Clad in human clothes, the animals have features pointing to the various doctors involved in the experiment.
These characters are posited within a tale that takes place in two worlds simultaneously: The Garden and The Plot. We witness two virtual scenarios with a tangled relationship to reality – and to each other. The unifying figure of the work is Broken Face, a hybrid between a sculpture and a petrified console game character: a so-called ‘non-playable character’.
Animals rarely carry world history on their shoulders, but this work brings some of the overlooked stories to the fore and posits historical material within a contemporary setting. Similarly, these stories have been turned into images that take on a distinctive autonomy. Two important aspects of the film concern the set-piece quality of its imagery and the focus on respiration and breathing evident in its soundtrack. Based on this starting point, Gjerding questions how we perceive the world through the images we produce and surround ourselves with. Homage to Airway is about the status of images and how we live with, and re-code, existing images.