New Orleans Airlift is an artist-driven initiative that collaborates and creates alongside other artists and communities. For SB14, the collective consists of Delaney Martin, Alita Edgar and Taylor Shepherd. Born as a response to the unprecedented devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina, Airlift soon began creating increasingly large-scale, people-powered projects in the streets, on the water and in elaborate environments built by many hands. Recent work includes a choreographed vehicle rally, a street procession and a shrimp boat ballet with the Louisiana Philharmonic Orchestra performing from the boats.
For SB14, the artists have conceived of a project around an abandoned airplane in Umm Al Qawain, conjuring up thoughts of travel, immigration, destination, visitation, home, territory and borders. At the site of this derelict airplane, Airlift artists consider embodied states of coming, going and existing in between by posing questions about national and personal identity as well as the meaning of home. Informed by extensive interviews and community workshops with Emiratis and temporary residents living in the UAE, The Trans-National (2019) uses the abandoned airplane as an open and indeterminate space of self-projection, collective gathering and reflection. The installation presents UAE residents’ messages, lullabies and imaginings of home in traversable portals under the wings. In the plane’s cockpit are photos and videos contributed by members of the Emirati community. In some cases, these personal histories date from times before the country’s unification in 1971. An opening ceremony processional for the installation has been conceived in collaboration with a number of UAE-based collaborators, including Freek, a UAE-born Somalian rapper; X, a UAE-born experimental singer and composer of Filipino descent; Monster Crew, a choreographer of South Asian descent; and dozens of other participants from South Asian communities. A programme of workshops, gatherings and talks will continue on-site throughout the Biennial.