Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?

Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly? was an International Collaboration Art Project that started in 2005 and was exhibited in New York at ABC NO RIO in 2008, as part of The Triangle Project Part 3. The initial plan was also to produce a book, but this is still to come.


The concept of the project “Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?” was in the beginning essentially a reaction to the Fear tactics of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

The TSA is a U.S. government agency that was created as part of the Aviation and Transportation Security Act passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush on November 19, 2001. The TSA was originally organized in the U.S. Department of Transportation but was moved to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security on March 01, 2003.

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The agency has been the subject of numerous controversies and heavy criticism and their “No Fly List” has become a farce.

The No Fly List, sometimes called a watch list, is a secret list created and maintained by the United States government of people who are not permitted to board a commercial aircraft to Fly in the United States.
The list, which includes at least tens of thousands of names, was created after September 11th, 2001 attacks, along with the Secondary Security Screening Selection tagging would-be passengers for extra inspection.
The list has raised civil liberties and due process concerns, due in part to the potential for ethnic, religious, economic, political or racial profiling and discrimination. It has also raised concerns about privacy and government secrecy.


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Taking inspiration in the infamous art exhibition “Entarte Kunst” (1937), where artists work was involuntarily used to show the German people what was examples of Entarte (Degenerate) Art. Included were controversial contemporary artists; Jewish, homosexual, communist or artists of a wrong ethnicity, that did not produce “good” art according to the government and its leader.

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The idea of creating art, is believing that it is possible to fly. If you as an artist do not think you can fly, or work under fear and intimidation, the work will suffer.

We live in a 3.0 version of the world, where international interaction between artists, art and brainstorming is done via the web–and not face to face–leaving many aspects of interaction untold. The project “Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?” has been filled with twists and turns bringing forward both many strong individual art projects within the group of artists included in the project, along with extensive interaction between many individual and cultural differences.

Since the development from when the project started in 2002 and until 2008, many things changed in the world. Issues became more or less relevant in the light of how we constantly develop and gain new insights, but also as other issues overshadow a concept that was urgent to be expressed in 2002.
The project naturally progressed, moving into a format that was open for all aspects of interaction, without the restrictions of any rules or controlled situations but instead with one shared goal of producing international collaboration a book and strong exhibition.

Since most of the artists that are part of the project rarely have personally interacted with each other, they have come to know each other through each others myspace’s, Facebook’s, youtube films, googlegroup’s, Flikr accounts or blogs. The internet has become the most relevant medium to exhibit and spread a message inspiring to new thoughts.

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However; is the internet part of Grounding the world by its instant information flow and access to a variety of answers, giving us the comfort of knowing, keeping us away from fear of ignorance? But the question is; are we beeing fed the truth? There are not many signs that tell us that we can trust the mainstream media. The net is giving us too much disinformation where we have not yet learned to filter out the truth from the information that so easily can be changed and manipulated. The fact that the most used source of information to the web using masses is a dictionary that is user generated, with links to myspace, youtube, blogs, websites, etc makes information relative. The reality is what we make it, choosing to register what we feel being the truth.

These thoughts has been keeping the project under constant expansion and focus, updating new ideas and concepts online by the member of the project.


After  “Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?” developed and mutated into “The Triangle Project” it developed wings. However, also keeping Icarus in mind.

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By using the formula of “Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?” and applying it to The Triangle Project, in the late summer of 2007 over 40 Danish artists flew to Istanbul with Pegasus Airlines, interacting with the Istanbul and international art scene during the 10th Istanbul Art Biennial.  Since then The Triangle Project has been produced 10 times in Copenhagen, New York and Istanbul.





Go to The Triangle Project page for more information of the Triangle Evolution of  “Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?” HERE



Curatorial Statement for “Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?” (2005)

The act of flight might just be the ultimate feeling of freedom. The smooth function and dysfunction of this concept is influenced by local and global markets, politics, economics, globalization and personal state of mind.
The “Grounded” project will explore the concept of flight, both as a metaphor for human psychology as well as the external and internal factors that determine
the act of flying.

Flying dreams fall under a category of dreams where you become aware that you are dreaming, known as lucid dreaming. If you are flying with ease and enjoying the scene and landscape below, then it suggests that you are on top of a situation. You have risen above something. It may also mean that you have gained a different perspective on things.
Flying dreams and the ability to control your flight is representative of your own personal sense of power.
Having difficulties staying in flight indicates a lack of power in controlling your own circumstances.
Since we as humans do not actually have the ability to fly, such dreams may represent that which is beyond our physical limitations. In our mind, we can be anybody and do anything. Another way of interpreting flying dreams is that these dreams symbolize your strong mind and will. You feel undefeatable and nobody can tell you what you cannot do and accomplish.

Commercial flying only became possible in the 1930’s, but was long restricted and promoted as a luxury experience only a privileged few could afford. Today however, air travel has become more ubiquitous and a key aspect of globalization. Frequent flyers travel the world as if it is their playground: Business, entertainment, politics, and even the art scene with endless biennials, require full freedom to travel.

Security paranoia has changed flying into a frustrating experience with its “No Fly Lists,” on-board and armed Air Marshals, “dangerous” name taxonomy, racial profiling, minimum-paid security staff, systems of determining “unstable” behavior, water and fluid restrictions along with time consuming security controls.

Once onboard an airplane, we go to great lengths to wrap ourselves in a cocoon of comfort and amnesia. Elaborate “sedative” distraction systems such as eye masks, ear plugs, headphones, cabin socks, warm face towels, in-flight movies, gourmet meals, alcohol, prescribed drugs and duty free shopping help us stay somewhat unconscious. These services give the passenger a smooth flight time distracting from the possibilities of disaster and the need to be in control of life in such a vulnerable environment. If something goes wrong, the life vest under your seat will not save your life.


OBJECTIVES of the project:

This project has so far created many new situations, conversations, visibility and opportunities for artists:

1) Opportunities for artists: This project will create opportunities for Scandinavian, Turkish and American artists working outside or in parallel with the commercial
art market. The project will be a global collaborative project, in collaboration with artists from various countries (including dual nationality), tackling philosophical and artistic questions.

2) Establishing connections: The groups included in this project include New York’s visible arts practitioners with a long history of collaboration with international artists and politically engaged artists in USA. In addition, we will also work with art magazines, academic institutions, arts organizations, teaching seminars, and internet-based collaboration networks. These networks and resources will set the groundwork for future collaborations between international artists. We believe in “open source” practice and we will let our archives and network be available to other artists in the future.

3) Artistic collaboration: The process of group collaboration is something we have all been exploring in our personal artistic and curatorial practices. We have structured the project as a group project, which culminates in discussions, performances, installations and an accompanying book. Each of the projects that will be in the book will come from the artists responding to the curatorial
statement and the ongoing interaction within the group. The virtual think-tank has become central to the project, as its discussions over the last two years have fed directly into the project. Members of the think-tank have been artists, activists, academics, and writers, spanning all disciplines.

4) New artistic forms: The projects that will come out of this collaboration – including airport base photo montage, interviews, films transcripts and stills, emails, photography, drawings, paintings, poetry, CO2 calculations, personal stories, hijack transcript recreations, music, sound, video along with the latest in internet interaction and cutting edge graphic design will test and expand the boundaries of the book format. (Still to be produced)

5) Visibility: Because of the theme of this concept, we are confident that this book and its content will be featured both in the art press as well as the mainstream press, including news, science, travel, blogs, myspace and youtube. The street poster and street art campaigns (as seen in Istanbul) will bring the project into the wider public eye, creating another art project within the project that will draw new audiences other than from the art world.


The “Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?” project was a collaboration between a group of International artists. The exhibition proposal that was presented to DaNY with Whitebox as the New York partner in 2006, was initiated and produced by Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen and Naeem Mohaiemen.

Artists, writers and curators contributing to the “Grounded – Was Man Meant to Fly?” Project were:

>Naeem Mohaiemen (artist and writer based in Dhaka and New York, created Visible Collective, whose members are artists, activists, and lawyers)

>Eva Merz (Danish artist based in Aberdeen, creator of New Social Art School)

>Yusef Merhi (Venezuelan artist based in New York, working on
duet-language technology)

>Levent Engin (Danish-Turkish artist based in Copenhagen, working on
issues of nationality and social belonging)

>Ada Søby (Danish filmmaker based in New York and Copenhagen)

>Trevor Paglen (New York based experimental geographer, studies air force bases)

>Lilibeth Cuenca Rasmussen (Danish performance artists working with issues of cultural identity and personal destiny)

>Forrest Myers (Sculptor based in New York, minimal master of sculpture
and expression)

>Anton Perich (Croatian artist, key underground figure in the New York scene)

>Sona Ertiken (Writer and radio producer from Istanbul, presented her masters thesis titled “Through the Liquid Glass: A Comparative Approach to The Matrix and eXistenZ”)

>Rahul Saggar (New York based sculptor, filmmaker and structural engineer)

>Martin Stigsgaard (Danish New York based architect, sculptor and filmmaker)

>Ali M Demiral (Turkish Berlin based video and visual artist)

>Christopher Nelson (Swedish American filmmaker and writer based in Sweden)

>Jasper Sebastian Sturup (Danish artist with his own publishing company)

>Matthew Kohn (filmmaker based in New York, work looks at the various dysfunctions of American democracy)

>Doug Ashford (American artist and professor based in New York, founder
of influential 1990s collective Group Material, most recently worked on New York’s leading public art institution Creative Time’s collaborative book project Who Cares)

>Paletti (Danish Berlin based performance art duo)

>Daniel Pinchbeck (New York writer, journalist and Shaman)

>Finishing School (American Artist group based in California, use collective
identity for series of experimental projects – above video from 2008 installation & performance)

>Emre Nur (Turkish lawyer based in Istanbul, Turkish representative of
Creative Commons)

>Ibrahim Sargin (Danish/Turkish writer based in London)

>Leeza Ahmady (Afghani New York based curator)

>Milena Hoegsberg (Danish New York based curator and writer)

>Gordon Sanders (American journalist and writer, nominated for the Pulitzer prize)

>Neke Carson (American conceptual artist and writer based in New York)

>Romeo Vidner (Swedish Graphic Designer, based in Copenhagen as in-house designer for Re-public)

>Thomas Andersen (Copenhagen based artists and curator)

>Jacob Fuglsang Mikkelsen (Danish artist who works between Denmark, Sweden, Turkey and the United States facilitating cultural exchanges and Intentional Art projects)


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