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11.00  Aero-mobility and Cultural Heritage: Place-Based Artworks in the International Air Terminal’s Border Zone

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11:00, Saturday 4 Jun 2016 (30 minutes)

This paper will consider border zones within international air terminals and why airports such as Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and Amsterdam’s Schiphol have installed visual imagery that points to their region’s cultural heritage in these spaces. At YVR, for instance, airport planners have installed a number of Northwest Coast First Nations artworks throughout the international terminal. I will focus on a series of artworks by Musqueam artists that arriving passengers encounter moments before entering the Canada Border Services Agency’s passport control. The location of these artworks in the quasi-stateless space prior to the border zone is remarkable considering that YVR is situated on unceded Musqueam territory. This paper discusses how the appropriation of the Musqueam’s cultural heritage relates to the political aspects of the international air terminal’s border zone. In addition, it examines how this series of artworks contrasts with other Northwest Coast First Nations artworks at YVR. My analysis of this type of visual imagery also considers the Holland Boulevard at Schiphol. This Dutch-themed passageway in the post-security airside of the terminal includes a satellite gallery of Amsterdam’s Rijksmuseum. This museum showcases seventeenth-century paintings by Dutch masters such as Rembrandt van Rijn and Jan Steen. I will discuss how air terminal planners deliberately use these signifiers pointing to the region’s cultural heritage for commercial gain. For instance, these artworks at YVR and Schiphol are believed to entice passenger spending. These installations may also encourage transit passengers to choose these airports as transit points. My analysis of these artworks and their location in the airside of the terminal also considers how they are perceived by international air passengers, particularly in the context of their experience in the airport and their journey aboard an aircraft from one country to another. Drawing upon theories of affect and materiality, I examine how these types of artworks have the capacity to elicit sensations of movement that contrast with the relatively restricted movements that passengers experience while flying commercially. This regulated form of mobility is especially apparent while passengers are being filtered through terminal’s border security zones. 

This analysis relates to one of the Association of Critical Heritage Studies 2016 Conference’s themes—heritage and mobility. It draws upon recent writing on the mobilities paradigm to consider how representations of cultural heritage play a role in a mobility-system that facilitates and orders the global flows of people, things, and capital. In addition, this paper addresses the “borders of heritage,” concentrating on a type of border zone in a specific contemporary context, how it is used to filter people’s movements between nation-states, and how heritage relates to these processes. It examines how, in some cases, such as YVR, the airport and its border zone are contested spaces in terms of heritage. Finally, this analysis of how representations of cultural heritage affect air passengers’ experience of moving through border zones offers a nuanced understanding of heritage in terms of a transnational process.

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