Airtime (2016) is a dropping floor, which fuses elements of a participatory kinetic sculpture with elements of performative architecture, an anti-gravity machine and a thrill ride. Special equipment under the floor raises and drops those walking on it, occasionally causing a state of weightlessness. ‘Airtime’ is an expression that amusement ride designers use to describe the freefall sensation that passengers feel when they come out of their seats during a ride.

 

Although it is just a plain plane, its vertical trajectory of movement forms a unique choreographic and psychosocial space. Those standing on it start to behave and move abnormally, unsure of what to do or how to react, and aware of the inevitable fall. Some look at each other and stiffen. Others crouch down, sit or lie, trying to find the right body position. Some hold hands, to relieve the tension of waiting. The fall lasts less than half a second, but at that very moment the most unique dance occurs. It is difficult, if not impossible, to come up with an example of when a group of open-mouthed people perform a primal dance, balancing in the air and expressing ambivalent sensations of pain, ecstasy and fear. After the fall, they scream and laugh, and sometimes run away.

 

Falling between an aircraft accident, a vomit comet, and a drop tower, this collective drop machine is nothing but a vertigo, both physical and conceptual. What is actually happening when a group of people all of the sudden turn their attention to their guts suspended in midair? What happens to the feeling once it is relocated from its originary locus such as amusement park to open-for-interpretation space such as an art gallery? Who are we when the earth suddenly falls away from under our feet, when one of the most fundamental forces, forming us since the beginning of time, disappears?

Airtime in Lithuanian pavilion at Milano Triennale 2016
Airtime at the National Art Gallery, Vilnius
A detail of Airtime at the National Art Gallery, Vilnius
A prototype of Airtime

Idea, design: Julijonas Urbonas
Mechanical engineering: Marius Pališaitis, Julijonas Urbonas, Aurimas Česnulevičius, Dainius Vaičiulis
Hydraulics engineering: Julijonas Urbonas
Electronics: Dmitrij Snegin
Photography: Aistė Valiūtė and Daumantas Plechavičius
Video: Aistė Valiūtė and Daumantas Plechavičius
Team: Ignas Pavliukevičius, Paulius Vitkauskas