A pair of grade-I listed wind tunnels, once threatened with demolition, have opened to the public as a new art venue
The wind tunnels at Farnborough Airport were once used by the RAF to test fighter planes and are housed in two buildings known as R52 – built in 1917 and listed in 2003 – and Q121 – built in 1935 and listed in 1996.
The site has lain dormant for more than 50 years, and before gaining listed status, was threatened with demolition, but both buildings are now open to the public for the next six weeks for an art installation to coincide with Farnborough International Airshow.
A sound installation at Q121 by sound artist Thor McIntyre-Burnie plays the BBC’s last live nightingale broadcast, an annual broadcast that began in 1924, and took place every year until 1942, when the broadcast was deemed a security risk as it accidently recorded the sound of fighter bombers on their way to Germany. Live recordings of the Rushmore Male Voice Choir will also be integrated into this sound installation.
At R52, a sound installation includes an interpretation of drone bombers - the modern day’s equivalent of Lancaster Bombers, according to McIntyre-Burnie - played on a double bass.
McIntyre-Burnie also collaborated with food artist Caroline Hobkinson who chose snacks to provide to visitors in an attempt to focus attention on how eating affects the way people interact with their environments.
At the nearby airship hangar, artist James Bridle has created Rainbow Plane, a ground installation which comprises coloured outlines of the Miles M52, a British plane which was developed at Farnborough and which would have been the first to reach supersonic speeds had the project not been scrapped before completion.
The 1:1 outlines, in red, green, blue, yellow, black and white, reference satellite imaging, which records colours individually before creating a composite image, leading fast-moving objects such as planes to appear multiple times in different colours on programmes such as Google Earth.
The installations at Farnborough Airport were curated by Salma Tuqan, contemporary Middle East curator at the Victoria and Albert Museum, who said: ‘Farnborough played such a huge role in Britain’s aviation history. There are members of the local community who have never been privy to these spaces, so it was good to be able to open up these buildings to visitors for the first time.’
Tuqun added: ‘I was totally awestruck by the spaces when I first saw them. The buildings have such presence, and we wanted to highlight the sensory experience of the space in as subtle a way as possible.’
The Wind Tunnel Project will be open until 20 July, with plans for the site to host biennial arts events.
The Wind Tunnel Project, organised by Artliner
Until 20 July 2014
Farnborough Airport, Farnborough