May 9, 2004

Plane To See


The headline of Frank Rich’s NYT article last week about the new Broadway play, Assassins, was titled: “At Last, 9/11 Has It’s Own Musical.” Apparently, the “war” on terrorism has given the play an intensity and tension that it never had before. If you’re not familiar with it, the play is about nine different actual or would-be Presidential assassins in U.S. history. Although the article covers a lot of territory, the point I found most interesting was how art tends to presage actual events.

One of the lesser known figures in the play is Samuel Byck, who attempted to hijack an airliner in 1974. Although the assassination attempt was put down after he had killed two people and then turned his gun on himself, Byck’s motive was to “drop a 747 on the White House and incinerate Dick Nixon.”

“At the very least,” Rich comments, “Byck makes you wonder yet again how the current national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, could claim until recently that the very idea of anyone hijacking a commercial plane to use it as a weapon was unthinkable before al Qaeda made a go of it.”

In considering the commercial airplane as a terror instrument, and Frank Rich’s concluding comment that ” artists often possess the prescience that the rest of us do not,” I came across a notice about the latest show at NYU’s Grey Gallery, featuring the Icelandic artist, Erro.   Because his work is so political in nature, I started to search for his older work. That’s when I came across this image. It was made in 1974, and seemed to perfectly fit Rich’s thesis. It’s title is: Heathrow.

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Michael Shaw
See other posts by Michael here.

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