Playing with ‘Variations on Mobility’, the four Creative Commissions teams in 2019-2020 have developed their projects along different trajectories traced by the unfolding movements of People, Objects, Texts and Ideas across times and spaces. As small groups composed of academics who have embraced art in their research practices, or artists working in collaboration with scholars across various disciplinary backgrounds, the Commissions engage different Theories and Methods of mobility, working with ethnographic, archival, historical, anthropological, geographical and creative methodologies. The following text and original images represent a short abstract realised by the team to help us follow the path of their creative work.

Flying Boat

The Empire Flying Boat was a short-lived air service connecting Great Britain with its colonies in operation from 1937 to 1940 and for a short period post war. It offered fast (for the time) passenger travel and mail services following sea routes to Africa, the Far East, and Australia. The “Flying Boat” represented a desired mobility for 48 weekly passengers that was ahead of its time, yet unrecognisable to recent contemporary mobility. And yet the Covid-19 pandemic of 2020 has changed global mobility and aviation in ways yet to unfold.

“Flying Boat” is a GeoHumanities project concerned with the spatial and mobile imaginary enacted by this service projected into this uncertain time for aviation. How did the ‘Flying Boat’ frame its contribution to the mobility of people and goods as a government supported, commercial enterprise? Working with an artist, this framing will be speculatively projected into the future. The material and operational practices of the ” Flying Boat” will be explored in a world of carbon scarcity, climate change, global pandemics and aviation downsizing. This study will be limited to one route; London to Hong Kong, in 2019 the third busiest (seat/km) and still operational despite the 95% reduction in global air traffic by April 2020. Apart from the climate considerations, political and epidemiological rationales may will require a drastic reduction in mobilities; the rationed and slow mobility of the “Empire Flying Boat” is a possible norm in times to come.

Working with an artist will enable the strands of this enterprise – past, present future. Ideas of imaginary projection; speculation; the forging of relationships between spatial practices and their social assumption; this is the territory of the “Flying Boat” project. Projecting the visual representation of this route of spatial dissolution into the future brings a degree of comparative reality to the social consequences of unchecked mobility and climate change.

Steve Connolly, April 2020


Stephen Connolly
Lecturer in Film
University for the Creative Arts

Layla Curtis

Flying Boat over Heathrow 2019