the paper airplane project

September 20th, 2008 by Rebekka in Uncategorized

As those who follow my flickr page regularly have probably noticed, i recently did a school project involving a large number of paper airplanes.  Months ago the idea of an empty trashcan surrounded by a mountain of paper planes popped into my head, and kept resurfacing until i just decided to use the idea for a “finished work” i had to turn in at the end of a 4-week course at school (im on my final year studing visual arts at Icelands Academy of the Arts)

Before thinking much about how i’d shoot the final outcome, i set about creating the planes, which turned out to be far more time consuming and boring than i somehow imagined it would be.  After a week or so of spending an hour here and an hour there folding paper, i started feeling the whole thing was rather pointless if not downright silly.   I decided to photograph the work process, and got a surprisingly good image from that, which at least made the trouble seem a little bit more worthwhile.

With a little more than a week to go before turning in, i still didn’t really know where or how i was going to photograph all these planes, and began losing interest in the project. I got a vague idea that it might be cool to get a real office to use as a “set” , but had no idea where i’d find an office.
At the dinner table one evening, i asked my parents if they had any bright ideas, and my dad suggests “why not borrow the office of the Minister of Education . It’s a school project and all.. ” My mom agrees that this is a neat idea, and i look at both of them like they’ve lost their minds, and say “right.. like she’s gonna just loan me her office to fill up with paper planes” and then my older son says “i dare you mom.. you’re not chicken are you?” and that did it.

I sent a letter describing the project to the Ministry of Education, and then patiently waited to get a “no, that’s not possible” response in return. After more than a day with no reply i started feeling like a downright fool, but then i actually got a call , from the minsters secretary, wanting more details about the project, and she says they’re considering my request. That was on a thursday. On monday morning, (4 days before i had to turn in the finished project), I still hadn’t gotten any response so i called just to make sure i’d have to figure out a plan B, but instead i was told that i was welcome to use the office that day.

My friend Sara came along to help, and we got these really weird looks from the lady working in the reception, had to assure her that we did indeed have permission to be there ( i don’t blame her really , we had 3 large bags, one of them an ugly black trashbag, filled with paper airplanes, two camera bags and a tripod, and i was dressed like a really fake looking “businesswoman” )

Anyway, i shot both film (slides film which i cross-processed) and digital, the digital version somehow came out better for computer screen viewing, but what i turned in was a print from one of the negatives, which im going to post here for comparison.

As you can see, this is not just a simple scan of the negative, however, i’m not going to disclose, for now , how i got that weird look to it. Feel free to guess, and i might explain it in a comment below.  (It looks a lot better printed large and framed, you’ll just have to take my word for it)

Why there’s a disembodied head perching on the corner of the desk is a whole other story, which i’ll explain in a later post, a week or so from now.

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21 comments for this post

“mom.. you’re not chicken are you?”
Awesome. This whole scenario/story was great Rebekka. Thanks for sharing! :D
Film version is definitely cool. Aren’t you glad you asked your parents? I never would’ve thought to do what he suggested (if was in your situation).

Maybe I don’t understand this work but… what does the fake head perform there?

hi rebecca,

nice idea as usual. anyhow i wonder what idea you come up with, when you use all those paper-doves in another project.

btw, how long did it last to fold all that stuff?


This is a great and troubling image. Of course, as previously noted, I wonder what the head does on the office. Secund, another disturbing detail is that the lower part of the table looks fake, and actually isn’t if I read correctly the digital version. Finally, what’s this square hanging on the wall?
Great work. Great, daring work! Looking forward for the details.

Both images are great. Can’t wait to hear the story behind that head. :)

@Jean: regarding your comment “the lower half of the table looks fake”

the image itself hasn’t been tampered with (on the digital version on flickr, i removed the “square on the wall” , which is in fact a large red sculpture by an icelandic woman who’s name i can’t recall at the moment, that i found far too intrusive on the photograph, but I didn’t dare tamper with the interior decor while photographing, understandably, this being a Government office and all) .

The desk looking fake must have something to do with the texture of the picture, because that’s what the negative showed.

And i might as well mention how the texture was achieved..
What i did was photograph the negative against a window, with a sheet of paper behind it, and then inverted that in PS. This resulted in the very coarse texture that would not have been achieved by simply scanning the neg. It’s a matter of taste of course, i personally am rather fond of this sortof experimentation and less-than-obvious methods of going about things.


Awesome idea! A really different way then just scanning in the negative. I like your experimentation.

I really like the digital photo actually, I really like the title and the idea of making out your so busy on the phone and just throwing paper planes to kill the time, very familiar ;-)

I commend you on your ability to fold so many paper planes. I once had an idea to make a mobile out of hundreds of paper cranes but I think I had only 15 in the final product, because I just found all the folding to be too tedious.

Now I know that the sculpture was removed digitally from the wall, it seems to be a major distraction in the film version. I’m not personally keen on the texture, although I support your desire to experiment, especially regarding college work that will be graded.
I’m looking forward to seeing what you do with the head project. It’s a bit too domineering in the film slide for my liking, as the paper planes theme is quite strong enough, but I trust you to come up with a great image at the last minute of the two weeks elapses. Fascinating work and thanks for telling us the story.

Wow, great project and very funny story!
Did the know at the office, that you are a well known internet artist, or did they just allow it because it was a school project?

SophieMuc wrote on September 21st, 2008

good question @ Joachim, I’d like to know that as well :-)
otherwise, glad to see you back bekka, I was curious how the final result would turn out! :)

I’ve seen your album on Flickr and read all your blog posts and I finally thought I’d write a comment.
I really love your photography, it’s really beautiful and your posts are very interesting and entertaining to read. :)

“mom.. you’re not chicken are you?”
Hehe, your kids are great.

hi rebecca
i’m glad that i found your flirck page, and then your blog!!
it’s really incredible the way you can make a story, an excellent story from a school project. here in argentina, believe it’s almost imposible, so i’m proud of you, and all you do, you are a great, great artist, and have something speciall in your soul.
i want to see the project finished!
see you soon

I really love your photos. You now got a new fan in Sweden :D

Hi Rebecca
I like very much your style and your jumper too.
ciao ciao

Well the two weeks must be over by now. I’ve been anxiously awaiting the head project results!

I love your style, specifically the post work you do–the tonality is lovely. You have some fantastic self-portraits. I’m curious, how do you shoot them? Timer? Remote?

Both. I use a remote most of the time now, but for over 3 years I only used the timer..

After I initially commented I appear to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are
added- checkbox and now every time a comment is added I get
4 emails with the same comment. Is there an easy method you are able to remove
me from that service? Kudos!

All relevant points. Will bookmark you site for further tips and tricks!

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