Cornford and Cross
Childhood’s End 2000

Anarchy symbol drawn by fighter jet in the sky
shown as two-screen video installation
Co-commissioned by Film and Video Umbrella, Norwich Gallery and Mead Gallery


We commissioned a pilot and chartered a privately owned jet aircraft to draw the Anarchy symbol with smoke in the sky. This was filmed from a cine camera mounted on the weapon platform under the left wing, and from a miniature video camera inside the cockpit. The duration of the piece is about six minutes, being both the length of time taken to complete the manoeuvre and the length of one uncut roll of film. The film and video material from this performance was transferred to DVD for exhibition as a spatial installation within the gallery.

Aerobatic displays apply the skills and manoeuvres developed for aerial combat to create public spectacles; the demonstration of technological power and technical prowess serves to pre-empt critical thinking and popularise militarism.

Cinema has rich associations with conceptions of utopia: the medium depends on and fuels people’s desire to be mentally ‘transported’; it offers dramatic possibilities to explore utopian and dystopian alternatives to existing social conditions, and it plays on the tensions between individual and collective fantasy. Flying and filming have been historically bound up with militarism on many levels, from the development of related gun and camera technologies to the strategic and cultural implications of new of seeing space and movement.

Childhood’s End is the title of a novel by Arthur C Clarke, which envisions a future where humanity undergoes the loss of innocence or the attainment of maturity, and becomes subject to forces that acknowledge no distinction between ‘good’ and ‘evil’.

Inscribed by a fighter jet on the optimistic space of blue sky, the ambiguity of the Anarchy symbol is opted into displaying the transgressive impulse that lies beneath its urge to destroy.

The gallery installation consists of two screens facing each other so they cannot be held in the same field of vision they offer images of confinement and exposure, which though joined are never reconciled.

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Film technician meeting flight engineer
Cranfield air base, Bedfordshire, England

Anarchy graffiti, London

a red arrows gnat model kit

Model Kit

Flight Engineer checking aircraft before take-off
Cranfield air base, Bedfordshire, England

Mike Jones of Film and Video Umbrella
Cranfield air base, Bedfordshire, England

'Childhood's End' 2000
Production still

'Childhood's End' 2000
Digital video still

'Childhood's End' 2000
16mm film still

Air Vice Marshall (ret.) Boz Robinson, pilot