I lost my baggage in Sacramento

By | March 7, 2012

Day 3 of our photo blog

Alain de Botton describing the baggage claim in A Week at the Airport:

“. . . in the end, there was something irremediably melancholic about the business of being reunited with one’s luggage. After hours in the air free of encumbrance, spurred to formulate hopeful plans for the future by the views of coasts and forests below, passengers were reminded, on standing at the carousel, of all that was material and burdensome in existence.”

'In the baggage claim area of Terminal A at the Sacramento airport, sparrows flit in and out of the sliding glass doors, pecking crumbs of Cinnabons off the floor and troubling the inside/outside boundary. In between the carousels, two columns of suitcases swell out of baggage carts and reach up to the ceiling, as if precarious piles of long lost luggage.

“Samson” by Brian Goggin at the Sacramento airport (author’s photo)
“Samson” by Brian Goggin at the Sacramento airport (author’s photo)

This is Brian Goggin’s brilliant art installation “Samson.” The sculptures consist of over 700 pieces of donated vintage luggage; these items spill absurdly upward, reaching a ceiling joist and appearing to prop up the space. The artwork is a sort of paean to all the belongings that circulate through the airport. It may provoke a chuckle, or a gasp—passengers have been known to mistake these twin towers for actual heaps of checked luggage that they  then must sort through to find their own bags.

The installation thus serves as another instance of “the ache of stunning ruins,” in which an airport produces a vision of progress at its end. In the case of passengers who mistake “Samson” for actual unclaimed luggage, the baggage claim prompts a sudden feeling that the airport has ceased working—as if all the baggage has been left unsorted in a mass exodus of airport workers. This somber sensibility is also implied in the name of the artwork, with its allusion to the mythical subject who commits an at once liberating and destructive act of suicide, bringing down the very structure that confines him.

In the real time hustle and commotion of the baggage claim area, however, deplaned passengers often seem barely to be aware of the art that both mocks and pays tribute to their travel. These other twin towers are part of the textual life of the airport: they make up an innocuous art piece meant to distract and sooth travelers at the end of their journeys, but they can just as easily slip into the background inventory of terminal affects.

This book ends in the baggage claim. This is the endpoint of air travel, a space rife with emotion, uncertainty, relief, and exhaustion. It marks the threshold where the textual life of airports bleeds out into everyday life: it is where all the stories of flight are told to those whom we meet or with whom we are reunited. It is a place of excitement and anticipation—but it can also be a place of low energy and feelings of impatience. Claiming baggage marks a final interpretive zone (and an act) where the culture of flight both congeals and disperses.'

– The above is an extract from our book, The Textual Life of Airports by Christopher Schaberg – now available to buy. You can exclusively read the introduction and first chapter of the book here.

Jenny Tighe

Marketing Manager

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