The idea that launched 10,000 planes


One day, back in the late 90s, artist Ross Coulter was working in the photocopy room at the State Library of Victoria when he had an idea. He folded a piece of discarded photocopy paper into a paper plane, took it to the domed Reading Room and released it into the air currents of magnificent space.

As he watched it float and swirl to the ground, he had no idea that he would one day be coordinating the choreographed release of 10,000 paper planes in the same room, an extraordinary feat of imagination and dedication made possible by the Georges Mora Foundation, Arts Victoria and the State Library of Victoria. But on that day the seed of a great artwork was planted.

Now Ross as the 2010 Georges Mora Foundation Fellow thinks of the Reading Room as a “big cranium full of information, ideas and thinking all flying around in the space”.  That single paper plane all those years ago was an early attempt to represent the concept in physical form.  A development in 2004 while Ross was at art school was the forerunner of the current project. “I had this idea to release 1000 paper planes”. So why 10,000 now?  “I used 2000 planes in another project and realised that it wasn’t enough.”

The final artwork is in two parts: the performance of the plane release on March 14th 2011, and a video taken on the day using 9 cameras, resulting in a multi-screen, unedited view of the planes as they spiral their way through the space.

Asked where the current work fits into his artistic practice, Ross talks about watching two elderly Greek women sitting in a tram, swinging their feet off the ground like children as they watched younger women in their 30s climb on board. And of watching a man on a bridge run backwards while looking forwards, his comb-over standing up in the breeze. This latter image became a video work where the man was sometimes near the back of the frame, or near the front, or occupying the middle ground. 

These ideas arriving from the simultaneous surprise and timelessness of the incidental are recurring themes in Ross’ art: No wonder then that the Reading Room, itself a splendid architectural and social representation of Empire providing scholarly civic space for the people of Melbourne has inspired this delightful happening.

Text by- Robyn Winslow 2011