Flying Time, 1982

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Explore Sydney Contemporary


(Scottish & Dutch, 1945-2004 & b. 1942)

Flying Time, 1982
single-channel audio-video installation and 12 c-prints, mounted on cardboard
video: 8 min 11 sec.
c-prints: 50 by 60 cm.

State University of Limburg, Maastricht, April 1982
Gallery Stampa, Art Basel, June 1982
The Hague, World Video Festival, September 1982
Jan van Eyck Academy, Maastricht, October 1982
Museum Fodor, Amsterdam, Dutch Directions, 1982
Gallery AK, Frankfurt, January 1983
Festival de Nouveau Cinema, Montreal, November 1983
London Video Arts, London, Video and Landscape, 1983

The Stansfield / Hooykaas Foundation

EUR 30,000

Payment over 10 months with Art Money available

Key Points

  • Stansfield/Hooykaas are early European new media pioneers who have been working in film, video, photography and installation art since the early 1970s
  • Their work was first acquired by the Museum of Modern Art in New York in 1984, attesting to their influence in the field early on
  • More recently their work has been acquired by the Tate Modern in London, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and the National Gallery of Scotland in Glasgow
  • Flying Time is the only work they ever made in Australia, and was recorded during their participation in the Biennale of Sydney in 1982

In Context

The date of Elsa Stansfield and Madelon Hooykaas’ earliest video work (1975) positions them amongst the pioneering generation of artists who explored the possibilities of a medium that until then had no place in art history. Both artists were trained in photography and film (mediums that were only reluctantly recognised by the art world) which makes installations such as Flying Time particularly intriguing as it captures two experimental mediums in their early stages. 

Unsurprisingly, they exhibited several times at The Kitchen in New York, the avant-garde space for new media art that also showcased other pioneering artists such as Steve Reich, Philip Glass, Brian Eno, John Cage, Robert Mapplethorpe, Vito Acconci and Nam June Paik. The fact that Flying Time was exhibited there in 1983 emphasises its key place in the history of video and installation art. Crucially, Flying Time was the artists’ first video work in colour, and as such holds a central position in the oeuvre of Stansfield/Hooykaas. This adds further significance to the chromatic richness of the piece, in which the figure’s shadow is full of blue and purple undertone that contrast with the rays of sunlight reflected in the water.

“[Stansfield/Hooykaas] might be called the younger breed of the first generation video artists to start exhibiting their work in the 1970s and whose work has had an influential affect in Britain and in Europe and which in turn has helped to define the expanded area of video installation.”

– Malcolm Dickson

But not only was the nature of video, photography, and installation art radical in its own right, video that referenced itself, rather than presenting an external narrative, was a completely new phenomenon. From that perspective, the subject of time in this work is particularly relevant: video, more than any other medium, is temporal. Stansfield and Hooykaas play with this on several levels in Flying Time. Most obvious, there is the intriguing juxtaposition of the natural time of the tide as it is captured visually against the recorded time of human timekeeping, which is narrated. This duality is mirrored in the sumptuous audio-visual experience of a beach scene, conjuring up memories of exotic holiday destinations, set against the matter-of-fact recital of times and places that are of a more bureacratic nature. 

What becomes particularly evident is the contrast between the experienced time as it passes second-by-second in the video versus the abstracted time that is recounted by the narrator. The latter makes huge jumps between timezones and geographies, whereas the former is rooted in a specific time and place. This also links to the influence of conceptual art in the 1970s, in which artists addressed systems of representation and their relation to lived experience.

The trajectory described in Flying Time is also a fascinating document of time in a broader sense: namely that of increasing air travel in the globalising world of the 1980s (although evidently long-haul flights were not yet a reality, and planes still had to stop five times on the way from Amsterdam to Sydney). In that regard it is also worth noting the route in Europe, with stops in Rome and Athens – clearly reflecting the significant migrant communities of Italian and Greek descent in Australia.

Flying Time, was produced during the artist’s stay in Australia in 1982, when they had been invited to participate in the 4th Biennale of Sydney, Vision in Disbelief. Alongside other pivotal artists including Laurie Anderson, Brian Eno, Joan Jonas, Tony Oursler, Martha Rosler and Bill Viola, they represented the developments in new media at the biennale.,

Comparable works

Journeys, 1976
Tate Collection, London
The Force Behind Its Movement, 1984
Museum of Modern Art, New York
Shadow Pictures… From the Museum of Memory II, 1986
Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam


Elsa Stansfield and Madelon Hooykaas are early European video art pioneers, who collaboratively worked from London and Amsterdam at a time when collaborations, video art and female artists were all underrepresented in the art world. Despite these challenges, their work has been collected by the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Tate Collection, London; and the Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, amongst others. They have participated in countless exhibitions, including the Documenta in Kassel (1987) and the Biennale of Sydney (1982). 

Selected solo exhibitions
2010 Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow
2010 Street Level Photography Gallery, Glasgow
2010 Museum GoudA, Gouda
2010 De KetelFactory , Schiedam
2005 Goethe Institute, Montreal
2000 Hafnarborg Museum, Hafnarfjordur, Iceland
1996 Redpath Museum, Montreal
1994 Gemeentemuseum, Arnhem
1990 Lenbachhaus, Munich
1989 Museum of Modern Art, New York
1986 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1981 Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam
1980 The Kitchen, New York
1977 De Appel, Amsterdam
1976 Whitechapel Gallery, London

Selected collections
Arnolfini Gallery, Bristol
Arts Council of Great Britain, London Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris
Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht
Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow Gemeentemuseum, Arnhem
Kunsthaus, Zurich
Kunsthalle zu Kiel
Museum of Modern Art, New York
National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa

ILEANA at Explore Sydney Contemporary

Walead Beshty, Louise Bourgeois, Dorian Büchi, Michael Craig-Martin, Melissa Gordon, Richard Hamilton, Rachel Howard, Louise Lawler, Tony Lewis, Sol LeWitt, Tim Maguire, Takesada Matsutani, Edda Renouf, Bridget Riley, Peter Schuyff, Stansfield/Hooykaas, Wang Guangyi, Christopher Wool

Presented at Explore Sydney Contemporary (11-21 November 2021)

All artworks © the artist.