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An Archaeology of Aviation Superpowers: The Mojave Boneyard


WHAT: A shop-window installation investigation into the aircraft boneyards through satellite imagery and planespotting


WHEN: Dutch Design Week, 2019

FOR: GEO-DESIGN - JUNK: All that is solid melts into trash by the VanAbbe Museum, Design Academy Eindhoven & Biz Eindhoven 


Aviation is a complex multi-billion-dollar business entangled with national politics, manufacturing duopolies and oligopolies, cloaked negotiations, international trade and treaties, military operations and anti-trust immunity. The opacity and scale of this industry makes it difficult to comprehend for the average traveller.

Dominated by a few big players, over the past twenty years, the aviation industry has become narrower and narrower, with manufacturers and airlines acquiring or merging with smaller companies to increase their market share. Today, a few very powerful entities rule the air. Boeing (USA) and Airbus (EU) are among the more familiar examples, together holding 99% of the market share of commercial jet manufacturing making them one of the most successful duopolies in manufacturing history.

As a result, commercial exchanges become political exchanges behind closed doors, with nations pitting companies against each other in an anti-competitive environment to secure good deals, manufacturing rights, jobs, exports/import agreements and, of course, huge profit margins.

In contrast, planes themselves have a strong, physical presence. At the end of their lives, these massive technological objects often end up in the industry’s unique dumping grounds – known as aircraft boneyards – where they are stored, resold, dismantled for parts or scrapped.

Combining satellite imagery and working with plane spotters to identify models, manufacturers and owners of the carcasses in the graveyard, Lara Chapman approaches the eerie site of the Mojave Aircraft Boneyard like an archaeologist. Each piece of junk becomes an entry point into the complex economic and political history and future of the aviation industry.


This project offers a new understanding of planes as powerful tools – even at the end of their lifecycle. Junk becomes an apparatus for investigation and illumination, highlighting the need to question the systems that facilitate and encourage the dominance of a powerful few.

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