Resisting Kulon Progo Airport – inspirational artwork

Artwork galvanizes local campaigns, and bridges language barriers, forming a powerful tool for building international communication and solidarity. The resistance campaign against Kulon Progo Airport in Indonesia, also called New Yogyakarta International Airport (NYIA) offers some striking examples. Residents of six coastal villages have resisted eviction from their homes and farmland for the airport since 2011. The text on the poster on the right of the top row translates as ‘We strongly condemn destroyers of the healthy environment. We prosper without an airport and mining’, linking the campaign with the grassroots struggle against iron mining. Watermelons are depicted destroying a plane, because this is one of the key crops grown on the site earmarked for the airport, along with squash, eggplant (aubergine), peppers, rice and maize. The anti-eviction struggle intensified on 28th August. Without warning, construction equipment escorted by hundreds of police entered the site, displacing residents and destroying farmland. Citizens attempted to block the entry of the equipment, but were outnumbered by police.

An ‘airport city’  or ‘aerotropolis’ is planned around Kulon Progo Airport, threatening more evictions and the loss of more farmland. The poster on the bottom right brings together the Kulon Progo airport and aerotropolis resistance with the struggle against a similar megaproject, Kertajati Airport, that is already under construction 300 kilometers away near the northern coast of West Java. Kertajati Airport, also referred to as BIJB (Bandara Intenasional Jawa Barat), is the first phase of a major aerotropolis scheme on a 50 square kilometre site which is predominantly fertile agricultural land. Residents of ten villages have been evicted from their homes and productive farmland for Kertajati Airport and in 2016 residents of an eleventh village, Sukamulya, resisted a series attempts to measure their land for the project. Citizens’ resistance against eviction for Kulon Progo and Kertajati airports is supported by Jogja Darurat Agraria. T-shirts with anti-Kulon Progo Airport / airport city artwork have also been produced

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Alienation in the AEROTROPOLIS – an independent film from Taiwan

Although it is a work of fiction, the Taiwanese film AEROTROPOLIS, about a young man who sinks all his money into a luxury condo on land allocated for an aerotropolis around Taoyuan Airport, is all too feasible. The government driven megaproject stalled and the real estate bubble burst. Unable to flip the property for a quick profit he loses his moorings in life and wanders around the desolate urban landscape. His loneliness and loss of meaning are only superficially eased by fleeting visits from his flight-attendant girlfriend and the films follows his descent into a downward spiral of mental breakdown.

The film was written and directed by Jheng-Neng Li. Interviewed by We Are Moving Stories, which celebrates new voices in the film industry, he explains how the Taoyuan aerotropolis project “fiasco” has disrupted the lives of thousands of ordinary people, with agricultural land destroyed, families displaced and escalating land and property prices. AEROTROPOLIS is Jheng-Neng Li’s debut feature film, a true low-budget venture, shot over just 11 days with a “no-budget” of just $7000. In this evocative teaser clip the protagonist is static in an alienating urban landscape as planes fly overhead.

AEROTROPOLIS was showcased at the 2017 Slamdance Film Festival which focuses on new artists and low-budget, independent films and has garnered some enthusiastic reviews. Writing for ScreenAnarchy Christopher Bourne describes the film as ‘an elegantly made portrait of (sub)urban alienation. In Slug Magazine Kathy Zhou is full of praise for ‘a bleak and powerful meditation on the emptiness of contemporary life’. The film is being screened at various film festivals so hopefully will, over time, reach a substantial audience worldwide. There are some reviews and interesting promotion materials on the AEROTROPOLIS film Facebook page.

Taoyuan campaigners’ ‘Lost Bear’ sculpture on dispay in Miaoli

Plans for an aerotropolis surrounding Taoyuan Airport, in Taiwan, involve forcible land expropriation that threatens to displace 46,000 people. Resistance against the megaproject involves innovative artwork – most notably an Alternative Land Art Festival in December 2014, on part of the farmland that the government wants to acquire for the project. The focal point of the festival was a Lost Bear sculpture standing a full 8 metres high. The Lost Bear is going on display to the south of Taoyuan, in Miaoli County. You can read an article about this, Anti-Aerotropolis ‘Lost Bear’ to go on display in Miaoli, in the Taipei Times.