Impossible Islands

A4, digital, 2010

The flying island of Laputa in Jonathan Swift’s classic Gulliver’s Travels was envisaged as moving by magnetic elevation, and as home to people whose devotion to blind science was of little practical value.  It was a depiction of futility set against a background of the impossible.  And yet the concept of an island in the sky would have been seen by our ancestors as an expression of what would always remain inaccessible, but still tempting – so near, and yet so far.

The island in the foreground disgorges a quantity of water which is clearly impossible from such a small landmass, and which adds to our feeling of its implausibility.  But, even so, we see what might be a ruined building on its surface, and there appear to be figures, or possibly another structure, on one of the islands in the distance. We cannot help but wonder whether someone has lived in these aerial environments – or perhaps still does.  And, if so, what might their existence be like so high above, and detached from, the everyday lives of those of us chained to the Earth below?

Text: Richard Hayes