Wade Matthews - No Bags on the Belt

from Angry Mountain by Various Artists



By Wade Matthews

Airports are the quintessential “non-places,” physical surroundings too impersonal to qualify as actual “places.” And the huge halls filled with revolving luggage carrousels seem the least human of all to me. There is something achingly forlorn about travel-weary humans separated from their personal belongings who cluster around a gigantic revolving machine in hopes that, like a dog who has gnawed something before discovering he doesn’t like its taste, it will eventually spit out their luggage.

Equally evocative is the spectacle of a slowly revolving carrousel with only one or two bags on it and not a single passenger in sight. Somehow, we can believe that passengers without their bags will get by. But those abandoned bags, bereft of the person who packed them but somehow never arrived to pick them up, turn and turn under glaring florescent lights that offer no sense of day or night, circling in a mechanical rhythm totally divorced from our own circadian ones.

When Eyjafjallajokull erupted, the media offered striking views of the volcano, and other far-more-familiar ones of frustrated and exhausted passengers jamming airport departure lounges and check-in counters. There were very few images, however, of the empty arrival areas. No planes were taking off, but none were landing, either, so while half the airport was jammed, the other half was almost completely empty. No Bags on the Belt is a brief portrait of those empty arrival lounges, a carrousel slowly turning with no bags and no passengers, just the squeaks and rumbles of the machinery and the endless light of the fluorescents. The opening sound, which reappears throughout the piece, is of such a carrousel, recorded at the airport in Madrid on the way back from the I & E Festival in Dublin. All of the others are manipulations of the Eyjafjallajokull sound file generously provided by Leif E. Boman. My personal thanks to Kim Cascone and Alex Gamez for their initiative.

Wade Matthews
Madrid, June 7, 2010


from Angry Mountain, released November 5, 2021


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