⟨ Book ⟩

Paper Airplanes

The Collections of Harry Smith

Words and Photography / Ron Lam
Translation / Iris Heung

「你平常是怎樣摺紙飛機的呢?」每當有人問Harry Smith何以會收集紙飛機時,他總是以這問題來取代答案。沒有人知道這位視覺藝術家、實驗電影導演何以對紙飛機生起熱情來,教他在人生的20年時間裡,走在大街小巷時,總費盡精力注意躺在腳下、掠過頭上的紙片。


在《Paper Airplanes》一書中,共紀錄了Harry Smith在1961年至1983年間,於紐約覓得的251隻紙飛機。這些紙飛機的折法大異奇趣,用的紙張都不一,有的是學生的工作紙、筆記本撕下來的白紙、酒店的便條紙等。Harry Smith處理藏品時有自己的系統,每件飛機之上,他都會用鉛筆記下拾到的日期及地點,有時還會寫下簡單的筆記,寫出地點的特徵,例如拾得紙飛機的酒店大堂裡,掛著怎樣的一副畫等等。

《Paper Airplanes》是2015年才出版的,出版時Harry Smith已過世24年。究竟Harry Smith當初有否自這些藏品之中,看來到社會風貌的轉變,或是有其他的體會呢?我們無法從Harry Smith得到任何答案,然而翻著《Paper Airplanes》的時候,卻深深的感受到,再微不足道的事物,仔細探究後,都會發現奇異獨特的風景。

“How do you usually fold a paper airplane?” When people wonder about why Harry Smith collects paper airplanes, he would always come back with this question. For over 20 years, his eyes were always busy looking for paper airplanes that landed on the street or were flying above his head, but it is still a mystery why did this visual artist/experimental film director get so obsessed with paper airplanes.

Paper Airplanes features a documentation of the 251 paper airplanes gathered by Harry Smith from the streets of New York City between the year 1961 to 1983. The airplanes were all folded in all sorts of comical ways using different types of paper, for instance, worksheets from school, blank paper torn from a notebook, or paper from hotel memo pads. Smith has his own system of putting his collection to archive. He jotted with pencil on the paper airplanes the dates and the places of where he collected them, sometimes even with a short note to describe the place, like the outlook of the painting hanging on the wall of the hotel lobby where he picked up the paper airplane.

Paper Airplanes was published in 2015, 24 years after Smith has passed away. Did Smith see any social change from his collection, or did he gather other impressions from them? Although it is impossible to hear an answer from Smith, reading Paper Airplanes reminds the readers every insignificant object can be of unique and impressive significance when you spend enough time to dig deeper.