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Laurel’s “ode to airplane mode” preempts the exhaustion of screen time by encouraging the underuse or misuse of one’s mobile device. The Flight Simulator application—available where all iOS and Android apps are sold—allows one to travel virtually as long as airplane mode is activated and WiFi is disabled on a user’s phone.12 Upon launch, the minimal interface leads one to choose a nearby or random airport to depart from, and then a destination from a selection of airports. Once “on board” an operable oval window presents an abstracted view of the sky under the diminishing hours, minutes, and seconds of remaining flight time. Clock symbols on the lower left lead to a view of two ticking clock faces showing the times at one’s origin and destination, while a second linear graphic on the bottom right leads to a simplified flight path accompanied by the hushed roar of an airplane cabin. During selected flights, one is free to act without the interruption of cellular activity. The device may be left to advance for miles, or one may contemplate the shifting colors and droplets framed by the airplane window while in use. Shades of purple, orange, green, blue, yellow, and gray blend together in soothing gradients, hinting at time only by their relative brightness. (A sense of place is lost altogether within the confines of perpetual air travel.) Each completed trip is rewarded with a unique, jewel-toned pin, further incentivising analog forms of engagement, or the ever so slight unburdening of cellular towers. For this exhibition, Flight Simulator is installed on mobile phones that are propped up inside of drinking glasses. Each unit is placed on the floor within reach of a power source for continuous charging (Fig. 14).

Flight Simulator is a collaboration between Laurel Schwulst and Soft ( Airport pins were generated by Aarati Akkapeddi (

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12. Qualcomm Incorporated claims to have developed “Airplane Mode” technology in 2000 under their patented “Method and apparatus for conserving power in an integrated electronic device that includes a PDA and a wireless telephone.” (Chhatriwala, Murtuza T., et al., inventors. Method and apparatus for conserving power in an integrated electronic device that includes a PDA and a wireless telephone. 20 Apr. 2004. U.S. Patent 6,725,060. Google Patents, Accessed 31 Mar. 2021.)

13. “IATA Airline and Location Codes.” IATA, Accessed 31 Mar. 2021.

Laurel Schwulst currently lives and works in New York, USA.

Artwork courtesy of the artists.