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Artist: Nina KatchadourianClick on image to view project

Nina Katchadourian — Seat Assignment (SFO->JFK)

Introduction by Neha Choksi

Nina Katchadourian has been inside a lot of planes, on her way to give artist talks, to teach, and, of course, for her art projects. Last fall, she found herself on a flight performing a peculiar, personal ritual. For about ten years, she has been obsessed with SkyMall catalogs. She thumbs through a copy, filches it, and revisits the pictures over the years. Boarding a flight this past October, she contemplated the five hours in front of her, stuck in the plane. As she puts it, one normally wants to “make the time go away, to pretend you are not alive between Point A and Point B.”1 But Katchadourian set to work instead, looking at catalogs as departure points to project oneself out of the plane and into an elsewhere. She made a music video titled Sky Mall Kitties (2010) that gives voice to the peevish, superior cats stuck in a catalog and includes their opinions on the pet products and ephemera surrounding them in the adjoining pages.2 That experience gave way to a realization about time for Katchadourian. As she put it in an interview with Gadling travel blog after Sky Mall Kitties went viral: “I’d like people to realize that even when you are incredibly bored on an airplane, you can put that time into making something that can make a lot of people happy for just a few moments. Lots of ‘wasted time’ can be an opportunity to pull from the mundane world around you and extract something of interest or value.”3 Since that insight, on every flight she has realized value from opportunity. Actively. In the moment. By improvising with anything within her scope. And that includes her camera-phone, her own hands, the in-flight magazine, the play of light, and the passengers seated near her. What follows in the pages of X-TRA is the output from a leg of one flight. It is an early installment of an ongoing project.

Neha Choksi is an artist serving on the X-TRA editorial board.

Nina Katchadourian was born in Stanford, California, and grew up spending every summer on a small island in the Finnish archipelago, where she still spends part of each year. She works in a wide variety of media including photography, sculpture, video, and sound. She has exhibited in the United States and internationally at places such as PS1/MoMA, the Serpentine Gallery, New Langton Arts, Artists Space, SculptureCenter, and the Palais de Tokyo. In January 2006, the Turku Art Museum in Finland featured a solo show of her works made in Finland; and in June 2006, the Tang Museum in Saratoga Springs exhibited a ten-year survey of her work and published an accompanying monograph entitled All Forms of Attraction. The Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego presented a solo show of recent video installations in July 2008. Katchadourian is represented by Catharine Clark gallery in San Francisco.


  1. As described by the artist in a telephone conversation with the author on May 14, 2010.
  2. To see the music video, go to com/watch?v=bpfbbolyOKY, or to buy the song, go to http://ninakatchadourian.
  3. Interview with Nina Katchadourian posted online by Mika Barish on February 22, 2010, at http://www.gadling. com/2010/02/22/skymallmonday- skymall-kitties/.