Asif Farooq’s Paper Plane

Artist Asif Farooq is making a paper airplane. It is not the sort you’d expect to find gliding through a classroom, but a 102 percent-to-scale model of a Soviet-era supersonic jet fighter engineered entirely from paper and glue. The project is scaled at 102 percent simply because Farooq is quite a bit taller than the average Russian pilot.

When Farooq finishes construction, the plane will be a 4,000-pound paper sculpture, fully representational of a MiG-21 inside and out. First unveiled in 1956 in the Soviet Union, the MiG-21 became the preferred fighter of the Eastern Bloc throughout and beyond the Cold War. One might say it’s akin to the AK-47 of warplanes.

Farooq’s MiG-21, which will be unveiled during Art Basel Miami Beach next week, is a series of both engineering and fine art marvels: how does construct a two-ton paper sculpture that remains standing on paper landing gear? How does one force strips of paper to stay at the 45-degree angle necessary for paper turbine blades? How does one deftly chisel paper to form control panels teeming with dials and gauges, as well as thousands of hardware connectors, including rivets, dowels, bolts, and screws? In a charming, yet mischievous way, the 36-year-old artist likes to say the plane is a work of forgery, a parlor trick or sleight of hand. But while it seems unbelievable—perhaps even magical—it’s certainly no deception.

[Published in Interview on November 23, 2015. Read the rest here.]

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