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Screenshot 2020-11-15 at 12.46.16

Aeronautica, Henrietta Williams and Merijn Royaards

Taking its name from a book documenting a famous early balloon journey from London to Weilburg in Germany, 'Aeronautica' tracks the shift in the aerial viewpoint from one of sublime spectacle to military dominance and destruction in World War II. Through this collaboration between Williams and Royaards, a careful sonic-visual interplay emerges to create a sensory essay-film.


The film charts 3 seminal aeronautical journeys begininng with a seminal hot air balloon journey which departed from Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens in 1836 and charted a random path towards Germany. Carried by the wind, the landscape is one of awe and wonder, this is set against Luftwaffe surveillance over London in the run up to World War II when the city was carefully mapped and modelled as a way to plan its destruction through the Blitz. The final journey returns to Germany and the devastation of area bombing as a policy that set out to entirely obliterate cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, and Cologne.


'Aeronautica' activates archive materials from the Imperial War Museum and the RAF Musuem and sets these against contemporary footage filmed by Williams from hot air balloon rides and World War II plane journeys over London. By gathering footage in different modes, at different aerial heights, and at different angles, a careful assessment of the power and complexity of the aerial viewpoint is presented. This is an aesthetic exploration of the emotional force of the distant ‘God’s eye view’, the viewer becomes complicit in the beauty and horror of destruction.

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