Luca Buvoli: Flying – Practical Training for Beginners

Large banners in red and white that appear to form the shape of a flying machine.

Installation view, Luca Buvoli, Flying – Practical Training for Beginners, MIT List Visual Art Center, 2000. Archival slide image.

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Luca Buvoli
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Flying – Practical Training for Beginners is the premiere presentation of the film, Flying – Practical Training for Beginners, which has taken the artist over two years to produce.

As visitors enter the gallery, they will encounter a darkened classroom-like setting with chairs arrayed in rows in which they may be seated to watch the projected film. For this 18 minute, 16mm film (transferred to DVD for gallery presentation), Buvoli has produced thousands of individually hand-drawn cels to form a rudimentary style of animation. These animated segments — demonstrating techniques for flying — are incorporated into the structural conceit of the film which consists of live-action, black-and-white footage featuring a fictional professor figure. In the film, the Professor employs the animated segments as visual aids, along with diagrams and scientific commentary, in his lecture on the “33-Step Method” he developed to satisfy one of humankind’s most ancient desires, the ability to fly. The Professor demonstrates a series of movements which, when performed correctly, allow one to fly without the aid of any mechanical devices. The earnestness and seriousness of the professor’s presentation allows the viewer to momentarily defer judgements about the absurdity of the enterprise and become caught up in the hopes and aspirations represented by the Professor’s quest. Buvoli’s sources for Flying – Practical Training for Beginners are varied, including his training as a competitive swimmer; the study of religion, meditation, and aerodynamics; and his father’s experiences in the air force.

In addition to the film, the installation includes Flight Simulators — sculptures and three-dimensional drawings inspired by some of the animation scenes in the film and artist’s book, and Diagrams (“charts” and “gliders” which are large drawings based on the sequences of movement utilized for the animation cels).

About the Artist

Raised in Vicenza, Italy and living in New York, Luca Buvoli has gained recognition in New York and abroad, receiving critical acclaim for his series Not-a-Superhero (1992-99), which incorporates animated films, sculptures, installations, and artist-made “comic books.” At present, a trailer version of Flying – Practical Training for Beginners may be seen in the exhibition Greater New York on view at P.S. 1 in Long Island City, New York.


Film made possible in part with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, and a grant from the Jerome Foundation; Media Arts Program. Exhibition assistance from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and the MIT Council for the Arts.