Aeronautics in the Backyard by Xiaoxiao Xu is a mythical, fairytale-like photo series about the dream of flying, freedom and creativity.
All over China, in the most unexpected of places, farmers rise up to build their own aircrafts. They don’t work in fancy hangars with all the equipment one could wish for, they simply play around in their backyards, recycling scrap metal and using household tools. They are self-educated, self-employed and penniless.
Some of these aeronauts have worked for decades but never achieved to get airborne. Although that might sound like a waste of time, they see it differently. For them, the game is not about how far or high they can fly, it’s about pushing their boundaries in order to achieve the impossible. They call it real-life science-fiction.
Xiaoxiao is driven by questions of why, of all people, Chinese farmers have the guts and skills to become aeronauts, even though they lack both education and resources, and how they manage to achieve such dazzling goals while working full-time jobs on the side and taking care of their families on a daily basis.
In 2015 Xiaoxiao drove across China’s extensive land for several months, residing in eight different villages spread out over three major provinces, meeting and interviewing eight different aeronauts. Although coming from similar backgrounds, all eight have completely different ways of building their machines, and all carry countless unique stories with them.
Xiaoxiao recorded their tales, took pictures and simultaneously collected many original aircraft drawings and technical documents. All these little artefacts will be brought together in the book, thereby unveiling the hidden world of Chinese aeronautics in full detail for the first time.
With this project Xiaoxiao shows the creativity of individual farmer, deeply touched by their resourcefulness, flexibility, positivity, playfulness and childishness.