Sophia Ioannou Gjerding

Stay Up Here with You Forever

The revolutionary bourgeoisie reflects upon freedom. They have been doing that for a long time. My friends do not feel free. They are yearning. Longing for freedom. None of my friends have the surplus to ponder what freedom they long for.

The oldest flutes were made of bones from animals. The first bone flute, that is, the one that can be dated furthest back in time, was built from the bone of a cave bear. Based on the archaeological find, it was not possible to determine what the bone flute had been used for. Maybe it was used to lure animals during a hunt. An instrument to mimic the sound of the birds.

A lyrebird pigeon was raised in captivity in a household where a young boy played the flute. The pigeon copied the flute player and learned two tunes and an ascending scale. When released back into the wild, the bird's flute-like songs spread throughout the local lyrebird population. In this way, human songs moved into the world of birds.

Back in the year 1972, Singapore Airlines started a new branding strategy where the airline's flight attendants were established as its icons. In a jingle from 1973 played in an airline commercial the same year, the singer sings the following words: “Singapore girl, you look so good I want to stay up here with you forever. You’re a great way to fly.” In the song, a character is established: Singapore Girl. A stewardess you meet in the air on one of the airline's routes. She is wearing a uniform developed by designer Pierre Balmain with inspiration from the traditional costume “Sarong Kebaya”, which is worn in Singapore and Malaysia, among other places.

In 1993, a wax figure of Lim Suet Kwee was made, which was exhibited at the Madame Tussauds Museum in London. In 2015, a wax figure was made of Nur Surya Binte Mohamed Ambiah. This was exhibited in Singapore - again at Madame Tussauds. Lim Suet Kwee and Nur Surya Binte Mohamed Ambiah are both employed as flight attendants by Singapore Airlines. The wax figures, however, primarily portray Singapore Girl, as both women are wearing their uniforms and stand in a “servile” pose, which stewardesses typically stand in when passengers are boarding the plane. 

In one of Singapore's newspapers, The Straits Times, the phenomenon is described as follows: "To remove the Singapore Girl icon from Singapore Airlines is like removing Mickey Mouse from Disneyland.". But Singapore Girl is more than a cartoon character - she is the stewardess who works on the plane. In this way, the character has the function of turning the company's workers into fictional characters in a narrative that is to brand the company.

When the singer in the jingle mentioned above expresses a desire to be up in the sky with the stewardesses forever, he also expresses a desire that the flight attendants should always be at work.

The imaginary workers of the air are freer than those of the earth.


Stay up here with you forever

Video, 1.34 min., loop

Melody: “Singapore Girl”, William Patrick Aulton, Nick Alexander & Bob Barratt

Flute play: Johanne Buus Andersen

CGI: Lars Hemmingsen Nørgaard

Motion-capture acting: Sophia Ioannou Gjerding

Matte painting: Sophia Ioannou Gjerding

Text: Sophia Ioannou Gjerding 

The work has been supported by the Danish Art Council