The first deployment of the "Land Dive Team" doing a "Breathing on Land" meditation at the VCU Rice Rivers Center, a biological field station outside of Richmond, VA.
Breathing on Land is a new body of work that takes meditation with scuba gear as a starting point to refocus attention on our bodies, their contexts and implicitly the health of our atmosphere. The practice of breathing on land with scuba makes for a kind of assisted meditation. The mild, if not moderate discomfort of the equipment (its weight, warmth, constraints) keeps the wearer in mind of his or her physical presence. The intensification of each breath becomes a kind of involuntary meditation; one must “show up” for each exhalation when an entire apparatus is calling attention to it. And the experience of a group of people breathing in chorus creates an unusual and amplified soundscape. The images and documents of these “land dives” allude to the absurdity of hyper-mediation and evoke an ominous survivalist impulse in the face of environmental catastrophe.
Land Dive Team: Rice Rivers Center Wetlands presents a small group meditation at the VCU Rice Rivers Center, a biological field station outside of Richmond, VA. This meditation was the pilot “deployment” of a newly imagined “Land Dive Team” which will publicly gather in sites lending themselves to very direct environmental interpretation. The three of us are breathing in the wetlands, the site of a massive initiative to restore a landscape decimated by damming in the nineteen-twenties. Seventy acres of tidal and non-tidal freshwater wetlands were flooded, destroying critical habitats of the lower James River ecosystem including the bald cypress and tupelo gum of the swamp forest. In this remediated terrain, we were acutely aware of the changing light, the slowly rising tide and birds circling overhead. We also learned that the mud caking our wetsuits held within its history traces of a scandal, one of the first of its kind to play out nationally. Hopewell, Virginia, just upriver from the Rice Rivers Center, was the site of Allied Chemical and Life Sciences Products, which for a period in the mid-seventies was producing between three and six thousand pounds of chemical insecticide a day and dumping waste directly into the James. This led not only to a chemical and medical crisis but also to the onset of commercial fishing bans in the area and a decades-long suspicion of local seafood. With bans now lifted, along with the Kimages Creek dam, the site is in recovery, evoking a strong connection with the intent of both the Breathing on Land and Land Dive Team projects to catalyze awareness around breathing and healing and the contexts we inhabit.
With grateful acknowledgment of:
Jim McNeal and The Dive Shop, Richmond, VA
Anne Wright and the VCU Rice Rivers Center
Zach Stahl, Karen Rader
Jessica Carey, Matt Flowers, Tyler Kirby