Photographic stills, event documentation, and ephemera from the project Breathing on Land. Captiva, FL, June, 2014. Produced with the generous support of The Rauschenberg Residency/Robert Rauschenberg Foundation.
I came to the image of a group of people meditating on land with scuba gear while working on a video in May/June 2014 at the Rauschenberg Residency on Captiva, FL. I was using underwater footage (as well as images made on land) to reflect autobiographically on a 2010 car accident. I was interested in thinking through the accident, and the healing that followed, in an environment where all is quiet, calm and neutrally buoyant (but where peril is potentially lurking a split-second away.) One of the images I had hoped to fold into the video was of a group of people meditating with scuba equipment on land.
Working backward from that image, I turned my studio into an ad-hoc dive shop to accommodate the seven fellow resident artists who were willing to participate. What followed found me working once again in the form of an event, or workshop, with collective, experimental learning at its core. In the case of Breathing on Land, I worked backward from an image to discover the seeds of a new project.
Breathing on Land takes group meditation with scuba as a starting point to consider healing, both of the body and its ecology. The image presents the absurdity of hyper-mediation and suggests a sinister, survivalist impulse in the face of environmental catastrophe. However 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 their body. The amplification of each breath becomes a kind of involuntary meditation; it is hard not to “show up” for each exhalation when an entire apparatus is calling attention to it. Further, the experience of a room full of people breathing in an amplified chorus creates a highly unusual and immersive soundscape.
This first Breathing on Land event generated a series of documentation stills. The project has catalyzed a new body of work, which will take the forms of additional live events, video and installation. A "breathing symposium" (title TBD) is slated for this spring at the School of the Arts at VCU and "Weekly Breathing" has commenced at the Sponge HQ in Richmond. In all of this, I am working toward the goal of a “Dive Shop for Breathing on Land” a programmed installation and public space addressing internal and atmospheric healing through the theory and practice of breathing.
June 6, 2014
Video clip. Play from thumbnail in carousel view.