A day in the field with Higher E.D.

May 27th, 2012
Yesterday I had my first experience out in the field with Higher E.D. We spent most of our time in the Department of Sanitation’s Salt lot on the Gowanus Canal and 2nd Ave and 5th street. NYCDS is letting the Gowanus Canal Conservancy use the site for composting. The site itself is full of dynamic, seasonal transition. It is located at a bend in the Gowanus Canal. There is a lovely berm of greenery, the leached salt soil full of rain puddles from this week’s rain and dark, loamy piles of compost with a few random plants and lots of intent, energetic human activity.

We started with introductions to Eyman and Gena, two Public Laboratory for Open Technology and Science (PLOTS) researchers. Eymand explained how they are using some of the DIY photo mapping technologies to locate old ravines and creek beds to identify battle and grave mound sites from the Revolutionary War with a historical society. By flying kites or balloons with small camera’s attached to them they are able to get high quality and detailed photos of the ground. They are able to identify water flow patterns and that helps to determine where low and high points are in the landscape. This could indicate earlier creek beds, ravines and mounds. Higher E.D. was there to fly kites with a different purpose – an embodied mapping of the experience of kite flying – the connection between body and wind. It is fascinating to watch people get kites in the air. Liz has a strategy of “wind stepping.” She pulls her arm back in a huge sweep. I saw the continuity of the movement through the kite string, her arm, lungs and heart. The gaze towards sky reorients the body in way that invites the heart to spread towards the sky. The kite has similarities to the “lifting body” referring to balloons and blimps. Watching the steady rhythmic pull of “wind stepping “made me think of the human diaphragm as a lifting body as well and the obvious connection between breath and wind, lungs and suspension, aerodynamics and hydrodynamics and our evolution from the sea to land.

Flying a kite extends your kinesphere to the edge of the kite, and seeing the photos taken from the kite confirms the visual information perceived through the embodied orientation.

Lifting bodies refer primarily to balloons and blimps, but in this context it seems relevant to bring them in relationship to the human organs. Higher E.D. also worked with one of Matt Lippencott’s balloons made with thin painters’ plastic lined with a layer of charcoal dust so as the sun warmed the surface the balloon would expand and lift. Lailye is dancing with some of the plastic here and it references the line drawing of the human diaphragm.

 

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