Unknown Unknowns: An Inquiry into Wonder, the Rainbow, and the Aesthetics of Every Day Experiences​ (excerpt)

Hope Ginsburg’s work has always been relational and collaborative. Her Sponge HQ (2010–2015) was an interdisciplinary lab, workshop, classroom, and project space at Virginia Commonwealth University. At the Sponge, artists, beekeepers, felt makers, musicians, marine biologists, and students came together and practices models of collectivity.[58] In 2013, while in Guanica, Puerto Rico, Ginsburg was scuba diving [59] and had a moment of feeling in sync with the seascape around her, which reminded her of a similar state achieved through meditation; she also realized that the respirator made her feel more aware of and connected to her own breathing. Then, in 2014, when Ginsburg was at the Robert Rauschenberg Residency in Captiva, Florida, she realized she wanted to bring together these notions of healing, diving, breathing, and meditation, but this time on land. Ginsburg assembled a “Land Dive” team of fellow residents, all in full scuba gear, meditating on dry land, concentrating on every breath. Ginsburg describes this collective action as follows: “The mild, if not moderate discomfort of the equipment (its weight, warmth, constraints) keep the wearer in mind of his or her physical presence, and the experience of a group of people breathing in chorus is an unusual and amplified soundscape.” [60] Conscious of choosing sites where water is or may be an issue, Ginsburg assembled a dive team at the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, Canada, a 170-mile Atlantic coastal bay and home to the highest vertical tidal range in the world, ranging from 47.5 to 53.5 feet, or approximately 160 billion tons of water a day. There is a sublime majesty to the force, amount, and speed of the water in this region. For Ginsburg, the challenge was not just breathing on land, but breathing and meditating as the water came in and took over the team. The resulting video features four divers sitting in the lotus position on the rocky shore; their rhythmic breathing lulls us as it is modulated through their respirators, making the sound more akin to hearing our own breathing echoing in our heads. The water starts to come in and, before we know it, the dive team is being submerged, and the breathing becomes the gurgling sound of water. There is a fierce determination–or is it a radical calm and oneness with the body?–evident in each diver’s eyes. Finally, they disappear under the water. But we still see the bubbles of their breath rising to the surface, reminding us to breathe along with them and to be mindful of the wonders of nature that our bodies, minds, and eyes breathe in.

[58] Ginsburg’s project is based on the idea that the sea sponge is generative. If you place a sea sponge in a blender, all the pieces would form into new sponges. With this analogy, all collaborators are equal yet interconnected.

[59] It is important to note that scuba diving was the first real physical activity Ginsburg engaged in after a car accident, so for her the link between scuba and healing is very holistic.

[60] connexionarc.org/2015/10/23/breathing-on-land-a-conversation-with-hope-ginsburg