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.
For Breathing on Land: Zekreet, Qatar, a series of photographic stills, I undertook a solo meditation, breathing with scuba gear (and waving the Land Dive Flag) in an expansive desert landscape. As disjunctive as the image appears, it contains the ominous implication of a “future ocean” as rising sea levels are clearly a threat in the Arabian Gulf region. From a more personal point of view, the experience of that meditation included a moment of unforgettable (and startling) silence. As the sounds of the SUVs and all of the other people there that day (the attraction, a monolithic series of Richard Serra sculptures) disappeared in the wind, I had the feeling of being left totally alone, drawing breath from a tank on my back, resisting the urge to look up, staying focused on the empty patch of rocky sand two feet in front of me.
With grateful acknowledgment of:
Jim McNeal and The Dive Shop, Richmond, VA
Adele Ball, Monica Escamilla, Dylan Halpern, Jolie Steinert and Brittany Nelson/Flatten Image