Ground Effect

Nadav Assor

2016 | 00:13:45 | Israel / United States | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video

Collection: Single Titles

Tags: Landscape, Memory, Surveillance

Ground Effect is an investigation of the constantly shifting, 80km long line in Israel, where rainfall amounts to less than 200mm a year on average. This line, which aligns with the global desert belt, cuts from the east, near the West Bank, to the west, near the Gaza strip. It is where I grew up, an area divided between industrial scale agriculture, nature preserves, ancient and recent ruins, Bedouin towns, encampments and olive groves, artificial pine forests planted on contested lands, rural Jewish communities, and military practice zones. This area has been fittingly called “The Conflict Shoreline” by architect Eyal Weizman in his recent book of the same name.

As Weizman points out, aerial surveillance, mapping, and control is incredibly important in the power struggle for this land, and has even come to define and shape it. The piece is called Ground Effect in reference to the aerodynamic phenomenon in which a rotor aircraft, whether helicopter or drone, hovers close to the ground, displacing the surface through the force it exerts, and thus changing it. This is the act I set out to perform in making this piece, walking a continuous line through the zones and landscapes defining this area. The process involves scanning and compressing the ground surface (from wild and cultured plants, to dust, to Jewish and Bedouin graves, to walled-off water reservoirs, military monuments and border fences) via waist-high aerial video, while being surveilled in turn by an unmanned drone running algorithms similar to what a military drone would use to isolate motion from a noisy background.

The multi-layered images seen at key points in the piece draw on a core component in aerial mapping, called “strips”, created by an airplane or drone flying over a landscape, scanning it over time in a straight line. My own version of the strip, used in several previous projects in my Strip series, is disjointed and highly subjective, as it converts a single camera shot (worn on my body) to a continuously rippling panoramic “trail”, providing a landscape that contracts and expands with the speed and direction of my motions. The geological-like, “core sample” moments in Ground Effect take this a step further and stack such multiple moving pieces of landscape on top of each other, providing a highly compressed “archive” of the subjective experience of moving through it – potentially the opposite point of view to that provided by an error-free, all-seeing aerial eye such as is often used to command, control and divide the land.

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ACRE Projects
Chicago, IL

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