Listening to the LES is a new media art project at P.S. 140 with special education students in Grades 5 and 6. It is lead by Robert Sember, member of sound art collective Ultra-Red. The project introduces students to inquiry-based art practices, and builds a shared historical awareness of the fabric of the city and the lives of those who live here. Students use oral history, site recording, and archival materials to explore their Lower East Side neighborhood. Students conduct interviews, make and edit audio recordings, and plan and facilitate listening sessions and contribute their compositions to the annual Young Artists Perform (YAP) presentation.
At the heart of the Listening to the LES project are our shared connections to place and community. In the spring of 2022 we stepped out of our screens back into the classroom. Being in person was a good time to start something new. “Let’s learn about SpongeBob” was the response to my question, “What shall we do now?” We learned about the real creatures that inspired the SpongeBob characters:crabs, squid, starfish and plankton. We studied sponges, coral reefs, and we watched My Octopus Teacher for deeper inspiration.
We recorded the sound of life under the water in the East River using microphones attached to fishing rods. We collected materials on land and thought about their shapes and the shapes of objects in the water. We created a listening room called What is the Sound of Water? and created a place where students can go to listen to life underwater and feel as if they might be tiny animals living there.
– Robert Semper, Teaching Artist