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. The quarantine affected both relationships: we could not meet and walk the streets of the Lower East Side together. Some of us described feeing part of something bigger as we listened in the early months of the pandemic to the hollering and banging of pots and pans at 7pm every night to thank our family members and neighbors who were keeping the city going.
We realized that while we might not be able to move freely, sounds can and do move freely.
– Robert Semper, Teaching Artist
P.S. 140 students participating in Listening to the LES, discussing the COVID pandemic in 2020.