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The Column icon The Column: Issue 39

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The Column is a monthly feature that explores the world of creativity and aesthetics.

Kite Flying
Mike de Sousa, Director, AbleStable

A kite festival takes place every summer in my home town. The air is free as is the opportunity to make your own kite, fly it, and see others do the same. Most years a high wind sees the sky full with every shape and speed of kite. This year with the slightest of breezes, only the lightest and most exquisite kites took flight. I ponder on why kites hold a special fascination to so many.

Box Kite I have enjoyed flying kites since I was a child. When I was seven I use to take my box kite to the town park. I had a special fondness for this kite as it was such an unlikely candidate to fly. It seemed far too big and bulky to escape the ground, but soon there it was, high up, pulling and jerking hard at its leash. Unlike the kites I was later to fly that danced to my tune, my box kite seemed to have a will all of its own. With a single line, the box kite could not be tamed, only tethered.

Movement Machines

Perhaps flying a kite is the easiest path to feeling that in some way we are connecting with a world not so bound by our leaden experience.

Many years ago my father told me of his childhood days in Northern India when he and his friends would use "razor cord" that would drop immediately from their kites for the first fifty feet that would cut the lines of their opponent's kite when in close combat. The kites would almost disappear from view as they fought to be the last one flying high under the hot sun. What meant more to my father than the battle however was the pleasure of movement and control he had of such a far off object. The kite affirmed his distant presence.

The same instinctive pleasure that connects humans with dance encourages their enjoyment of the choreography of kites. The form and structure of an arc or sudden fall as the kite weaves its path against the sky appeals to us in much the same way as watching sport. Objects in time moving in space, like music, is core to our experience.

The Heavy Boots of Gravity

The single physical ability I would like above all others is to fly, but alas, as my body is unlikely to develop wings in my waking state, I am limited to experiencing the faintest likeness of flight within a man-made contraption of some kind.

Being able to fly would bring great advantages. Apart from getting to a place via the most direct route, flying provides a freedom that our gravity-bound species rarely experiences. I'd love it. A broad fast flowing river would be easily crossed, even continents and seas could be traversed. Would you sacrifice your hands for the soft down of feathers for such an opportunity as flight? I for one believe I may, despite the potential loss of the tactile tingling pleasures of touch that my hands receive and convey. On balance the sacrifice may be worth it.

Imagine for a moment if humans could fly. Self powered flight would have encouraged a wholly different view of the world. The experience and understanding of our environment and relationships may well have been more holistic. The borders of separation between nation states would likely not have developed. Our politics, religion, and cultures would be less constrained by the heavy boots of gravity.

On The Edge

When we fly a kite we generally sail safely, our feet firmly on the ground although at times the kite can pull hard and lift us for a moment. The more adventurous buy a larger sail and ride the waves of faster moving air. I have seen a harnessed man pulled house high and 200 yards by kite and still land without injury as he uses the sail to parachute himself to safety.

The Art of Kites

Kite flying is not only satisfying physically, but also appeals to our feelings and sensibilities. Kites are not associated with a creative label which maintains its non-elitist reputation. Kite design however, both physical and graphical, requires creativity, as does the choreographed flights that define much of competitive flying. Kite dances are judged for the accuracy of line, compositional structure, and interpretation of the accompanying music. Like the body in motion, kite flying can be a richly aesthetic experience. This may sound ridiculous I know, but think for a moment and it is not difficult to extrapolate that there could be a composition for kites (both music and dance). An abstract kite dance - I use the word "abstract" to mean a dance that does not attempt to convey meaning, but rather, revels in the physical manifestations of a moving body in time which bring us pleasure.

I'll finish this column with a poem I wrote many years ago while staying at Sir Ian Easton's home on the Isle of Wight. Ian was an Admiral of the British Fleet and I had the greatest pleasure sailing with him in a small two manned sail boat - these outings on Freshwater Bay remain my only sailing experiences. Ian was one of a handful of people whose presence continues to mould me long after his parting:


By causeway ruffed with reeds
Below stone circle windowed space,
Sifting sights in syllables of touch you taste.
Your one hand to the other grasp
The weathered chair with wondered soul
In sight of sail
Across the inlet water fresh
In take of air
As red against the blue below
Shifts as one with swaying corn
On land that rises to the east,
That swells as to a single figure small
As speck upon a sea of ice,
As mizzenmast in ocean squall I stand,
Fists tight around the hilt,
Listing back against the wrench of wind,
Taut the tendril slices clean the air
As paper cuts the softened skin within
Sun strikes the canvas high
Whilst shadow on the earth dilates,
A pool of weighted soil dark,
The strand of fluid mooring brakes
Crisp upon the ears.

Fly a Virtual Kite in AbleStable's play area but be warned, it's no easy task...


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Authors background
Mike de Sousa is the Director of AbleStable®. Mike has been commissioned as an artist, music composer, photographer, print and web site designer, and author. Mike is also the Creative Director of 2BrightSparks, a software company.

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