Flight Lines by Ellie Irons + Dan Phiffer

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About Flight Lines

Flight Lines is an ongoing computer vision project that monitors our skies as they become home not just to birds and planes but to drones and extreme weather events. Growing out of our interest in the ecology of the Anthropocene, the project is an effort to document the skies as they are today, with the knowledge that they are rapidly evolving and have different characteristics in disparate locations.

For our Turbulence Commission we have created a growing network of cameras that watch the sky across New York City. We’re enlisting the help of our viewers’ browsers to process the archive of videos our cameras capture. Each viewer becomes a participant in the project, rendering our sky videos into a series of silhouetted frames that trace the arc of any object that moves through the frame, be it a pigeon, a plastic bag, or flying machine. We call the paths generated by this process flight lines. Each camera location has its own particular sky signature that is revealed through algorithmic processing, one which would otherwise remain invisible.

We encourage you to watch the skies with us, to take notice of objects, life forms, and temporalities that normally fall outside of our day to day awareness as contemporary humans. By loading Flight Lines into your browser, you echo the act of pausing to watch the sky. Leave it running, and you can accumulate hours of processed footage that tracks and reveals the otherwise invisible lines that are constantly being drawn above us while we attend to our daily tasks.

This accumulated footage will form the basis for a visual archive of the activities taking place in the sky above New York City, and will provide material for a series of paintings and videos that respond to this aerial ecology. Over the course of its existence, the project will capture the ebb and flow of seasonal bird migrations, interwoven with the trajectories of increasingly normalized drone traffic and volatile weather conditions.

Raspberry Pi Prepping the camera housing Installing at JCAL