Kite Collective and the Kite Machine (all images courtesy Lee Dares/the Kite Collective)
Inspired by the belief that the simple act of flying a kite can connect people to each other and a place, the New York-based Kite Collective has created a roving Kite Machine to bring miniature aircrafts to the masses.
Last summer, the Kite Machine, a modified vending machine where the snacks are replaced by kite kits, made its first appearance at Rockaway Beach, dispensing about 600 kites to the Queens beach goers. It has since traveled to the Green Oasis Community Garden in the East Village in the fall, and now the collective of artists and kite-makers is planning to bring the machine to Governors Island this summer to distribute its greatest number of kites yet, a plan currently the focus of an Indiegogo campaign in a partnership with Fractured Atlas.
Lee Dares, one of the members of the Kite Collective, said that her love of kite-flying was rekindled while backpacking in Argentina, where kites made of plastic bags were soared by kids off the sides of the mountains. She then started to think of creative ways to handmake kites from reclaimed materials, and after some trial and error found a perfect shape formed from old windbreakers donated by Patagonia.
While the Kite Collective is moving away from the painstaking handmaking of each and every kite this summer to using local suppliers, they’re continuing to focus on kite-making in workshops. They’re also concentrated on tapping into this personal feeling of connection with kites that Dares saw in Argentina, and is present as more kite-centric locales around the world.
“In the East, [kites] have sacred meaning and are used in rituals,” Dares said. “In the West, especially in America, they don’t have the same sort of meaning, they’re more recreational. We’re trying to bring more meaning to them and give them more meaning in today’s society in big cities, where people just don’t have time to stop and fly a kite.”
They hope to distribute 5,000 kites this year, each which may inspire some unexpected interaction between people and place, as they did last summer on the beach.
“People who had never flown kites before, from all different backgrounds, would come and fly the kites and just freak out,” Dares said of the Rockaway installation. “People just got really excited and would just talk to total strangers and share their kite with a total stranger.”
Kite Machine kites soaring in the skies
Dares said she’s planning to travel to places in Southeast Asia with strong kite cultures, to explore traditional methods of kite making, bring back techniques she can share, and work on a documentary film project on sacred kite-making. The Kite Collective hopes to continue to bring their machine to new locations to reach more people and encourage people to take the time for kite-flying.
“I think it can ceate memories, and it can create stories, and most of all it can create a moment,” Dares said. “The stories are great the memories are great the photographs are great, but the most important thing is it brings people into the moment, so they forget about everything that’s going on in their lives and they just are focusing on flying their kite. And they’re looking up as well, and it’s so different to just look up in the sky and be focused on this object that’s moving. It’s very meditative in that way and the potential it has to put people into the moment is very powerful.”