Respiration Society



Respiration Society

Southern Exposure Gallery, SF February 2012

I was Invited by Southern Exposure Gallery to create a one-day event for an initiative called “Club of the Month Club.”  I proposed a club that would have one meeting only, and for which being a breather would be the only requirement for membership. I invited several collaborators to help me map a poetic, political, and practical terrain of breathership, as it were.

Respiration Society’s talks and activities included:

  • As a group we collectively generated a lexicon for metaphors of breath, atmosphere, and air. We experimented with air-sharing through balloon and other breath-measuring tools.

  • Anthropologist Tim Choy gave a hand-illustrated talk on his idea of Air Politics, or an attempt at a political economy of AIR.*

  • We listened to the sound recordings of people breathing. Anne Walsh gave a lesson in pranayama (yogic breathing) techniques designed for specific psychological and physical conditions.

  • With audience participation, artist and writer Michael Swaine performed a long poem entitled “Eulogy,” written for fellow writer Cooley WIndsor. Swaine’s poem uses a musical pipe, the exhaustion of his own breath during recitation, and the cycling holding of breath by the audience listening, to evoke but also expiate the poem’s subject, which is the memory of a near-drowning. Listeners were asked to time their own breathe to each of ten stanzas, and an assistant holding Swaine’s hand directed them with the musical wind pipe to help them conserve breathe to match the text’s reading.

  • Free-diving instructor Hawkeye Parker gave a brief lesson in long breath-holds.

*Air Politics would roughly including atmospheric and chemical monitoring by individuals, organizations, and government bodies; trans-border pollution and trans-specific contagion; the politicization of asthma; the emergence of carbon economies; and the roles of air and notions of nuisance in environmental law.