Writing in the Expanded Field
ACCA & non/fictionLab RMIT
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Breath as...

A dimensional essay spoken at Writing in the Expanded Field: A Public Forum.


Breath as announcing presence in a gallery. As a political act, of breathing in the work/ breathing out the work/ touch upon the work [think of the puffs of air that move a suspended structure]. As a social act of tuning into the psychoacoustic response of another.

Breath to absorb oxygen, expel carbon dioxide, a chemical reaction, and action. Breath is transgressive, against the gallery, against space.

Place… existing as a tomb, your breath traces the body.
The gallery sacrilege, curator as handler of the objects. Artist as creator.
Visitor as an empty vessel to view only via an ocular experience.

Breath oscillates.
It touches.
You breath on, or through, or with the art.
It moves and feels your presence.
Deeply the energy of the colour traces its way, sliding down your oesophagus and into your lung cavity, floating around, the lung increases in intensity.
In breath.
Out of breath.
Cloudy, smoky breath fogs up what was there, obscuring reality for a moment.

Becoming what the artwork is, or can be.

Coping with criticism is about taking a deep breath.

Breath as diseased.
A carrier of germs and remnants of food held in your mouth, a trace.
Biological function.
Its sticky sweetness and languid, rotten fumes.
A stain or smear.
The last to go.

A mind cannot linger, a heart slows down, all that’s left is the breath, faltering but still there.

We can be brain-dead, but breath dead is just dead. The power of breath as vital force.

An intake, or sharp outtake, a shot of breath, or fresh air. The insistent pace or slowing down of it, the breath of confusion or admiration.

You take my breath away.

Collective breath, we are propelled by breath as a force within us and around us and collective breath in a space tells a story, weaves a narrative.
All the breaths puffed, all the air sucked, all the wind exhaled collectively comes together in a space and surrounds the works, cradles them, supports them.

It’s a mass of experiences, a mass of interactions, a mass of relationships.

Wasted, suspended in the space.

Physicality, interaction and movement are restricted and governed by the language within the room, by the relationship that is possible with the artwork.
Breath, as an extension of the physical exists in a realm of the in-between.
It comes from within but is invisible.

It can touch.
It can mark.
It can move the work.
It can connect.
Wear a mask.

Your breath is restricted.
It is only yours.
It stays with you, on you.
It is diffused.
It is non-threatening.
It has been neutralised.

As I lie down next to you, knowing I can’t touch, I get as close as I can and breathe.
I breathe you in, I breathe onto you.
I breathe softly, quickly, shortly.
I breathe brightly.
My breath spreads over you and rolls along until momentum is lost.
Until breath is out.
I caress you with my breath, and I move my hand above my breath.
A shadow is cast over your surface.

Shadow breath.
Just as breath fills a space, so does shadow.
My shadow is cast upon the surface of an artwork and all at once I am in conversation with the work.
I am on the work.
I am in the work without disappearing.
The shadow of my hand glides across the surface of the work and touches it intimately, in the same way as my breath plays with its texture, its shape, its length, its width.
A breath, a shadow is a numb limb.
Closer, you lean towards the mouth, intimate, energy, the breath your lover exhales in the early dawn as they stir.
The breath you lose after a run.
Where does it go?

And the line comes (I swear it) from the breath, from the breathing of the person who writes, at the moment that they write, and thus is, it is here that, the daily work, the work, gets in, for only they, the person who writes, can declare, at every moment, the line, its metric and its ending—where its breathing, shall come to, termination.


Let me put it baldly. The two halves are:

The head, by way of the ear, to the syllable
The heart, by way of the breath, to the line

(American poet-scholar Charles Olson makes much of the connection between breath and poetry in his 1950 manifesto ‘Projective Verse’)

Pauses breath, holding the breath for as long or longer
Your body aching for you to breath.
The gallery aching,
the art aching,
the inanimate animated by breath.
Slow it down,
focus on your breath.

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