Breathworks, my latest commission from Modern Art Oxford, is a participatory arts project with a strong focus on digital community growth. In August, we will invite a diverse audience to creatively engage with their breath by conveying one of their experiences of breathing through an image and sound recording. This audience-generated content will be hosted on Modern Art Oxford’s website and shared on social media channels, available to view and interact with across multiple devices. Some of the ‘breathworks’ will also be selected for exhibition in the gallery as part of the Autumn programme. Over 200,000 people are expected to engage with the project, 30% of these being newcomers to the gallery and its work.
Breath is the point of departure for the project that touches on a range of important contemporary issues, including the environment, mental health and wellbeing, online collective responsibility and individual creativity. More recently, breath has come to be associated with the COVID-19 pandemic and Black Lives Matter activists who echo George Floyd and other victims of police violence by chanting the powerful slogan, “I can’t breathe”. In this way, it will connect with new audiences, not usually engaged with the arts and reach a dynamic, online community that is drawn to the innovative use of technology, the platform for voicing contemporary concerns in a unifying way and the project’s rich content.
Breathworks will be implemented in two stages, working initially with researchers, arts practitioners and interest groups to produce a body of interdisciplinary responses for distribution amongst specialist networks. We are iteratively testing our online media (interfaces for engagement) via user testing sessions and focus groups. This community-led approach will amplify the reach of the project and build awareness ahead of a second stage: a general public launch. The launch will take the form of an ‘Instagram takeover’ in August 2020, an open weekend in mid-September, a panel discussion in late September and an ongoing display throughout the autumn programme.
Some text is adapted from a Lay Summary by Maria Moorwood, Head of Development at Modern Art Oxford.