Conspiracy, biosocial soundscape, Modern Art Oxford 2020-21.
The verb ‘to conspire’ literally means ‘to breathe together with’. This minimalist sound intervention enjoins the gallery visitor in an act of conspiracy: their own breath intermingles with a multi-layered composition of respiratory refrains performed by the artist. Visitors encounter the uncanny soundscape in a semi-outdoor tunnel as they enter and leave the gallery.
Breath is usually under 10 decibels so its rhythm and aural qualities are often forgotten. A condenser microphone at maximum gain was deployed to record breathing sounds in a home-built studio. Audio recognition software was then used to extract remaining background noise to achieve an abstract yet richly textured quality to each track.
How do you feel while listening to Conspiracy? Is it familiar or alien? Comforting or disturbing?
Inspiration for Conspiracy
“Distribution is a trigger word for an atmospheric conspiracy, a commitment to breathing together from and in an unequally shared milieu, an unevenly constituted planetary medium for respiration.” – Timothy Choy in Distribution (2016, my italics).
“To come through this constriction would mean that we conceive of breathing beyond its purely biological aspect, and instead as that which we hold in-common, that which, by definition, eludes all calculation. By which I mean, the universal right to breath.” – Achille Mbembe in The universal right to breathe (2020).
“Respiration is a choral practice; the interplay between oxygen, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide complexly threads the reproductive fates of oceans, trees, flesh, and cells together.” – Sarah Jane Cervenak in ‘Black night is falling’: The ‘airy poetics’ of some performance (2018).