Breathing Room


Preliminary sketch for Ars Electronica, 2012


In a quiet niche (a corner cave) waits a breathing room – a room in which to sit and breathe. A soft chair holds a solitary guest. Wrapped in white silk and gauze the space seems to inhale and exhale like a lung around the listener, who themselves become a quiet performer responding with their own breathing to the respiratory rhythm of the room.


Ears allow eyes to play tricks (perhaps the cloth is moving with the respiration? Or is there someone there behind the curtain?) while the intimate space fosters self observation. As the breathing changes in tempo and quality, the listener may be sensitized to their own physiological responses as well as reminded of a fundamental behavior of life.

The piece is an offer to take pause. Outside sounds are dampened and in the insulated cocoon a visitor has the chance to adjust their audition. In content, the piece points to a sound that is always present but which we forget to hear. In this way it invokes awareness of sounds that disappear in other sonics environments. Meanwhile, the privacy and individuation of the installation parallels the increasing personalization and segmentation of space. If space can become so personalized, can it even become like a person, or an organic extension of ourselves? P1020710_folds


We are becoming more accustomed to interacting with objects made ‘animate’ through fabricated indications of physiological response and behavior. Our laptops seem to inhale and exhale with a light when asleep. Our phones respond to touch and voice. The construction of machines is taking more cues from the organic world, even including behavior based on social dynamic.

Living spaces are increasingly furnished with sensors that track the movement, health and interaction of the humans inside them: in a sense, listening in. In listening ourselves, we can observe our own response to a room with a ‘biorhythm’ and the other living spaces that may come alive around us.


The composition includes the breathing of various persons (male, female) at once or together in a spectrum of distances and volumes. Speed, intensity and spatial movement of breathing also changes through the composition, shifting the experience from restful and dreamlike to energetic, suggestive and even unsettling.

The illusion is simple: the material surrounds the person and chair, covering the walls, ceiling, entrance and disguising the two speakers which are placed within intimate distance to the person’s ears. The nearness of the speakers and the stationary situation of the listener allows the auditory space to be projected out into a room whose dimensions are made ambiguous through voluminous layers of gauze, fabric and light.

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