Breath Work

by Rebecca Aston

Every day I am committing myself to streaming some breath work; breathing and writing while observing my own breath. Entering a feedback loop with myself, plugging in. Explore the archives of recordings or catch me live online.

During the sessions, I will be wearing a breathing sensor that I have created myself to stream my breath online. The breathing sensor is knitted out of yarn and conductive thread. I’m running a few volts of electricity through the sensor and as my chest expands and contracts the resistance changes, capturing the act of breathing and also movement. I am streaming my key strokes as I write. Inviting others to be present with me, to be anonymous voyeurs that enter into my thoughts.

These live streamed sessions, examining an embodied process of digital making, will serve as starting points for further writing and visual exploration.

This work is made as a part of In-grid, a collaborative residency between arebyte gallery and Goldsmiths, funded by Arts Council England.

Breathlessness. This is something I am familiar with as an asthmatic. It is something that I have been thinking about more often recently. I have been reading a book called "embodied" as a part of my research into embodiment in relation to digital experiences, such as in Virtual Reality. The book by Christopher Eccleston has a subtitle "the psychology of physical sensation" and in it he explores what he calls the neglected senses. Breathing is one of the senses he writes about. I happened to be reading this chapter when I got sick at the beginning of lock down in the UK. It seems clear to me now that it was covid as initially mild symptoms were followed by a week of some of the worst breathlessness I have experienced. As an asthmatic I have many tactics for managing chest infections or bad colds. I have struggled with physical exercise at points in my life and it has only been as an adult that I have managed to develop breathing techniques that allow me to deal with moments of breathlessness without descending into panic. The sensations of breath and breathlessness and the close ties between breath and states of anxiety or calm is one strain of enquiry that I hope to examine during this project. Bringing awareness to my breath was one of the things that helped me manage my symptoms when I was sick. I would wake feeling breathless, often with slightly numb or tingling feet, and flipping onto my stomach, I would breathe deeply, hold, and slowly exhale. Like so.... hold...... and slowly exhale..... And then I would let my breathing return to a normal pace and variability, slowly letting my awareness of my breath relax, letting my brain shift to other things until I relaxed back into sleep. And now through this work of writing and breathing I hope to think and feel my way through both the physical, political and prosaic elements of breath. How does it feel to breathe? What does it mean to breathe? What are the politics of bodied breath? And what are the politics of embodied breath in relation to technology? Technology which so often still claims to be neutral and universal.

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