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.

I want to try and do some breathing "exercises" now, breathing performances. There is a question of reactiveness. Holding breath at the extremes is easy to see. And then the small fluctuations come as a flutter. Exhales as the crunch of the sack, Inhales as the filling of the form. Echoing a lung inflating, echoing a bag inflating. Air in to full form... hold.... OUT. and then you see the fluctationIN hold and out.... I feel dizzy. This tool I made likes rhythm. Both the sensor itself and the math that is moulding around it to try and make sense of a home-made sensor. There is a bounce at the end of an exhale. A bounce in values. It's like the conductive thread is settling after all the action of expansion and contraction. I inhale and it is stable while I hold my breath for as long as I can, how long???? not that long, my chest started to betray me before I was even aware that I was letting out my breath.... the sensor, the fluctuating form on screen, telling me my chest was giving way before I had decided to let my breath out. But then after an exhale the sensor values show a spike like I have taken another inhale, the resistance change after the stretch sensor responds to my chest contracting. It is the threads settling. Or maybe it is just the math, the reactive average of the values from the sensor adjusting over time... taking into account what the average has been over the past few seconds.... Becasue as I move the sensor values change. If I slouch all of a sudden... the sensor values will register that as a breath in .... well a "breath in" but then as I stay slouched in that position the fluctation in the sensor values maybe smaller now but they stil capture breath... that small change in my new position... and then I sit upp again... a sudden crunch and then the slow adjustment to that new position... slow as in a second or so... so I'm not really coming to you live.... and who is to know what the delay is caused by the networks... and / or packets of data dropped as I send numbers across the wires and ether.... even as I watch myself breath on screen that breath has winged it's way to some data center somewhere and found its way back to me.... So who is to say where the delay is... it feel live enough for me... even for me sitting here feeling my lungs expanded and contract with just a few milliseconds(?) delay... delay in the reading from the arduino through the serial port to my computer (?) delay in the sending of the data via websockets to the node server online (?) delay in the receiving of data from the node server online back here on my laptop (?).... it is live enough.... live-ish....

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