How might we 'see' an exhale?

Exhales Drawn in Glass
Glass blown by Megan Biddle for Emily Harris
Unique Edition: 5/10
Works range in size: 8 x 8 x 16 inches to 7 x 7 x 33 inches
Photo Michael Steele

"More than merely pondering the currencies of breathing, When Our Breaths Run is a rumination on the estrangements we have with our own bodies."
Excerpt from essay by Dodo Dayao (April, 2017) Exhibition and Limited Edition Catalog.

I was invited to install a site-specific work at north willow™ in Montclair, NJ. I was told that during the opening, the exhibition space might get so cold that viewers' would be able to see their own breath. I took the conditions of the site as a starting point. "How might we see breath?" I worked with Philadelphia-based glass blower Megan Biddle to arrive at a process for creating a total of ten exhales - each form one continuous exhale into molten glass then allowed to drop off the end of the blowpipe.

In the exhibition When Our Breaths Run, elegant, alien, bulbous forms suspend in the space, surrounded by audio and visual traces of the process of their making. A 2 minute video of the process (below) accompanies the sculptures as well as a stand-alone field recording of the densely layered sound in the fabrication space: a turning metal rod, air compressor and the tinkling of glass.

The temperature on the day of the opening (February 18th) was unseasonably warm.





Megan Biddle exhaling into molten glass.
Video by Emily Harris, 2017 (1:49)



"Presenting exhales evokes a strange relationship with our own bodies," says Harris. "By slowing breathing way down, the artmaking questions and 'makes strange' a usually automatic process."

This project’s topics on breathing, slowing down, strangeness, and consciousness of the body can be traced back to a
conversation with Harris in late December 2016, when she describes a strategy shared by a friend, on how to support victims of
real-time hate crimes: If you see somebody being harassed, go stand next to them; just by your physical nearness to the victim, a
lot can be done to block the perpetrators and diffuse the situation.
This experience of the potential of one’s conscious physical presence in a chaotic social landscape is what moved Harris in the
direction for this upcoming project. “Being perceptive and using your body simply, can be the most radical act,” she says.

“Breathing corresponds to the first autonomous gesture of the living human being. To come into the world supposes inhaling and
exhaling by oneself.” ~Luce Irigaray, Between East and West: From Singularity to Community, p.73.

This work is dedicated to Margaret Sheffield (1939-2016)