The paper takes as a starting point the “shortness of breath” derived from the experience of political pressure, social injustice and economic austerity, exploring its connection with performance/live art and embodied politics. Air, the most necessary and common of all living resources, becomes a material signifier for the invisible political bonds that constitute a society. At the same time, in the realm of artistic representation the concept of Combat Breathing aims to engage with the perceptual and political imaginary of the beholders and to provide the potential of public engagement with breath, so as to encourage multiple perspectives on health, art and life, and so as to establish original methods of understanding the role that respiration plays in our aesthetic, sensory, emotional and spiritual life.
The atmosphere is but one manifestation of the external structuring conditions of our existence, while breathing is an internal structuring condition. Even small changes in earth temperatures dramatically affect oxygen levels, behavior, reproductive patterns, activity and movement. These often unconscious, unnoticed and invisible human and non-human biological processes are the barometers of social and political expression of freedom. The “inability to breathe” and social “breathlessness,” as well as notions like “settler atmospherics” and “socio-atmospherics of power” (Simmons) are considered in the context of post-COVID-19 contemporary art practice. The socio-atmospherics of power affects our bodies, but also non-human or more-than- human creatures while climate justice is drastically extended to a multispecies justice.
Through the presentation of art practices, strategies and artworks on the theme of respiration, the presentation examines the ways the recognition of the current “shared vulnerability” and the aesthetic “collaborations with the atmosphere” can respond to environmental mourning and provide social opportunities. Humans deoxygenate ourselves and other species, nevertheless, the metaphor of respiration can hold the potential for expanding climate and social change discourse in politically and ethically creative ways.