“Come in, and feel her breath.”
Two speakers standing on the white plinth, companioned with two ultrasonic sensors attached underneath, have been set up in a long space in front of a silver wall. A faint sound of breathing floats from the speakers to a distance, together with a high-frequency digital background sound. The breath sounds heavier and heavier as viewers approach closer and closer. The feeling of tension and anxiety gradually permeate in the narrow compact space. Vice verse, the breath slowly calms down when you step further.
Inspired by Paul Kos’s work “Sound of ice melting”(1970), I am very fascinated by the way he presented the sound through ordinary everyday objects, very mechanical and surprising. With eight boom microphones embracing around two blocks of ice (weights twenty-five pounds each), he is trying to capture the nearly inaudible sound of ice melting. Though several amplifier and large speakers, the cracking sound spread out to the audiences, elegant yet powerful.
The art piece just reminds me of some particular moments, and the first one is the sound of breath in the quiet night. After relocating from a seaside city in China, I came and lived in a quiet place in London. When this city finally settled down every night, I could hear my breath all the time, which I never had a chance to experience when there were always families or friends around in China. The distance and time differences allow me to spend most of the time with myself, while the breath somehow shifts and becomes a way of meditation.
In addition, I also look into the attitude and behaviors of the public participation. Most of the time viewers are outsiders to some extent, they follow the signs and move around. They encounter the art pieces exhibited, take part in the experience presented and imagine related scenarios in their mind. One question comes to my mind: what if the viewers become the central role of artwork? Rather than pile up subjective symbols and metaphors, I look for and create participation to invite viewers to come inside, performing and acting in major roles. After long-time observation and conjecture, I decide to use ultrasonic sensors in my work, to measure human movement. Once the sound changes according to the distance, it was a turning point of the whole experience, the movement gets empowered beyond everyday habit. As viewers approaching or leaving the speakers, the sound of breath responds heavier or lighter, the breathing becomes the notion of movement.
In the crit, I received many feedbacks and suggestions. Daniel questioned the presentation of the cellophane background, he also raised up more possibilities on how to display the work to make it more inviting for continuous interactions. Abbas suggested that it would be more self-contained if the laptop display follows the rhythm of breath.