Breath vessels

Breath Vessels (2015) gives visible creative power to the life-sustaining ritual of breath. Breath is a rhythmic interface between our own bodies and our environment. Our life depends on breathing, and it is the site of the physical exchange that binds us to people, plants, and other organisms in the spaces and atmosphere we share. Our biological and emotional life is also often embodied in our breath: a gasp of surprise, an exasperated sigh, a frail rasp, the audible sound of sudden understanding. These too are cycles of exchange through which we communicate with the environment around us.

The project departed from a curiosity. If our exhalations were only visible, what stories about us would they tell? Is there a pattern language to breath that would reveal features of our emotional terrains if only we could see them? I wondered if our breathing expresses a common temporality, here transformed into shape, depending on whether we are anxious or sad, excited or at peace.

In Hebrew the word רוח can be translated as breath, wind, or spirit, as can the Hindu prana, Greek pneuma, Chinese qui, and Mayan ik. The English word spirit comes from the Latin spiritus (“breath”). Yet we rarely think about our own breathing unless it is endangered.

In this interactive installation, a virtual 3D model is generated in realtime as one exhales into a handheld shell-like form. The strength and speed of the breath in each moment determines how wide the vessel is. These forms are then 3D printed or translated into ceramic through slipcasting or clay 3D printing. Each vessel transforms the ephemeral breath into a persistent record of a moment otherwise already lost to time, an archive of exhalation.