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Some comments on the Breathing Wall

I would like to make some comments about the Breathing wall. My first comment concerns my own experience of the piece. I had some problems with the night dreams. I probably have a weird breathing style as the microphone could barely record my breathing (even though I set it up). Accordingly, I had to literally blow in the microphone. It is kind of embarassing to say that, but I think that the piece can only actualized through its experience and that my own experience infected my capacity to engage with it. You can imagine that because I had to blow in the microphone I started having a headache after 5 minutes. To avoid hyperventilating, I decided to use the CD plastic case to make wind in the microphone so I could go through the piece. This certainly changed my experience/feeling/understanding of the piece. I could say that the piece literally operated on the level of the affect. Affect is the capacity to affect and to be affected, it is the passing of a threshold, seen from the point of view of a change in capacity (Massumi: 2002). My incapacity to affect the piece (to make it effective with my own breathing) affected me in return in a way that the night dreams decreased my bodily’s capacities (ineffectiveness of my own agency). This significantly decreased my experience of the piece. Before taking the CD plastic case, I was having more an experience of my own body than of the piece (and it was in fact the same when I used the plastic case: I was not concentrating on my breathing but I was more getting annoyed by the movement of my hand). I think this is an objective of the piece –to realize your own physicality- but I think that I was never able to achieve and equilibrium between my own physicality and the piece’s narrative. In fact, I was more trying to control my own breathing and/or the movement of my hand than actually experiencing the piece. I could say that in this perspective the interface was not transparent enough and that this lack of transparency prevented me from engaging fully with the piece.

 

Also, I am not sure if my breathing deficiency (!) generated some unwanted/unnecessary lengths in the piece but I would like to ask what are the implications of the lengths of the images during the night dreams. For example the leave floating around, or the wind blowing on the long grass in the field. Even though time might not exist (!), I can say I that I felt duration when I was facing these images (but it kind of disturbed me as I had to keep on shaking my hand to make the image move and was thinking that I might finish with a Tendinitis!). The fact that most of my attention was directed to making my hand shake made me lose track of what was happening. I was just hoping I could get to the next section so that I could concentrate on something else than my hand. I think that these images actualized some disruptions in the narrative. Maybe the author’s aim was to really make us experiencing our own physicality and the necessity of our own engagement to actualize the narrative, e.g. to insist on the physicality of the passages from spaces of interiority and spaces of exteriority. In fact, the passages from the prison to the external world, from the day dreams to the night dreams, from “reality” to the dialogues with Lana, emphasized these spaces of interiority and exteriority, and also the physicality necessary for them to become visible. This is a very interesting point as it foregrounds the non-passivity of the body in relation to acts of readings and to the actualization of narratives (although I think it is important to achieve an equilibrium between the narrative and the physicality—equilibrium that I was unfortunately unable to achieve).

 

On another level I would like to raise a question about the collective implications of the piece. I think that digital technologies hold an enormous potential for actualizing collective assemblages (and please this time don’t reinforce the determinism that have infected the relations between European and North American scholars telling me I am so European because I say the word collective). I am not necessarily talking about Englebart’s utopian idea of the collective IQ but I wander how the breathing wall can facilitate collective assemblages. According to Foucault, Deleuze, Guattari, Simondon, Massumi and many others technology is social in the first place– technology is always social before to be technological(or to put it in other words, it means that there is a human technology before a material technology). More precisely, it means that technology never exists as a stand alone as it is only actualized or expressed within social assemblages (Deleuze: 1986). In this perspective, how does the Breathing Wall operate on the social and collective levels? In fact, I am wandering if this piece hold the potential to facilitate the reconfiguration of our social and collective ecology of practices or if it only emphasizes my own individuality? Does the fact that the interaction does not seem to go beyond the computer/microphone/headset and the viewer decrease the political effects that the piece might generate? One way to answer the question would be to ask another one: what is the relevance of the piece outside the world of literature and narratives — does it resonate elsewhere?

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