Breathing Understudy

Two-channel video, 10 min, color,silent, 2012

Breathing Understudy focuses on spatial situations in which breathing is deferred, due to difficulties imposed by a very particular type of environment. The subject in the video is immersed in water and wears a wetsuit to withstand the cool temperature of the water while other diving apparatus are kept to a bare minimum. The degree and duration of submersion vary methodically from one scene to another. And so does the scale of the containing space, which becomes progressively more claustrophobic. The character is suspended in an ambivalent situation where stakes appear to be indistinct, floating somewhere between despair and ecstasy.

For a critical scene in the video an object was constructed to function as a head aquarium. Its formal language and construction technique references glass architecture, particularly in its use of spider fittings and adjustable screw system. Functionally, these steel fittings hold the structure together from the inside while allowing for a controlled water flow towards the outside. As water fills the container, its increasing weight gradually dislodges the bottom glass sheet and releases the water at a slow rate. When used as an aquarium to fit the head of a living human subject, the mechanism becomes a tool to manage the duration of underwater breathing.

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