Marking Breath. 25 November 2015. Rio de Jeneiro. Brazil.

Marking Breath. 25 November 2015. Rio de Jeneiro. Brazil. Sunrise 5.59pm- Sunset 7.21 pm. Unirio. Gold panel postcard-seize 10 x 15 cm.

I am focused on creating works that directly reflect ‘man’s basic condition’. I am concerned with breath as a generator for the work. The life that each of us lives and the imprints we leave in the world interest me.

In ‘Marking Breath’ I put the act of breathing – an action that unites us all – at the centre of the work. From sunrise to sunset, I sit silently at a table. At each exhale I carve a line into a small metal panel positioned in front of me. This self-contained performance consists of nothing more than a single, repetitive act of recording. Seemingly subtle and simple, this performance is neither; it requires an extraordinary degree of restraint and endurance – a determined act of rebellion against the frenetic, stimulated society in which many of us live.

Photos & Video by Carolina Vilela. Video Editing by Rine Rodin.

Marking Breath the Mind. Rio de Janeiro at Unirio. Sunrise 5.59 am – sunset 7.21 pm. Gold panel postcard-seize 10 x 15 cm

Its dark and I’m in Rio. Finding the place myself, the taxi driver stops in front of a place I don’t recognize. I tell him to drive further down the Street I’m getting nervous I won’t be in time for sunrise. Finally I recognize the place. I go out in front of a big building being welcomed by a marble eagle and a lion on each side of a staircase like gargoyles protecting the building – I feel protected. They look amazing lit up in the dark they look alive and like I’m walking in a fairytale.

I find my place – I meet Caroline who will document the work during the day. I find the round table and 4 chairs. João comes – a student from Tania’s class. I gave a lecture the day before and he would like to join me for the entire day. I brought 2 extra copper panels to protect the gold panel. I give him one. We sit down ready to start.

/ 5:59 am

/ I listen to the birds

/ They sing in different tunes

/ I mark very small marks in the gold, as the panel is small

/ It’s a new experience to have company all day.

/ João is getting into the marking

/ I notice he has some difficulties and try different ways to mark

/ The table is unstable and tilts in the rhythm we mark.

/ João looks at me I look at him. We have eye contact but only until one of us has to mark

/ It makes me think of relationship and the balance between being together and being alone

/ Paying attention to one’s own breath in order to be able to share time and space.

/ I’m not an expert in relationships but the balance is important – this I know.

/ Balancing life is the most important thing. And I guess there is no one-way. Each one of us has to find our own way that works.

/ I smell food.

/ I hear the birds sing.

/ I hear the traffic and people are talking.

/ The cleaning team has arrived.

/ Sounds of the brush strokes against the ground

/ I look up and see a small old man carefully sweeping the ground

/ He stops halfway and takes a brake. He smokes a cigarette and drinks a coffee

/ I think how important it is to take brakes

/ I mark my breathing. The breath has no brakes. It goes from birth to death and then it takes a brake.

/ A forever brake.

/ Maybe – who knows…

/ I mark. I have to be very focused to make the marks small.

/ João is moving around between breaths. Try to catch eye contact with me.

/ Violins begin to play

/ The Sound of Music makes me calm and I breathe deeper

/ More people come. More sounds.

/ More instruments.

/ I remember someone once said how important it is to play your own instrument for the unity – like if life and every person on this planet were one in a symphony orchestra.

/ Back to my marking

/ I sense João very clear.

/ He’s tired

/ I’m responsible

/ The performance is very demanding – physically and mentally

/ I watch the birds.

/ They have a nest upon the air conditioner

/ Babies and their parents

/ They make me smile

/ It’s so simple

/ Life

/ And then again – so complicated

/ I think about my love in Denmark

/ Ups and downs – love goes everywhere

/ Caroline is taking photos and videos

/ She’s great.

/ I feel safe

/ João has felled asleep. He lies across the table

/ No marking

/ I smile.

/ Life! We are just human beings.

/ We like and want to do so much, but in the end of the day we are ‘ just’ human beings.

/ Lots of music surrounds me

/ Samba has started next door

/ Still the violins are playing

/ The sweeper is still here but almost done.

/ He empties a trash can

/ I concentrate upon marking – small marks

/ Samba Music is playing to my left

/ Classical music is playing to my right

/ Left and Right

/ Lots of people have arrived

/ Some come and look at João and me.

/ Caroline joins us in the Marking.

/ The parent birds are feeding the baby birds

/ Sometimes they fly out to look for something for the nest.

/ The weather is okay. Not great so I don’t need the hat that I brought to protect me from the sun.

/ There is a little wind

/ João is doing great but very restless.

/ He makes me think of the first times I performed this work.

/ Each time is completely different

/ The gold I’m marking into this time is soft – much easier than copper

/ I enjoy the marking

/ I enjoy being alive

/ Not always have I felt this way

/ At times in my life I had wished not to be alive

/ More and more I think that the reality we have inside ourselves is reflected outside – in our everyday life. The love we share, the fights we fight. At the end of the day it’s something we have inside.

/ Tania who has invited me arrives. She chooses one of the Rio postcards very carefully and starts to mark.

/ Small monkeys run around in the amazon tree

/ It’s branches stretch all over the table where we are sitting

/ It starts raining

/ We sit – we are three people marking

/ The rain gets stronger. I decide to go to the room to the left with the big old staircase.

/ I sit on one of the bottom stairs marking, listening to the rain outside.

/ The light has changed

/ Do we ever change?

/ So many people like changes in their life’s. But what does it really mean to change something? It takes a lot of awareness and effort to do this I think to myself

/ Letting go of old built-in habits

/ I mark

/ The thought about the reality we create outside ourselves reflects the one inside makes more and more sense to me.

/ People come to walk up the stairs

/ There is a music room up there

/ A grumpy old man turns the light on

/ João turns it off again

/ An hour or so later when the man descend the stairs he turns the light on again mumbling something in Portuguese

/ João turns it off again

/ I smile, I mark

/ I hear the violins rehearsing

/ The rain has stopped and again we can move outside.

/ Still three people; João, another guy and myself.

/ It has gotten much darker

/ Denise is here, marking with me.

I have stayed at Denise’s house at Santa Theresa for 6 days.

/ Some of my friends from there arrive too: Karo and Katrin.

/ I’m so happy they are here marking with me.

/ I look to the sky stretching my neck and arms.

/ João is still here. I’m very amazed of his endurance

/ I mark, I feel happy and relaxed.

/ Life is ok for the moment.

/ Life is always the moment. Stace always says:

Let go of the fear – that is the past – let go of the hope – that is the future

And you can stay focused and relaxed in the present.

/ My postcard-seized gold panel is almost filled out.

/ I look up and into the eyes of João

/ With my eyes I tell him how great he is. Marking breath is a very simple work but not at all easy. It takes a lot of discipline and opens the awareness in all directions.

/ We sit around the table marking, sometimes looking up and into the eyes of each other. For a moment we share time and space until one of us has to look down to place the mark

/ The alarm rings – it’s 7.21 pm and the Sun has set in Rio de Janeiro.