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
/ 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.