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May 22, 2016 | by  | in Visual Arts |
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Set my breath free

I had been anticipating this moment for a long time. Ever since I saw the unopened box in her bedroom—I could not contain my excitement. I knew what was inside, but I had to wait two weeks until I could see it.

It was the opening night of freunde sind künstler, a group show of ten Berlin-based artists. It was held in a studio above Pyramid Club, and looked after and curated by my friend and artist—Jordana Bragg.

Following a long, pale blue corridor, the sound of murmuring voices led me towards a narrow staircase. Entering the room, the space was filled with hot bodies. Everyone had their eyes on everyone. I saw familiar faces and smiled at a few.

I noticed how my body felt in the space. The low ceiling brought my attention to the ground. Two upturned analogue television sets, one resting on a blue milk crate, first caught my eye. Brushing shoulders with many, I eagerly leant over and watched water turn and unfold. I spent a while there, mesmerized by the waves and motions. The water soon turned into ice, puffy white clouds billowing in and out.

As I stepped away I needed some room to breathe, even if that was to go to the bathroom or have a cigarette downstairs—I knew I’d be here for a while.

The space was confined, but only because it had been divided into two rooms. A hanging cage-like fence separated a quarter of the room from the collective shared space. This structure was also used as a mechanism to display series of photographs. The studio itself was large, with a collection of accidental assemblages such as broom on ohp, plywood rests on paint buckets, and trash behind glass wall. The carpet too was an interesting feature. Its outdated beige and green repetitive triangular pattern consumed the floor. I was kind of into it.

There was an industrial lift that provided another entrance to the studio for the artists. It was open so I wandered in. On the floor, in the right hand corner, was the box. The lid was open and a white balloon rested comfortably in bubble wrap.

BEING EVERYWHERE (2007) is a utopian space project by Stefan Riebel, which involves filling a white balloon with his breath and sending it to people around the world. When one receives the balloon, they are asked to destroy it in a place and in a way they choose. Riebel’s breath is released into the chosen surroundings and he will become present in that space; his breath will be set free.

All these works travelled from Berlin to New Zealand, sent digitally or via mail. The lift is a feature that references travel and how the exchange of art, ideas, conversations, and even breath, can manifest a connection beyond a physical platform.

Post-opening the balloon was set free. It playfully bounced around the studio and at this moment I began to fear for it. I observed my surroundings. I had my eye on the balloon, on other people, and on objects and potential hazards. I cared for the balloon like a dear friend. It was vulnerable as it floated, bouncing off people’s heads and being caught by others. Be careful please! Why did I feel like I needed to protect the balloon? The whole idea is to destroy it, to release the breath that is kept inside. By nature we know it will eventually deflate, yet at any unexpected moment the balloon might pop—with or without intention.

Are we ready for this?


Order your balloon from here:


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