The idea that singing would become a forgotten art due to the creeping climate crisis seems highly unsettling. Yet, as a possibility condition for both earthly survival and the transmission of sound, air becomes an almost sacred resource for the Breathless Choir.
Gosia Lehmann’s video installation portrays a group of people in search of their collective voice. Regardless of their shortage of breath, people are still trying to engage in music and singing together, as an attempt to echo each other and the sensation of breathing clean air. However, the singing doesn’t come as easily as it used to, so it requires different techniques and aesthetics. We witness them in this effort of reviving their voices and getting in sync. Their song lasts only a few moments, until they pass out – presumably from lack of oxygen.
The work refers to the historical motif of the miner’s canary. The birds were widely used by miners as sentinel species to detect carbon monoxide. A canary who stopped singing and passed out in the cage indicated toxic gas levels and that miners should evacuate. Usually, the birds were reanimated in special oxygen tanks. The work exposes the vulnerability of breathing beings. Gosia points to the various thresholds between material and symbolic, individual and collective as well as consciousness and other states of being.
text edited by Léa Perraudin and Martin Müller