Commodity of Breath: The Sociability of Breathable Atmosphere. 

The Commodity of Breath project is an electro-mechanical sculpture which houses a living tree that responds to the Co2 that is generated through human breathing. As the levels of Co2 rise, servomotors attached to the branches of the tree activate and reposition the branches either forward or backward if the levels rise or fall. The commodity of breath is concerned with the economics of social conditioning and is an attempt to understand the implications of being socially enabled.

The use of time and measurement to make identification possible in regards to social situations is related to one’s understanding of marking time and measurement by breathing. When one is more apt to experience social anxiety their breathing becomes erratic and forced, than when they are relaxed. This identification becomes necessary to tell the difference in friend or foe, which can become problematic. The Commodity of Breath is interested in how identification takes place. What social encyclopedias or libraries exist to help identify one person to another? Other animals rely on catalogs of definitions as well, through pheromones, color, or behavior to communicate and distinguish ones own kind from another’s kind. Pheromones are a social library.

In order for communication to take place, one must accept the particular license and agree to the particular terms put forward (signals) that all parties will use. Everyplace in human society relies upon its own protocol for behavior and communication. The importance of establishing and maintaining social order is that it allows power to be secularized, and it allows participants in the order to at once know their place and transmit information about what they know, easily and efficiently, to other observers and participants.

There are different means of bringing order about; behavior guidelines and rules are established in all parts of society, which function as social contracts and obligations. While you are not wholly required to follow these rules, one is expected to and often required to in order to gain access to social privilege and to become empowered by others. If one deviates from these rules, they are unable to communicate because the signals being used do not match those that have been agreed upon. Even if one does understand the signals being used, they are unable to share this understanding due to social contract obligations. In the MSDM, a medical psychological manual for identifying mental disease there are two types of people either neurotypical or neurodeviant.

Some problems exist in making rules concerned with communication and social structures. One is that not all rules apply to all people, by examining the reverse – if everyone was given the same treatment would they in effect become the same, effectively displacing an existing power structure? Another problem is that of implication. When a context of meaning is implied with explicitly being said it can lead to a social situation in which only a few understand the interior or true intent of the language while others do not. This again, is an example of power displacement and relates to the history of knowledge and language of articles designed to be exclusive.

The Commodity of Breath is recognition of the sociability of breathable air. When one breathes in, they are breathing the same air that someone has breathed in prior. Even if it someone they do not particularly understand or have commonality with, the lungs and physical apparatus of the human circulatory system is made in such a way that air and chemical agents can be shared. This is a type of communication also, the communication of communicable disease serves as an example. The use of air as a physical force against the larynx and vocal cords is one that all able humans share to speak. This work makes use of this physical force, and the chemical displacement of Co2 through breathing to activate the piece.

Breathing is one of the few bodily functions we can actively and passively control. Breath is controlled passively by a part of the human brain, the medulla oblongata that can detect the ph level of the blood, if the blood is too acidic it causes the diaphragm muscle to expand as a reflex. In a way, breathing the 7th sense – the sense of air, and the medulla oblongata a sensory organ although you may think the lungs would be the sense organ.

If you really think about it, in a way, our reflexive breathing and the respiration of plants during photosynthesis puts us into a sort of conversation. How are we to interpret the language of breathing?


Development Project Notes: 

Sometimes it is difficult to hear what other people have to say, or how people say “I can see what you are saying”.

Transmodalities between words, languages, signs or symbols may be inherent in the overlapping substrates in the centers of the brain, which control sight, sound, and touch.

Also, I think people want something more. There is a socieo-economic pattern in wanting or demanding to be more fulfilled.

Ted Kaczynski, the writer and social theorist who is current living in a Supermax prison in Colorado but once lived in the wilderness in Montana, called this the ‘Power Process of Individuals’ in his essay entitled “Industrial Society and its Future”. There is a connection between acting upon the world and being acted upon that he explains in it.

Ghandi and Einstein both had a lot of things to say about being honest and individuals. They were both interested in making some amends between how we are, what we want, and how we go about it. Another good example, is Twin Peaks and the characterization of Agent Cooper. I think Agent Cooper tried to walk as a sincere person. He also practiced Hatha Yoga, which is a controlled breathing technology for communicating with the divine.

When I was a child, I tried often to see how long I could hold my breath. For days or Longer. I saw a television program about the Navy Seals and how they train by sitting in rooms with depleted oxygen and practice controlled breathing. This came to me later, when I was kissing someone and she breathed into my mouth. It was as if she had something more to say, and perhaps she didn’t know how to say it either.

I’ve recently become interested in thinking of the world as a type of prison. I know for some degree of certainty that there isn’t a way to escape the pull of gravity, I look for lights in the sky and try to signal them but none have come yet. I also read the FBI website looking for cases of missing persons who have left and have been assumed to be in space, but none exist that I can Find. Maybe we are all missing anyway.

“Today, people can say anything they want. Suddenly it gets in the rumor mill and then it evolves and then somehow it becomes fact…” this is a quote by Tom Cruise about social artifacts. I think people use political systems, creating inner circles, to maintain power and rely on these methods of persuasion and group thinking. But how do you separate fact in and fiction from what actually happens?

I think the important thing is to align what you do, and what you say to become as close together as possible. The word integrity has always come to me when I think about it. If I ever build a ship, a sailing type, I would christen it the Integrity.