Inspiration, augmented breathing


We need oxygen. We need it for most of our vital activities, including digesting, moving and thinking. And we get oxygen from the fundamental act of breathing, along with plenty of other substances. The natural basic functioning of nature is the terrain where biotech intervenes as a source of change, and artists have used a wide range of technologies to create problematic scientific scenarios, combining strategies with scientific knowledge. Saša Spačal’s “Inspiration” is an installation that allows the audience to experience a different kind of breathing. It is equipped with a few ‘breathing stations’ which dispense Mycobacterium vaccae bacteria-enriched air. This bacteria has been proven to improve our mental status, especially in respect to mood, anxiety and mental capacity through its beneficial effect on the human serotonin system. Capsules of the bacteria along with soil are disintegrated in the ‘bioreactor’ of the system and unevenly diffused to the respiratory masks available to visitors. Spačal sees this system as an opportunity to reorient our obsession with ‘romantic’ love between humans, through explorations of interspecies love, including those for nonhumans and minerals. This, in turn, leads to a consideration of breathing that is less anthropocentric, as we come to consider this act as part of a larger ecology and ‘economy’ of substances and forces. The bacteria, inserted by the artist, instantly change our reassuring equation (we breath for our own benefit) and destabilises its essential routine, ‘augmenting’ it in a configuration that makes it less ‘controllable’. But the whole process is technologically driven. The augmentation of our breath is mediated and probably will be even more so in the future, as a possible luxury service to escape the planet’s degradation. Intervening in what is not a service for humans, but a ‘respiratory exchange’ with the natural ecosystem, means to understand that other substances are returned to different species, for other purposes. Inspiration’s aerosol is then a conceptual and technical machine, one that pushes us to reconsider our consumption of oxygen, and to imagine a still uncertain vision of how it might change in the future. It challenges our loops and patterns, and it opens new trajectories for consideration. We definitely still need oxygen. But we also need to breath for each other.


Saša Spačal – Inspiration