Paul Catanese, Hybrid Media Artist

The Responsibility of Breath
2022 | Multi-Modal Studies (Micro-Performances, Video, VR, Installation)

LAUNCH VR (via Mozilla Hubs)

The Responsibility of Breath is a series of multi-modal studies based on research conducted at the University of Michigan to advance the next phase of the opera, Century of Progress / Sleep. These take form as micro-performances, videos, objects, sounds, texts, librettini, virtual environments, and musical gestures.

Informed by Douglas Kahn's expansive vision of energies in the arts, sleep may also be viewed as a plural, with operations and activities rooted in extraction, interconvertibility, and indefiniteness. Related observations from sleep science include that wake and sleep are not discrete states, but patterns that occur simultaneously, and in degrees. To paraphrase Buiatti and Longo from their paper on multilevel interactions in biology: living systems dynamics are not stable or unstable, but far from equilibrium processes that undergo a flow of energy; a simultaneous blend of stability and instability. In a certain sense, the body is asleep and awake at the same time. In this terrain, breath provides a through-line, a way to navigate, observe, and attend to roiling continents of sleep.

This work has been shaped by the events of the past twenty-plus months; a period defined by breath. During this time, watching breath as data, trying to hold breath (physically, conceptually, emotionally), the legibility, musicality, and potency of breath has emerged as an organizing principle, guided by a series of questions: When is our breath no longer an extension of the body? When is one no longer responsible for their breath? What is the half-life of that responsibility? Was our breath ever our own?

University of Michigan, Stamps School of Art and Design, News Stories
* Paul Catanese on The Responsibility of Breath
* Virtual Reality Opera Explores Consciousness, Sleep

Special Thanks
Research and development support to realize The Responsibility of Breath was made possible by the University of Michigan, Penny W. Stamps School of Art and Design, in coordination with Michigan Medical Sleep Research and Circadian Disorders Laboratory. Special thanks to Dr. Jane Prophet and Dean Gunalan Nadarajan for making these research collaborations possible via a year-long visiting artist invitation to U-M, and for their continuing support of the project as the timeline was reshaped due to the ongoing trials of the global pandemic.