Breath symbolizes life but can also be the vector of deadly disease; it is a political symbol that connects multiple systems of violence under one supreme violation; it can be a destructive earthly exhalation, or a constructive tool for analysis and expression. In our current predicament, these multiplicities of meaning reflect the way one crisis flows into another, just as breath travels from mouth to throat to lungs, or from one person to the other.
Some of the questions we will pose in this Salon are: What does breath signify? Do we treat breathing as a right or a privilege? In what ways has breath been re-centered in our minds? How and when does breathing become dangerous? In what way is breath politicized? How will we adapt–our buildings, our cities, our lifestyles, our environment–to preserve our ability to breathe?
This salon took place on February 16, 2022
Nanfu Wang is a documentary filmmaker who examines the impact of authoritarian governance, corruption, and lack of accountability on the lives of individuals and the well-being of communities. Wang interrogates notions of responsibility and freedom, particularly amid the repressive state mandates in her native China. Her 2019 film, One Child Nation, earned the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary Feature at the Sundance Film Festival, and in 2020, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship. Her most recent film, In the Same Breath, premiered at MoMA in 2021.
Ekene Ijeoma is an artist and director of the Poetic Justice Group at the MIT Media Lab. Through his practice, he researches intersectional issues, such as racial and environmental justice, and develops artworks that critique their realities and propose alternatives. In 2021, his Breathing Pavilion in downtown Brooklyn created a space of reprieve during a time of hardship and loss. He is currently working on a new project, Real Talk Radio, which will explore intergenerational knowledge and expression with Black music.
Derecka Purnell is a lawyer, writer, organizer, and author of Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom. She works to end police and prison violence by providing legal assistance, research, and trainings in community-based organizations through an abolitionist framework. She is currently a columnist at The Guardian, a Margaret Burroughs Fellow for the Social Justice Initiative’s Portal Project at the University of Illinois-Chicago, and a Scholar-in-Residence at Columbia Law School.
Kevin Slavin is an entrepreneur integrating digital media, technology, and design. He currently serves as Creative Director and CMO at Poppy, where he studies the composition and interaction of indoor air, a topic on which little data exists. Kevin was also the founding Chief Science and Technology Officer for The Shed, and the founder of the Playful Systems group at the MIT Media Lab, where he performed the early-stage of research mapping microscopic organisms that informs his current work.
Kate Marvel is a climate scientist, researcher at both Columbia University and the NASA Goddard Institute of Space Studies, and author of the “Hot Planet” column for Scientific American. Her work focuses on climate modeling on a large scale to understand long-term climate change and the human impact on its prevention or acceleration. Her 2017 TED talk on how clouds can aid in the fight against climate change has been viewed 1.3 million times, and in 2019 she was named one of the 15 women leading the fight against climate change by TIME magazine.
Priti Krishtel is a health justice lawyer and co-founder of the Initiative for Medicines, Access, and Knowledge (I-MAK), a nonprofit organization that challenges systemic injustice and advocates for health equity in drug development and access. For two decades, Krishtel’s work has exposed structural inequalities in vaccine and medical access in the United States, and across the globe. She is a TED speaker, Presidential Leadership Scholar, and Ashoka Fellow, as well as a frequent contributor to leading international and national news outlets on issues of domestic and global health equity.
Beth Gardiner is a journalist and author of Choked: The Age of Air Pollution and the Fight for a Cleaner Future. She was awarded grants from both the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and the Society of Environmental Journalists to complete the project. Over the course of her more than 20-year career, Gardiner’s work has been published in the New York Times, the Guardian, National Geographic and the Washington Post, and she has appeared on the BBC, Sky News, ITV.
Linsey Marr is the Charles B. Lunsford Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering at Virginia Tech. Her pioneering research on aerosol science made her one of the world’s leading experts on airborne viruses and their transmission, and an invaluable resource for understanding the behavior of the COVID-19 virus. Her writing has appeared in both scientific and popular publications, from the American Journal of Infection Control to the New York Times. In 2020, she was appointed to the board of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
Sissel Tolaas is an artist and scent researcher, focusing intensively on the topic to challenge the idea of the artwork as a physical object. Her pioneering project SmellScape, which first began in 1998 and continues today, has captured the unique scents of 52 cities across the globe. Tolaas has shown her work at museums and institutions across the globe including MoMA, DIA, and the TATE Modern. Her most recent exhibition, RE___, considers the politics of smell and opens at the ICA in Philadelphia in August 2022.
Andrea Polli is a professor in both the College of Fine Arts and the School of Engineering at the University of New Mexico. As an artist, she works at the intersection of art, science, and technology and her practice includes media installation, public art, community projects, and writing. In 2015, she created the large-scale, public installation “Particle Falls,” a real-time, environmentally reactive projection that allows viewers to see current levels of fine particulates projected on surrounding buildings. For her work, she has been awarded the NYFA Artist’s Fellowship, the Fulbright Specialist Award and the UNESCO Digital Arts Award.
Aomawa Shields is an associate professor of physics and astronomy at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on exploring the possible climates and potential habitability of extrasolar planets, particularly those orbiting low-mass stars. A frequent writer and podcaster, Shields is deeply committed to opening up the field of astronomy to underrepresented groups, particularly young women and people of color.
BREATH AND ART
Afrassiabi, Babak, and Nasrin Tabatabai. Labour Lung Anthropocene Curriculum, (2017)
Editors of Los Angeles Times. Photos: Art Born of China’s Pollution Los Angeles Times, (05.07.2014)
Finkel, Jori. Kim Abeles Turns the Climate Crisis Into Exo-Art, The New York Times, (12.09.2021)
Gay, Ross. A Small Needful Fact Split This Rock: The Quarry: A Social Justice Poetry Database, (2015)
Gregory, Alice. Anicka Yi Is Inventing a New Kind of Conceptual Art, The New York Times, (02.14.2017)
Ijeoma, Ekene. Breathing Pavilion, (2021)
Ishikawa, Masayuki. Moyasimon, (2004-2013)
Johnson, Thomas, and Kathinka Fürst. Praying for Blue Skies: Artistic Representations of Air Pollution in China, Modern China, 48:1:73-104 (11.03.2020)
Margolles, Teresa. En El Aire, (2003)
Sheikh, Knvul. This Is What Climate Change Sounds Like, The New York Times, (11.09.2019)
Sim Chi Yin. Dying to Breathe, (2014)
Soares, Susana. Sniffing Others, (2012)
[Sissel Tolaas: RE_[Sissel Tolaas: RE__] exhibition, Astruup Fearnley Museum, Oslo, 10.8 - 12.20.2021 (will be on view at ICA Philadelphia from August 19, 2022)
Waddoups, Ryan. A Luminous Pavilion Where Breathing Flows Freely, SURFACE, (04.21.2021)
Zarah Hussein: Breath: on view at the Peabody Essex Museum through April 10, 2022
I CAN’T BREATHE
Baker, Mike, et al. Three Words. 70 Cases. The Tragic History of ‘I Can’t Breathe’, The New York Times, (09.29.2020)
Dream Defenders. Archives: Freedom Papers, (Ongoing)
Esquire Editors. James Baldwin: How to Cool It, Esquire Magazine, (08.02.2017)
Fort, Nyle. Refusing to Give Death the Last Word, The Boston Globe, (06.04.2020)
Hardeman, Rachel R., et al. Stolen Breaths, New England Journal of Medicine, 383:3, 197-99 (07.2020)
Lipsitz, George. What Is This Black in the Black Radical Tradition?, Verso Books, (06.24.2020)
Martin, Akilah, and Nina Johnson. How COVID-19 Hollowed Out a Generation of Young black Men, ProPublica, (12.22.2020)
Okorie, Obasi, et al. I Can’t Breathe: Asthma, Black Men and the Police, Scientific American, (10.14.2020)
Perry, Imani. Breathe: A Letter to My Sons, Beacon Press, (2019)
Stone, Will, and Kaiser Health News. Teargassing Protesters during an Infectious Outbreak Is a Recipe for Disaster, Scientific American, (06.08.2020)
Thomas, Leah. [‘I Can’t Breathe’ and the Inextricable Link Between Climate and Racial Justice](I Can’t Breathe’ and the Inextricable Link Between Climate and Racial Justice], ELLE, (09.03.2020)
White, Aude. New York Magazine Special Issue: Ten Years After Trayvon Martin, New York Magazine, (01.31.2022)
Zimmer, Ben. The Linguistic Power of the Protest Phrase ‘I Can’t Breathe’, Wired, (15.12.2014)
COVID, BREATH, AND INEQUALITY
Ahmed, Nabil, et. al. Inequality Kills: The unparalleled action needed to combat unprecedented inequality in the wake of COVID-19, Oxfam (01.17.2022)
Amin, Tahir. The Folly of Hoarding Knowledge in the COVID-19 Age, Foreign Affairs (01.29.2021)
CDC. Introduction to COVID-19 Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, (02.11.2020)
Collins-Dexter, Brandi. Canaries in the Coal Mine: COVID-19 Misinformation and Black Communities, The Shorenstein Center on Media | Harvard Kennedy School (06.24.2020)
Covid-19 and Inequality, Inequality.org (2021)
Covid Straight Talk Lab and The New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). M.A.D.+ Policy Guide, (2020)
Johnson, Akilah, and Talia Buford. Early Data Shows African Americans Have Contracted and Died of Coronavirus at an Alarming Rate, ProPublica, (04.03.2020)
Nolen, Stephanie. Here’s Why Developing Countries Can Make MRNA Covid Vaccines, The New York Times, (10.22.2021)
Swaminathan, Soumya, et al. Reboot Biomedical R&D in the Global Public Interest, Nature, 602:7896:207–10, (02.2022)
Wallis, Claudia. Reboot Biomedical R&D in the Global Public Interest, Scientific American, (06.12.2020)
Yonzan, Nishant; Lakner, Christoph; Gerszon Mahler, Daniel Reboot Biomedical R&D in the Global Public Interest, World Bank Blogs (10.07.2021)
Capobianco, Tara, et al. Impact of Three Interactive Texas State Regulatory Programs to Decrease Ambient Air Toxic Levels, Journal of the Air & Waste Management Association, 63:5, 507-20, (05.2013)
Flynn, Max Blau; Lylla Younes, Kathleen. The Dirty Secret of America’s Clean Dishes, ProPublica (12.20.2021)
Friedman, Lisa. Even Low Levels of Soot Can Be Deadly to Older People, Research Finds, The New York Times, (01.26.2022)
Grandoni, Dino. For the First Time in over 30 Years, the EPA Adds to Its List of Hazardous Air Pollutants, Washington Post (01.05.2022)
Kolbert, Elizabeth. The Supreme Court Case That Could Upend Efforts to Protect the Environment, The New Yorker, (01.10.2022)
Levin, David. Change in the Air, Harvard Public Health Magazine, (10.02.2017)
McCormick, Erin. How Much Air Pollution Do You Live with? It May Depend on Your Skin Color, The Guardian, (12.15.2021)
Miller, Sarah. The Millions of Tons of Carbon Emissions That Don’t Officially Exist, The New Yorker (12.08.2021)
Mufson, Steven. This Documentary Went Viral in China. Then It Was Censored. It Won’t Be Forgotten, Washington Post (03.16.2015)
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Air Pollution and the Health of New Yorkers: The Impact of Fine Particles and Ozone, (2011)
Popovich, Nadja, et al. See How the World’s Most Polluted Air Compares With Your City’s, The New York Times, (12.03.2019)
Rani, Archi. Patna Gets 3 Pollution Quality Monitoring Stations, The Times of India, (12.17.2019)
Roberts, David. Air Pollution Is Much Worse than We Thought, Vox (08.12.2020)
Smith, Hayley. ‘How Much More of This Can We Take?’ Wildfires Prompt Air Quality Advisories in Northern California, Los Angeles Times, (08.19.2021)
Villarosa, Linda. Pollution Is Killing Black Americans. This Community Fought Back, The New York Times, (07.28.2020)
Wallace-Wells, David. Ten Million a Year, London Review of Books, 43:3, (12.02.2021)
Ward Jr., Ken. How Black Communities Become ‘Sacrifice Zones’ for Industrial Air Pollution, ProPublica & Mountain State Spotlight, (12.21.2021)
Wong, Edward. In China, Breathing Becomes a Childhood Risk, The New York Times, (04.22.2013)
Yaffa, Joshua. The Great Siberian Thaw, The New Yorker, (01.10.2022)
Allen, Joseph G., and John D. Macomber. Healthy Buildings: How Indoor Spaces Drive Performance and Productivity, Harvard University Press, (2020)
Anthes, Emily. The Great Indoors: The Surprising Science of How Buildings Shape Our Behavior, Health and Happiness, Scientific American, (2020)
Lu, Jianyun, et al. COVID-19 Outbreak Associated with Air Conditioning in Restaurant, Guangzhou, China, 2020, Emerging Infectious Diseases Journal - CDC, 26:7 (07.2020)
Salas, Mariano Zafra, Javier. A Room, a Bar and a Classroom: How the Coronavirus Is Spread through the Air, El País, (10.28.2020)
US Environmental Protection Agency. Indoor Air Quality, (11.02.2017)
BETTER BREATH: A FEW SOLUTIONS AND INVENTIONS
Aronsohn, Maria Denoia. Clearing the Air: Decarbonization Technologies Take a Giant Step Forward, State of the Planet, Columbia University, (01.06.2022)
Bates, Sarah Ruth. The Human Story of How Ventilators Came to Breathe for Us, Aeon, (09.15.2020)
Devlin, Es. ‘It’s 1 November 2036 and Every City Has Swapped Cars for Trees’ Says Es Devlin Dezeen, (11.01.2021)
Hitti, Natashah. ANTI Designs Pocket-Sized Naloxone Kit to Prevent Opioid Overdose Deaths, Dezeen, (11.04.2020)
—. Jun Kamei’s Amphibious Garment Could Enable Humans to Breathe Underwater, Dezeen, (07.17.2018)
Lallensack, Rachael. This Ink Is Made From Air Pollution Smithsonian Magazine, (05.23.2019)
Rawlings, C. Kaye, and Dan Samorodnitsky. Breathing Buildings: How Architecture Could Adapt to Catastrophic Global Warming, Pioneer Works, (03.03.2021)
Schwab, Katharine. Sign Of The Times: A Super, Happy, Fun Pollution Mask For Kids, Fast Company, (03.15.2017)
Studio Roosegaarde. Smog Free Tower, Studio Roosegaarde, (2019)
Tuohy, Jennifer Pattison. IKEA’s New GUNRID Curtains Will Clean the Air in Your Home, Dwell, (03.03.2020)
Chai Jing. Under the Dome, self-produced, (2015)
Fordham Law School. Panel Explores the Future of Policing, (09.24.2020)
Parsons-Lord, Emily. Art made of the air that we breathe. TED, (05.2016)
PBS. A Brief But Spectacular Take on the Importance of Creating a Global Health System, PBS NewsHour, (10.05.2021)
Wang, Nanfu. In the Same Breath, HBO Documentary Films, (2021)
WRITTEN / DIRECTED / PRODUCED BY OR ABOUT OUR CONTRIBUTORS
Anderson, Dave. Kevin Slavin: Why Understanding the Genetic Make-up of Everything is Mind Blowing (podcast, 11.12.2021)
Gardiner, Beth. Choked: Life and Breath in the Age of Air Pollution, University of Chicago Press, (2019)
Krishtel, Priti, and Chelsea Clinton. Big Lie behind Who Gets to Make COVID Vaccines Won’t Protect Us, USA TODAY, (12.16.2021)
Marvel, Kate, et al., 2019: Twentieth-century hydroclimate changes consistent with human influence. Nature, 569, no. 7754, 59-65, doi:10.1038/s41586-019-1149-8.
Polli, Andrea. Who Owns the Air? Emissions Trading and Contemporary Media Art, Field Actions Science Reports. The Journal of Field Actions, no. Special Issue 21:86–89, (02.2020)
Purnell, Derecka. The Grief Never Ends, New York Magazine (1.31.2022)
––. Becoming Abolitionists: Police, Protests, and the Pursuit of Freedom, Astra House, (2021)
––. How I Became a Police Abolitionist, The Atlantic, (07.06.2020)
Secunda, Amy. The Limit Does Not Exist. Episode 111: Star Power (Dr. Aomawa Shields & Amy Secunda).
Shields, Aomawa. Claiming a Louder Life: Part I, Inside Higher Ed, (02.19.2021)
Vega De Santiago, Denisse. Ephemeral Matters: Interview with Andrea Polli, Archis, (06.10.2021)
Bosman, Julie, et al. As U.S. Nears 800,000 Virus Deaths, 1 of Every 100 Older Americans Has Perished, The New York Times, (12.13.2021)
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Polli, Andrea. The Dragonfly and the Peering Locust. Intelligent Agent, (2004)
Polli, Andrea. Free Radical: The Sound of Fear, Intelligent Agent, 6:1:1-3, (2006)
Chappell, Bill. Minneapolis Police Kill a Black Man While Executing a No-Knock Warrant, NPR, (02.04.2022)
Winter, Deena and Nesterak, Max. Minneapolis Police Officer Shoots and Kills Man in Early Morning Raid, Minnesota Reformer, (02.02.2022)
Logan, James G., et al. Bio Detection Dogs Identify COVID-19 with up to 94% Accuracy, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, (05.21.2021)
Kilo. Woobi Play, 2017
Watts, Sarah. Why It Feels Like You Can’t Breathe Inside Your Face Mask — and What to Do About It, Discover Magazine, (09.14.2020)
Okeowo, Alexis. What a Fire in the Bronx Says About Immigrant Life in New York, The New Yorker, (01.21.2022)
Shields, Aomawa. Variable Star Girl.