On 29 October 2014, artist Neville Gabie, cameraman Stuart Ward, producer Tammy Bedford and curator Jeni Walwin arrive in Carna, County Galway to film and record the release of the breath of 1,111 people. The pressurized container into which all the breath has been transferred and the huge, sculpted, wood instrument have been carefully transported from the artist’s studio in Gloucestershire to this remote location on the western edge of Europe. The site was nominated by Anita, one of the WOMAD visitors who gave their breath at the Collective Breath Tent during the 2014 Charlton Park Festival. The Mace Head Research Station is an appropriate place for the completion of this project in that it is described as the site where the cleanest air in Europe can be breathed.
The Collective Breath project is part of Experiments in Black and White commissioned from Neville Gabie for the 2014 WOMAD Festival in Charlton Park, Wiltshire. This work is an exploration of four materials – ice, chalk, oil and air – fundamental aspects of the natural world that are variously contested and debated as we look to the future of the planet. During the festival the project comprised a daily performance-drawing with a huge chalk boulder; outdoor screenings of five films featuring the artist working with each of ice, chalk and oil, in arduous, physical performances; and the Collective Breath tent where breath from festival-goers was collected and speakers from a variety of disciplines gave talks on the subject of breath and air as they relate to science, art, the voice, musical performance, life cycles and eastern meditation. Breath is a fundamental part of musical expression and connects to the main focus of the WOMAD festival on the music stages.
Inspired by his recent residency at the Cabot Institute University of Bristol, Neville devised a system for collecting breath from over one thousand visitors during the 4-day festival. The breath from each bespoke bag was then transferred into a pressurized container and later released at Mace Head Research Station in Ireland to play a single continuous note for 49 minutes. . Contributors to the project made suggestions for the site to release the breath and record the sound as it plays through a specially made musical instrument. Postcards with a photographic record of the event and a link to the film of the Collected Breath release will be posted to all contributors.
Curated by Jeni Walwin, produced by Tammy Bedford