One Breath Poem

Collaboration as a member of LabSynthE (Laboratory for Electronic and Synthetic Poetry)

What: In multiple iterations, this project invites people to contribute a breath, or a one-breath poem to our database, and so becoming part of our soundscape.

When: Spring 2018 – present.

Display History: School of Arts, Technology and Emerging Communication at UT Dallas, May 2018
Plano Art Fest, May 2018
ATEC Celebration, October 2018
A Ship in the Woods, Escondido, CA, January 2019

The first iterations consisted of asking people to donate to our database poems (or lines of a poem) in one breath. We did a version with Holocaust poems for the Holocaust Remembrance Day of 2018, and with drinking poems and sea chants for the Plano Art Fest, also in 2018. People approach our table and can listen to a soundscape create through Processing, which mixes one-breath poems already on our database. By donating one breath poem, they also become part of it. For the drinking version, we got an bar aid, which is a metal box with a menu of cocktails. One chooses a number and, by rolling a gear, finds a recipe for the chosen cocktail. We opened the box and swapped the recipes for excerpts of poems and sea chants.
The current iteration – the telephone edition – consists of a tin can phone under a directional speaker. Participants donate a breath on the tin can phone, and receive an audio “shower” of a recording of a John Cage concert in Dallas in the 1960s.

Artist statement by LabSynthE

One Breath Poem is a participatory art and technology project that synthesizes poetry, sound, and the performance of silence.
A breath is the first calibration of life and expression. As a collection, breathing presents patterns and silences from the moment we are born until the moment of our last breaths. It is a unit of activity and resting. LabSynthE considers the breath as a universal performative unit, used in One Breath Poem as an auditory fingerprint.
One Breath Poem is a mechanism for contemplative and empathetic listening. Purposeful breathing initiates a multi-modal sound sculpture. In this work, we invite visitors to breathe into our tin can telephone to emancipate the sound of John Cage’s silent pauses during a recording made in Dallas, Texas.
This project is informed by intimacy.  When two people perform a communicative act it is mediated by an asynchronous alternation of listening to the other and responding. This natural form of attention and dialogue replicates on a greater scale the pattern of exhaling and inhaling. When visitors engage in this act of communication with our tin can telephone, they transform the technological device into a living and breathing system.
One Breath Poem takes the spoken word beyond the confines of language and into the embodied, universal language of breath.We suggest that breathing is a metaphor for the unsaid, infused with what has been said and what is still to be said. With One Breath Poem, Telephone Edition, we intend to allow the unveiling of the imaginative possibility of language.