Accepted paper:

Breathing with materials: an aerial perspective on 'thinking-through-making' artefacts.


Valeria Lembo (University of Edinburgh)

Paper short abstract:

This paper proposes an aerial perspective that incorporates breathing in the processeses of knowing, making, and moving in the world. Such perspective brings atmosphere and breath at the front of material culture studies and broader anthropological debates.

Paper long abstract:

Flowing out of a group project of anthropology-with-performance called Walking Threads, this paper elaborates on the potential of experimenting outdoors with materials (e.g. a yarn of thread) for posing anthropological questions about the relation between breath, knowledge, weather and artefacts. Walking with the other participants by holding the thread, led me to observe how air currents affected both the thread's movements and ours with it. Air was not only shaking and pulling the thread, but also 'nourishing' the breathing processes involved in our actions and gestures. Returning home and working with threads through embroidery, I pondered about those ephemeral webs tracing the air circulation patterns within and without our bodies. Memories from the walk further directed my attention to breathing processes coupling my looping gestures whilst embroidering. Hence the WalkingThreads experiment has offered new understandings of threads and embroidery, and raised questions about the relation between artefacts, weather, gesture and breath: What if we look at artefacts as breath made palpable? What if we consider the aesthetic atmosphere(s) that artefacts can create as a transformation of the atmospheric currents from which this breath comes? Following Tim Ingold's discussion on atmosphere as both affective and metereological and drawing on my practice of 'Atem, Tonus, Ton', a breathing technique for singers, I introduce an aerial perspective that considers breathing as integral in the processes of 'thinking-through-making' and moving in the weather-world. Such perspective brings air, breath and atmosphere into the material culture studies and broader anthropological debates.

panel P01
Exposure: interdisciplinary perspectives on breath, air and atmospheres