Breathing air, oxygen, is the most important thing for mankind. You cannot live without breathing. Not being able to breathe is therefore a frightening, oppressive experience. It is the borderline between life and death. Seeing someone who cannot breathe is possibly even worse, because you cannot help empathizing with that person. In the Atmung (Breath) series, Holtappels and Boegel investigate this experience in various ways.
Atmung I zooms in on a man (Boegel) sitting inside a plastic bag. He breathes in and out. The bag is hermetically closed, so that it eventually fills up with carbon dioxide. The man keeps on breathing until he has reached the limit, the point where he cannot inhale any more carbon dioxide, and his body gives up. When the man is on the point of fainting, the recording ends, the limit has been reached and registered.
Not only does the sight of someone gasping for breath fill you with claustrophobia, but also, your reaction is manipulated by seeing the man being recorded face to face. The camera zooms in on his face, for the best possible view of the first signs of exhaustion and lack of oxygen.
distributed by: Netherlands Media Art Institute, Amsterdam
Holtappels and Boegel, NL 1976, 18:45 min