… and then sign up for the “Take a deep breath” conference at Tate Modern in London, 15-17 November 2007, an interdisciplinary meeting on the social, cultural and scientific ramifications of — yes: breathing.

As the organisers quite rightly point out, “breathing is a vital practice, yet most of us hardly ever think of the process”. The aim of the conference is thus to rethink “the value of breath and its manifestations in culture and beyond”. It will explore “the influence of breath on the work of various theorists and practitioners and encourage a critical discussion by featuring talks, visual art projects, performances, film screenings, and musical events”.

The organisers ask for submissions (due 10 September) that address the following themes:

  • Visible/Invisible Respiration: There is general agreement that it can be heard and smelt, yet why is it taken for granted that respiration is an invisible manifestation of our being alive? Artists have often explored this paradox. What lies in this tension between the visible and the invisible breath?
  • Contaminating Breath: The exhaled breath brings out in the world an amalgam of volatile components ranging from vital oxygen to poisonous carbon dioxide. Breathing is vital, yet it can also be fatal. To breathe upon is potentially to infect or contaminate.
  • Hold It Exercise It Manipulate It: Breathing can be subjected to active and passive forms of control. What are the ways with which we control and manipulate our breath? Does the loss of breath result in the loss of control, or perhaps is it the other way round?
  • Beyond Breath: Can we think of breathing beyond its principal corporeal function? Breath as pneuma and psyche has always been of great significance to psychology, psychiatry, philosophy and religion. What are the effects of euphoria and phobias, panic attacks or asphyxia? Is there life after breath?

The whole thing is organised by the excellent London Consortium Masters & Doctoral Programme in Humanities and Cultural Studies. For further info, see their news website here — and then breath out and relax.

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