Arkiv for Dansk Billedkunst Kunstdk.dk - Arkiv for Dansk Billedkunst
Breathing Room view, 2010.
Breathing Room view, 2010.
Søren Dahlgaard

2. The Breathing Room


2010-2011 Ongoing research project – PRIMI – including partners from the plastic industry, The National Gallery & National Art Gallery conservation dept., Technical University and artists.
Supported by CKO – Center for Kultur- og Oplevelsesøkonomi.

The Breathing Room is an installation you walk into and experience from the inside.

Materials: Aluminum frames, white PVC, ventilator, wood, flex-hoses, frequency converter, elastic rope, fluorescent light tubes.

Dimensions: 250 × 250 × 240 cm inside the space.

The Breathing Room, 2008, is a room made from four white walls. Each wall is ‘breathing’, which is to say, each wall convex and concave, as the wall inhales and exhales.
The sound of the breathing is present.

The Breathing Room, Singapore Biennale 08.
Text by: Joselina Cruz, Curator for the Singapore Biennale 2008.
Text from catalogue.
Søren Dahlgaard’s practice locates much of itself in performance, especially looking to the Japanese avant-garde group Gutai, which has a strong link to his work. His performance persona is known as the ’Dough Warrior’ and from this was borne most of his video performances and staged photography. Using dough as a basic sculptural material he has found its malleability a central element to his process and performance. Its temporal condition, however, necessitated the need for documentation through photography and video. Dough Portraits (2008) was an event that had more than a hundred people having themselves photographed with a lump of dough covering their heads. This removal of faces erased the return of the gaze that one expects from a portrait. Instead clues towards identities had to be drawn from hand gestures, clothing, and the disturbing shape produced by the lump of un-moulded material. In some instances, the photographs appear like unfinished sculptures, the heads waiting to be sculpted to reveal the finished piece.

In 3-Hour Sculpture (2006), 50 kilogram’s of dough was allowed to rise inside an aquarium. A series of photographs recorded the dough rising and finally spilling out of the container. This initial experiment in recording the perceptible expansion of a material, along with his previous performances Challenging Dough (2005 and 2008), which feature the artist wrestling a huge mass of dough on the floor, appears to be the ground work for The Breathing Room (2008). Dahlgaard’s fascination with material and their ’innate’ ability to mimic organic growth is shown first, with dough (activated by yeast, a living organism), and now with the use of an architectural component, a ’breathing’ room.

The expanding dough suggests something living within. A room that expands and contracts suggests much the same thing. One enters and sees nothing. The walls are blank, the floors empty. Imperceptibly, the walls begin to move, to breathe. It turns on its head the modernist white cube, deleting the fantasy of an objective space. The space here is not objective, it is no even logical. Dahlgaard’s The Breathing Room subtly, but precisely articulates a space. Much like the dough, the walls of the room expand, the room gets smaller; and then they contract, like an exhalation, an apparent release of air. Similar to a living being the expansion and contraction take on a rhythm.
It begins to match our own breath’s cadence. With this we become not only conscious of the site imposing itself upon us, but also of the basis for our own continued existence. The allusion of a structure as a living entity moves Dahlgaard’s idea of containing a person (whether someone’s head or himself in dough) within another ’living’ being, at another remove. The structure is solid, not some heavy, dripping viscous material. The body is positioned at an illusory site, the breathing of the walls places us in a new situation. We wither leave, claustrophobic; or we stand our ground intent on having this new experience.