A Mixed-media Presentation to Explore How Art Itself Activates and Constitutes New Forms of Knowledge
DOI: https://doi.org/10.33008/IJCMR.2020.11 | Issue 4 | June 2020
In The Minor Gesture (2016), Erin Manning raises the question: how does art in and of itself activate and constitute new forms of knowledge, and can such knowledge be engagingly captured within the strictures of methodological ordering (Manning, 2016: 26)? For this article, I argue that something that was not known that becomes known through art creation and is disseminated as such is as quantifiable as any other form of knowledge under the heading ‘academic research’. New forms of knowledge require different forms of evaluation and a rethinking of what arts-practice as research can do.
Taking my own recent video, ‘Breathe Wind into Me, Chapter 1’, as a starting point, this article addresses how practice allows for a re-envisioning of the traditional role of the researcher. Using an amalgamation of text, moving imagery and sound, from current and past research, I will be discussing new knowledge, embodied and otherwise, that could only have ‘surfaced’ through making. I will discuss ‘the haptic’ as an important component of research and inquiry, where the transmission of ‘affect’ creates a particular form of embodied knowledge through being touched by the work. In addition, I will connect Maria Puig de la Bellacasa’s idea of haptic technologies as matters of care, and a means of ‘unpacking and co-shaping a notion of care in more than human worlds’ (2017: 95). Through methodological abundance (Hannulah, 2011), including auto-ethnography, I use my past, my memories and my experiences as a making and unmaking of the world. Auto-ethnography, in this instance, is a reformulation of ethnography or anthropology, an in-depth examination of context incorporating cross-disciplinary approaches where the research is one of enquiry and discovery, thinking through making, staying open to the emergent properties of the intra-psychic as well as the intersubjective.
And write yourself, the history of your kind, from the time you borrowed the sea’s rhythm and manner of breathing, until your return to me alive (Darwish, 2011: 20).
[…] a focus on life-processes requires us to attend not to materiality as such but to the fluxes and flows of materials. We are obliged, as Deleuze and Guattari say, to follow these flows, tracing the paths of form-generation, wherever they may lead (Ingold, 2010: 3).
In this article I will trace the trajectory of my own video, ‘Breathe Wind into Me, Chapter 1 (2019),’ through 3 propositions: Entanglements, The Spectral Breath, and The Haptic Breath, focusing on breathing as a making and unmaking of the world. Every breath we take is an entering into the world, a bringing of ourselves into the space of presence, a carrying or giving of our very being to be included in life’s process. It is also a daring to come in contact with the infinite finitude of another.
Images, ‘Breathe Wind into Me, Chapter 1,’ (2019).
‘Breathe Wind into Me, Chapter 1’ (2019) was first exhibited as part of a 2-screen and sound installation at Fabrica Arts Gallery, Brighton in January 2019. In the 23-minute video I am asking whether it is possible to be sensitive to the needs of the other through our breathing and whether a deepening awareness of one’s breath can create the circumstances where we can attend, not only to our bodies, but to the bodies of others, to animals, the oceans, nature, other cultures and on. Using this concept as a theoretical premise this article explores the relationship of the breath to communicable states of affect and the shared space. It also considers a respiratory approach to philosophy, an embodied relationship that extends to physical relations with the enveloping atmosphere, as Kathleen Stewart aptly writes, an ‘atmospheric attunement’ (2010: 4). It is a recreation of the world as an enchanted place of affective communication and attachment. It can be viewed in full here.
I am the daughter of migrants. I read a poem by the Palestinian, Mahmoud Darwish. I wanted to understand the escalating crisis around the notion of the foreign other, difference and migratory trauma. I wanted to remember further back, before I was born, to research the links between being exiled from one’s home and the ecological crisis. I wanted to reengage with the world through wonder and enchantment, a world where people care for and about each other.
Finnish philosopher, Juha Varto, suggests we should stop talking about the different types of knowing and admit, or even emphatically argue, that in art we are dealing with something that is ‘otherwise than knowing’ (2013). He goes on to ask:
Why is it important to so many that art remain art, and why are so many interested in doing research that is based on artistic activity and that takes seriously art's own way of operating, its manifestations and methods of conveying something to others, either through whispers, screams or discussions? (2013:1).
As such, Erin Manning and Brian Massumi consider every arts-practice an activation of thought, dancing is a thinking in movement, painting – a thinking through colour. They regard writing as an interference that communicates in the fragile difference between modes of thought. ‘For it is in the breaching that thought acts most intensely, in practices co-composing’ (2016: viii).
Balancing both of these concepts, the intention of my arts research is to go beyond the ‘knowing’, and indeed the creative practice of thought in action and activate an affective engagement with the space in-between, the space of remembering. As Karen Barad articulates:
Memory does not reside in the foods of individual brains; rather, memory is the enfolding of space-time matter written into the universe, or better, the enfolded articulations of the universe in its mattering […] Remembering is not a replay of a sting of moments, but an enlivening reconfiguring of past and future that is larger than any individual (2007: ix).
The research functions on a number of inter-related layers, operating both codependently and independently, linked always – though at times tenuously, the research is about becoming. It is an entangled tale of interference, woven through and enfolded in the other; methodological abundance, which embraces autoethnography and connects to Michel Serres’ notion of desmology, which is ‘not so much the state of things but the relations between them’ (2002: 204).
Writing is the entry point into this entanglement – a mixed up nonsensical space of disparate and correlative thoughts and dreams. Writing is also a process of exploration, of finding something out, a continual becoming; locating, in the in-between fragmented place, something sensed but not yet known. It is as Jacques Derrida writes, ‘entanglement or interlacing […] a binding-unbinding interlacing […] toward which we are incessantly and properly bring led back’ (2007: 60). An entanglement that occupies the borderland, the edge of the edge. Access into this space requires a specific type of listening that expands upon the qualitative, relational, voice-centred, feminist methodology of listening as suggested by Natasha Mauthner (2017:65). Rather it is a listening to the inner workings of an entangled breath within the self – the embodied self, a body that breathes. For as Helene Cixous writes, if you censor breath, you also censor the body and speech. She demands: ‘Write your self. Your body must be heard. Only then will the immense resources of the unconscious spring forth’ (1976: 880, italics added).
The in-between space of entanglement verges into the invisible, the full to expanding space of things not fully conscious. It is a cut-out consciousness occupied by the past, and a future not yet realised. A container, full to overflowing of all the potential of things to come, as well as the memories and the traces of connecting and disconnecting to the world. The action of writing is the beginning of disentanglement. I write myself into the word to gain entry into an alternative space and dimension. For I, woman, must put myself ‘into the text-as into the world and into history-by [my] own movement’ (Cixous, 1976: 875, italics added). Encouraged by Cixous, when she utters ‘[w]rite, let no one hold you back, let nothing stop you: not man; not imbecilic capitalist machinery […]’ (1976: 877), I circumvent the inner conditioning, and follow a thought onto the page, a ‘female-sexed text’ (ibid.) that leads me both away and back to my body. In this way, I weave a pathway to the visual and sound work, creating new meaning, deconstructing and exploring new forums to disseminate the analysis of the unknown. The process, of uncovering what lies dormant, is meandering and demands patience and constant returning to the original site – the body, to the original trauma of patriarchy, when man separated woman from the language of the world. ‘Breathe Wind into Me, Chapter 1’ is a reclaiming of the breath as a starting point to investigate the ruptured inhale and exhale of trauma and re-establish a mode of care that begins with the body and the self. I am seeking to create an interstitial space where traumatic remembering exists on the borders of exposure and concealment, absence and presence. Far from being completed, this work marks the beginning of research that links the breath to the voice, to language, to the movement of water and to bodies moving through water. It is a visual and auditory exploration of the inextricable link between the breath, sound and language, to the balancing of the air above the surface with the subconscious depths below.
The text for the video was taken from a series of journal entries (presented as an Appendix at the bottom of this article). A loosely, flowing stream of consciousness that questions what arises physically and philosophically when life is stripped back to the bare essentials. What are the consequences when the breath is interrupted, or ruptured, as in trauma? The words are layered on to the sounds of breathing, of life and its interruptions. The imagery collected over the past 2-years references the ordinariness of moving through life that witnessed, and then captured on film leans into the extra-ordinary, the enchanted.
#2: The Spectral Breath
The concept of spectral breath expands on Derrida’s notion of hauntology (1994: 10), the term he uses in Spectres of Marx (1994) to describe a spectre that defies an ontological framework. ‘Hauntology’ – a pun on ontology – links being and presence. The spectral not only arises from the past, but also from the concept of a future absence. ‘To haunt does not mean to be present, and it is necessary to introduce haunting into the very construction of a concept. Of every concept, beginning with the concepts of being and time’ (1994: 13). He suggests the difficulty in defining the spectre is because it is so embedded in our material presence, in our here and now. For example, it is impossible for us to view the present without getting caught up in the invisible and intangible webs of the past, and of thinking about a future without thinking about death. Through the figure of the ghost, the past and present are indistinguishable. ‘Repetition and first time: this is perhaps the question of the event as question of the ghost’ (1994: 10).
I am reminded of animism, from anima in Latin, (‘a current of air, wind, breath, the vital principle, life, soul’), sometimes equivalent to animus (mind). Which attributes a living soul in all objects – animals, plants, rocks, rivers, weather-related phenomena, deceased human beings, even words – to be animated is to be alive, possessing distinctive spirits, a presence. At the centre of our existence is our ability to breathe. Our relationship to everything around us is lived through a shared and oxygenated space. In Peter Sloterdijk’s words:
Air, the misunderstood element, finds ways and means of advancing to places where no one reckons with its presence; and, more significantly, it makes space on its own strength for strange places where there were previously none (2016: 28).
It is important not to underestimate the power of the breath or breathing. Its complexity as an evolutionary process was millions of years in the making, where ‘lungs, heart, trachea, a bronchial tree, and connecting blood vessels all contribute to the ingenious breathing system that brings oxygen to the blood and removes carbon dioxide’ (Schiefelbein, 1986: 132). Contained within every inhale and exhale is the entire history of humanities’ evolution. It is what connects us to each other, to every living thing and to the world we inhabit. If we could not breathe, we would not be alive. The absence of breath is an absence of life, deadness. I breathe with every living creature, and every living creature breathes through me. Each breath is a memory of the one before, each inhale marked with the trace of the previous one, back to when the Tetrapods first emerged from the water 300 million years ago and committed to inhale the sky and the earth. As anthropologist Tim Ingold writes: ‘There could be no life, in short, in a world where earth and sky do not mix and mingle’ (2010: 6).
My breath is haunted by the past, it is the spectral breath, embodied within me where the past is continually brought to life through every breath. ‘One cannot control its comings and goings because it begins by coming back’ (Derrida, 1994: 11). The breath leaves me, leaves a trace before returning. Through my body, through the body of the other. ‘[T]his trace is the opening of the first exteriority in general, the enigmatic relationship of the living to its other and of an inside to an outside: spacing’ (Derrida, 1974: 71).
Derrida considers cinema an appropriate medium for spectrality, and his negotiation of the in-between space of absence and presence, inside and outside. The viewer, while watching a film, is in communication with some work of the unconscious that, by definition, can be compared with the work of haunting, or the Freudian concept of the ‘uncanny’ (unheimlich) (2015: 26). Freud’s essay, written in 1919, describes the uncanny as belonging to the terrible, ‘to all that arouses dread and creeping horror’ calling forth feelings of unpleasantness and repulsion (1919: 1). It is that ‘class of the terrifying which leads back to something long known to us, once very familiar’ (Freud, 1919: 2). The true logic of uncanniness, Derrida argues, is a phantom-logic, a necessity of learning to live with ghosts, phantoms, and spirits, because ‘there is no Dasein without the uncanniness, without the strange familiarity [Unheimlichkeit] of some specter’ (1994: 125). It is a state of being that is to be always and everywhere haunted by ghosts, phantoms or spirits: the ‘visibility of the invisible’ (ibid.). Spectral logic is the presence related to the otherness of the self, or the self that is found within the other (whether person, place or time). In honour of Barthes, he writes: ‘Ghosts: the concept of the other in the same, the punctum in the studium, the completely other, dead, living in me’ (Derrida, 2003: 42). This ghostly punctum is linked to the voice of the other, it is the ‘accompaniment, the song, the accord’ (2003: 43). It is also the breath that both haunts the body and is haunted by the body.
In ‘Breathe Wind in to me, Chapter 1’, the breath is audible, moves with my voice, spills from me, every particle expanding the boundaries of skin to be swallowed by the technology, leaking into the exhibition space and into the body of the other. It is through a giving of the self that the breath and the voice create a space outside of self. Once departed there is little control over how that voice, the breath is heard or received. My voice and the sounds of my breath are divorced entities. Having departed from my body they exist in their own right. In a haunted sense, as Stephen Connor explains:
Voices do not merely drift apart from their origins […] nor are they inadvertently lost: they are ripped or wrested. A voice without a body suggests some prior act of mutilation: for every unbodied voice, it seems, there is always some more-or-less violently muted body (Connor, 2012: 1).
There are a multitude of disembodied voices embedded into the imagery of ‘Breath Wind into Me, Chapter 1,’ which in Connor's words seem to ‘summon in their wake the phantasm of some originating body, effect convening cause’ (2012). It is, to quote Holzman and Rousey, a ‘complex confrontation experience’ brought about by the ‘loss of anchorage’ … [and] loss of the cathected familiar’ (1966, Connor, 2000: 84). I experience the hearing of my voice, as a part of me that has been disembodied but still retains life a way of ‘being me in my going out from myself’ (Connor, 2000: 4). Despite this separation, this movement outwards, I still breathe.
Lisa Blackman, in Immaterial Bodies (2012), writes about the paradoxical voice that is neither entirely inside nor outside, self or other, material or immaterial. ‘It is neither fully defined by matter nor completely beyond it’ (2012: 138). It is matter in circulation. Listening, also, is not confined to the interior. To quote Mark Peter Wright: ‘It suggests a listening out or otherwise of hard knowledge and a listening in to ethico-spectral becomings’ (2017: 25). We are both inside and outside in the process of listening. The external sounds finding their way into the body, subsequently means to be open without as well as within. Listening brings us into proximity with the other and vice versa. It connects us and establishes the interconnected space of relation. The sounds of my breath, of me breathing breaches the divide and connects me to the other, to the breath of the other on such a deep level that the breath of each other becomes indecipherable. Wright describes a Noisy Nonself, ‘a chimeric figuration’ and asks, ‘what are the consequences of hearing our own monsters?’ (2017: 25):
The Noisy-Nonself is ‘more-than-reflexive.’ It is a diffractive agent that brings about categorical crisis and horrific self-revelation. Listening out for the Noisy-Nonself is an apophenic search riddled with uncanny hauntings that ‘arrive to recount a lesson in the complexity of temporality. History is a tangle, full of loops and doublings-back (Wright, 2017: 35, Cohen, 1996: 441).
There is an art to listening – listening well. It is to be actively engaged with everything outside, locating oneself in the surrounding space, while aware of sound’s penetration, the transition across the porous border of being and the affective response as the sounds, the voice moves through the body. It can hurt to listen. It can also be a blessed relief. Through listening I can consciously align my breath to the breath of the other. The other’s breath breaches the divide and strays into my body, returns, a loop of intertwined entanglement, a contagious exchange.
Through the making of ‘Breathe Wind into Me, Chapter 1’, I become one with the work. The toil of my breath is embedded within the sounds and the imagery. I impart my breath to the audience, to share, to breathe along with, to feel the interruptions, the constant inhales without release, the discomfort of being told to breathe, of being reminded of our breath, of being human. Trauma is the ruptured breath, the interrupted breath, I listen to where mine is interrupted, pause, realign, begin again. There is space for the viewer to follow, to register their own breathing through the imagery, the other familiar sounds that are woven through the narrating voice. There is laughter, singing, the rumble of something in the distance. And still I breathe. Is it possible then that an alternative world could rest on a new culture of breath as the basic element of inter-connectedness? One, where we breathe with the other, breathe through our differences. Can a video such as ‘Breathe Wind into Me, Chapter 1’ guide an audience into a deeper relationship with themselves, with others? And if it does, or doesn’t should I care? Will it change the work?
For Luce Irigaray, the breath is ‘the first autonomous gesture of the living human being’ (1999: 3). In the third phase of her philosophy she links the breath with silence and listening and argues for an ethical becoming to direct us towards respect for ourselves, each other and the world we live in. It is a silence that is attentive to others. The original place in our bodies and selves, reserved for the welcome of the other, for respect for the other despite our differences. Silence is the inner ‘speaking’ of the threshold. The inner listening to the breath.
In I Love to You (1996), she writes:
This touching upon asks for silence [...] This touching upon needs attentiveness to the sensible qualities of speech, to voice tone, to the modulations and rhythm of discourse, to the semantic and phonic choice of words [...] The touching upon cannot be appropriation, capture, seduction – to me, toward me, in me – nor envelopment. Rather it is to be the other’s awakening to him/her and a call to co-exist, to act together and dialogue (Irigaray, 1996: 125).
Here, she leaves a critique of patriarchy to the development of a foundation for a possible inter-subjectivity between the two sexes. She poses the question: how can we move to a new era of sexual difference in which women and men establish lasting relations with one another without reducing the other to the status of object?
More recently, Karen Barad eloquently articulates:
All touching entails an infinite alterity, so that touching the other is touching all others, including the ‘self’, and touching the ‘self’ entails touching the strangers within. Even the smallest bits of matter are an unfathomable multitude. Each ‘individual’ always already includes all possible intra-actions with ‘itself’ through all the virtual others, including those that are non contemporaneous with ‘itself’. That is, every finite being is always already threaded through with an infinite alterity diffracted through being and time (2012: 7).
# 3: The Haptic Breath
Which brings me to the concept of the haptic breath, derived from Laura Marks, and Giles Deleuze’s notion of haptic visuality, as a way of seeing or knowing that exceeds sensory conventions. The haptic breath is the breath that both touches the self and touches the other, it is a coming into contact with the ‘exteriority within’, a realisation of the active embodiment of matter, of ‘being in the world in its dynamic specificity’ (Barad, 2007: 377).
The etymological root of haptic in Greek is haptein – to take hold of an object, fasten onto, or to touch it. A term derived from the art historian Alois Riegl (1901) and picked up by Deleuze (2002), which looks at the distinction between haptic and optical images as vision that is tactile, ‘as though one were touching a film with one’s eyes’ (Marks, 2000: xi). Marks writes: ‘Haptic criticism is mimetic: it presses up to the object and takes its shape. Mimesis is a form of representation based on getting close enough to the other thing to become it’ (2002: xiii).
She emphasises the tactile and contagious quality of cinema as something viewers brush up against like another body, as she writes: ‘The words contact, contingent, and contagion all share the Latin root contingere, ‘to have contact with; pollute; befall’ (Marks, 2000: xii). Psychoanalytically, the haptic is an aspect of the visual that moves between identification and immersion. As she comments: ‘The engagement of the haptic viewer occurs not simply in psychic registers but in the sensorium’ (Marks, 2002: 18). Haptic vision is the close-to-the-body form of perception of film as skin, which moves the work into ‘circulation among different audiences, all of which mark it with their presence’ (Marks, 2000: xi), where ‘the eyes themselves function like organs of touch’, (ibid.: 62) and ‘move over the surface of its object to discern texture’ (ibid.), thereby taking in, or absorbing the imagery into the body. The haptic visual does not depend on the viewer identifying with a recognisable figure or character but on a more sensuous bodily relationship between the viewer and the subject, ‘haptic images and haptic visuality encourage a subjective position of intimacy and mutual entanglement between viewer and viewed’ (Marks, 2015: 227). Through accessing the haptic visual, we re-evaluate our relationship to space. The conscious engagement with the haptic visual creates the possibility for an increase in awareness of one’s body, of its physicality, and the interaction with what is on the screen.
‘Breathe Wind into Me, Chapter 1’ highlights the relationship not only between haptic visuality and the breath but sound too. Marks writes about the uncanniness of sound, impacting the listener in ways that are not easy to explain. Sound, she writes, comes into ‘play insofar as it is experienced kinaesthetically; for example, the booming in the chest caused by deep bass tones, or the complex effects of rhythm on the body’ (Marks, 2000: xvi). Embedded into the skin of the video, is the layered sounds of my breath, the rhythm of the waves of the sea, the movement of the wind through the trees, the noises of London. The layers are so deeply entwined they are each an extension of the other. To breathe is to be touched, to haptically engage with an image is to be touched, one level of touch or touching is indecipherable from the other. I am touched by the image and breathe. I breathe and touch the image with my eyes. So too with sound. I breathe I hear. I hear I breathe. The sound of my breath, of the other’s breath. I breathe through film, I breathe breath into the space where the viewer sits, watches and listens. We are all breathing together. My breath touches upon the other, infiltrates and transmutes in its very particles the affect of being touched and of wanting to touch. The power and discomfort of touch, the loving empathy of touch. It is a complex business, this breathing into the inter-connected space. It is a matter of taking care as an intention, and then letting go.
Donna Haraway asks why should our bodies end at the skin? (1991:178). I am aware that the positioning of the skin as a vast visual organ, sensitises an audience to witnessing the work from a plurality of perspectives. The engagement of the whole body as a tool for seeing and hearing shifts the gaze and the listening to inhabit both the exterior as well as the interior. In The Tactile Eye (2008), Jennifer Barker writes about muscular empathy, where viewers empathise with the body of a film so much so that they can experience and ‘grasp,’ the imagery in their muscles and tendons the exhilaration of the ‘close call’ or the intimacy of a closeup. The viewer opens out and therefore opens to absorb the sounds and the visuals on a complexity of levels. The body responds. In the process of sensing, seeing or hearing copy and contact are part of the same process (Taussig, 1992: 2). A listening can be a contraction, a discomfort, or alternatively a softening, a coming into the space and into being with the skin of the film and to the relationship of the self and of the other. Breathing links the visual to the body, the information is carried on the wave of each breath. The breath is communication.
Taussig insists that ‘what is crucial in the resurgence of the mimetic faculty’ is precisely the ‘palpable, sensuous, connection between the very body of the perceiver and the perceived’ (1992: 2). He goes on to write about the depth and the complexity of the relationship between the image and the bodily involvement of the perceiver. A complexity we too easily regard as non-mysterious with terms that simultaneously ‘depend upon and erase all that is powerful and obscure in the network of associations conjured by the notion of the mimetic’ (1992: 2).
It is this complexity, this entanglement I unravel to better understand the ruptured breath. I wonder if there is such a thing as a haptic rupture, or indeed what a haptic rupture would look, or sound like. The rupture that touches beyond the self in communication with other bodies. A rupture that arises out of the continued experiencing of trauma or from such a catastrophic event that it sears the body to such an extent it can never go back to what it was before. The breath can also be ruptured through the continual application of power, or pressure on the body.
The body reacts to the forces, manifest as shifting material alignments and changes in potential, and becomes not simply the received but also the transmitter or local source of the signal or sign that operates through it (Barad, 2007: 189).
A rupture shifts our sense of reality to address the monsters and the monstrous. It can mark an ending, a breaking, a new beginning. For Barthes: ‘It is this element which rises from the scene, shoots out of it like an arrow and pierces me. […] that accident which pricks me (but also bruises me, is poignant to me)’ (1981: 27). ‘It is acute yet muffled, it cries out in silence. Odd contradiction: a floating flash’ (ibid.: 53). Every rupture carries with it a vision of the future, flashing up at a moment of danger, which creates a fragmented terrain, an interstitial space where traumatic remembering exists on the borders of exposure and concealment, absence and presence. It is an instability that Julia Kristeva describes as: ‘The in-between, the ambiguous, the composite’ (1982: 10).
In Powers of Horror (1982), Kristeva repeatedly posits a connection between abjection and the border, where abjection is that which disturbs identity, system and order. The abject does not respect borders, positions or rules (1982: 4). It is outside of, literally what is thrown away or discarded. Abjection is ambiguity arising from the impact of a rupture. The abject is neither subject nor object, inside or outside, neither here nor there, rather it is ‘immoral, sinister, scheming, and shady: a terror that dissembles, a hatred that smiles’ (ibid.: 4), what is abject, she writes, ‘draws me toward the place where meaning collapses’ (ibid.: 2). A place of incomprehensibility, in which the contents are actively being erased. And where is the breath in relation to the abject? It is beyond the narrative, behind the music of language, it is in the broken rhythm of sentences, and the rasping whispers of the unspeakable. For as Kristeva writes, ‘[…] abjection, when all is said and done, is the other facet of religious, moral, and ideological codes on which rest the sleep of individuals and the breathing spells of societies’ (ibid.: 209).
The interconnected breath, breathing in union, in communion, with all of its ruptured interruptions is about embracing the tension between the concrete and speculative, sensing and knowing. It means being in touch with oneself, the other, the world. It is expanding the awareness of how the breath touches the other, while engaging actively with the embodiment of perception, affect, thinking and caring.
For Puig de la Bellacasa, ‘Embodiment, relationality, and engagement are all themes that have marked feminist epistemology and knowledge politics’ (2017: 97). Being in touch with how the visual and the aural penetrates one’s body is to consciously be aware of the breath. Questioning the affect is to re-appropriate, in Haraway’s words, the ‘persistence of vision’. As she writes, ‘I would like to insist on the embodied nature of all vision, and so reclaim the sensory system that has been used to signify a leap out of the marked body and into a conquering gaze from nowhere’ (1998: 678). Bringing awareness to the breath and how it touches us expands Haraway’s ‘situated knowledge’, to embrace a knowledge beyond knowing. It is to participate in Puig de la Bellacasa’s reclamation of touch as a form of ‘caring knowing’, thinking with touch as a means to question anew (2017: 98).
‘Breath Wind into Me, Chapter 1’ is about caring, it extends the concept of the breath as a touching upon and with the visual, and it links a complex interplay of affect and sensation to reframe Bergson’s concept of ‘attentive recognition’ through a feminist epistemology.
Attentive recognition is the way a perceiver oscillates between seeing the object, recalling virtual images that it brings to memory, and comparing the virtual object thus created with the one before us. In so doing we create anew ‘not only the object perceived, but also the ever-widening systems with which it maybe bound up’ (Bergson  1988: 105) (Marks, 2000: 48).
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Appendix: Anna Walker – Journal Entry (2 December 2018)
Today, I am overwhelmed. My breathing is tight and shallow as I reflect on the future, on time running out. I have to consciously exhale – breathing down and out to remind me of the moment – that I am here, now.
Dyspnoea means difficult or laboured breathing. As in – gasping she reaches out to catch her breath.
I take it for granted. I am breath, I breathe. My breath moves through me. I am breathing.
My sister has been practising freestyle breathing to improve her speed and agility under water!
I can’t swim. I've tried learning many times. But fear of drowning keeps me on dry land. Land-bound I watch jealously as she glides seamlessly through the water. Parting the Thames with her body, I imagine what that must feel like. Cutting through the weight of the River, all that history moving in and out, around and through her, as she drops just below its surface to rise again into the air. The cold dark River Thames flowing between her fingers, her toes, her hair!
I would love to feel the Thames push down on me and know that I could survive.
New swimmers tend to hold their breath underwater instead of breathing out when swimming. When your face is submerged in water, you should be breathing out gently – bubbles rising to the surface.
I hold my breath in or out of water. It is a habit of mine!
Breathe. Just breathe.
I dream a lot about water, flying and driving cars too.
In my dreams I can swim like a fish and fly like a bird.
I drive my mother's blue mini really fast until it disappears and it's just me peddling my legs as quickly as I can soaring along just 3 feet above the ground. Then I flap my arms like wings and up I go higher and higher, elated at my ability to fly before dipping down close to the surface of the ocean, teasing the waves as they reach to catch me. I ride them, like a surfer, skimming the top as the sea foam hits my skin. I wake myself up laughing with glee, my face wet with tears, the taste of salt on my lips. I am always disappointed upon waking. I wonder if everyone feels this way.
Like rock paper scissors I don't know which comes first! Is it air or is it water, earth, fire?
The first 9 months of life are lived in amniotic liquid – before emerging cruelly into the world.
Dangled by my right leg flailing into life, gasping for air searching for a breath, for my mother –
for the warmth of her body.
Rachel Carson writes: ‘The deep blue water of the open sea far from land, [which] is the colour of emptiness and barrenness’ – she prefers ‘the green water of the coastal areas, with all its varying hues – the color of life’ (1951).
In my dream the whole ocean is alive – breathing, raging, crying and sometimes laughing.
Once, I sailed the length of the East Coast of America, from the Florida Keys to New York Harbour aboard the QE II. It was 3-months after 9/11 and the ship was welcomed into New York with pomp and ceremony in the early hours of the morning by Mayor Guiliani. I slept warmly in my narrow bed, missing it all, glad I didn't have to disembark. Instead I sailed back again to Florida. The ship was quiet. At night I would roam the decks searching for the shore, imagining what it must have been like to discover this huge land for the first time.
Derrida uses the word souffle to describe running out of breath – a low murmuring or blowing sound heard through a stethoscope.
With a tiny accent it becomes soufflé – whisked egg whites that rise and exhale in the heat.
In a conversation with Helene Cixous, Derrida writes:
‘I master nothing, I submit to the oracles. This risk is the condition of my creative energy and of
my discoveries. It can happen that I run out of breath [souffle], that something loses steam
[s'essouffle]. I saw myself clearly in your incredible text on Artaud, La parole soufflé, in this
bivalence of the souffle, a word whispered given by someone else, and a word stolen, whisked
away’ (2008: 167).
And in the notes, translated by Ashley Thompson – Souffler means to breathe, to whisper,
including when one whispers a secret, but also to steal, such that the expression la parole souffle can mean either to whisper or to tell (someone) the word (the secret word, the forgotten word) or to take or steal the word – Trans.
Whispering is so close to the breath, an exhale or a sigh embedded with words barely audible. Inhaling and exhaling through the nostrils, slowing down the breath.