Capturing the breath of the borough
Imagine. A project centred around breath, around climate justice, and most importantly centring womxn often placed on the periphery. Womxn of colour from the many communities in Tower Hamlets coming together for a very unique project – Immersion.
The last year and a half has highlighted our inability to breathe freely; whether it is due to Covid, racism or air pollution. We all share a lived experience of our breathing being hindered or difficult. Offering a reprieve from these dilemmas, Immersion by Selina Thompson explores the sacredness of breath by inviting an intergenerational mix of womxn to record their breath. These recordings will become part of a soundscape capturing the intangible, to be shared as a form of activism.
In our field work at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, the day was spent inviting participants to spend time in nature. To leave the hustle and bustle of everyday life. To focus on themselves for a while. To breathe. A few came on their own, some with work colleagues, and others with friends, but all came because the project offered them a chance to be seen, heard and acknowledged.
The same was true of the groups of womxn who came to Toynbee Studios to record their breath. Each local group, long-established within the community, sharing the same space for the first time. Initially they sat in friendship groups on chairs placed in the round, speaking to who they knew and observing those unfamiliar to them. After several moments like this, one group dared to offer a compliment to another and before long the room was filled with laughter. A room once filled with silence now facilitated animated conversations sharing individual worldviews, notions about their sense of selves and their bodies. Names were shared, numbers exchanged and photos of family members anchored brief sharings of heritage and personal narratives.
Through the recording of breath Immersion will offer local people of Tower Hamlets, hemmed in from all sides by gentrification and climate change, the chance to push back.
Just as the receding coastlines have become Mother Nature’s way of getting our attention, the invisible, intangible breath of longstanding members of a community threatened by the pollutant capitalism are pushing back.
Written by Moriam Grillo – Engagement Producer
The recordings of womxn’s breath is shared in performances across Tower Hamlets and at Toynbee Studios on Friday 10 September, as part of What Shall We Build Here, Artsadmin’s festival of art, climate and community.
Immersion is one of the commissions for Season for Change, a UK-wide cultural programme inspiring urgent and inclusive action on climate change, delivered in partnership by Artsadmin and Julie’s Bicycle.
This project is supported by ACT (Art, Climate, Transition) through the Creative Europe programme of the European Union, the Foundation for Future London and City of London, and Arts Council England through Season for Change.