Something there that surrounds us, permeates us, it is invisible and omnipresent. Without it we cannot live. It is there from the first scream, opening up the lungs, it flows through us to the last breath. In a life giving cycle, whose constant rhythm nourishes and consumes the oxygen of the body, whether awake or sleeping.
Many cultures use a creation myth where the creation of the soul starts with godly inspiration and a breath of life. Ghosts and fantasy live in the air. Pegasus, the winged horse of poetry, flew upwards into it. The winds had names and were seen as independent beings, bringing tidings and the seasons, and pushing ships around the world.
Air transports our words as waves, making sounds and music audible. It disperses light and spreads a shimmering sky above us instead of the black emptiness of outer space. Air is the carrier of scents and smells, it is the medium of our senses in this world – itself pierced from everything else.
The air has always fascinated humanity – to take off, learn to fly, to conquer the sky and to experience boundless freedom. In the Anthropocene Age we must now painfully learn that the boundlessness of the air also means that our actions can have a catastrophic impact by poisoning the atmosphere and climate of the entire planet. Air pollution is the showplace of ecological and economic injustice: industrial as well as consumer emissions can be legitimized with certificates, but the consequences inevitably hit the poorest of the poor the hardest.
The repetition of the phrase, “I can’t breathe” has become a metaphor for seemingly never ending structural racism, not just in the United States but across the world.
In all of the stages between the “nothing” of a still wind and the roar of a storm, between breathing in and exhaling, the spiritual and the deadly, airships and windmills – we look forward to your artistic interpretations of the air.
Text by SIna Ness, cvk*, Denhart von Harling und Thorsten Schlenger / Translation by Jason Benedict